Today’s thrill of returning to Anfield turned sour for thousands of Liverpool FC supporters. For many, it was the first time they had been to the stadium in almost 18 months; for the club another chance to see their new system of entry in action before the first home game of the season on 21 August.
The pre-season friendly against Spain’s Athletic Club was due to kick off at 4pm with capacity at 75%. It was clear more than two hours beforehand there were problems getting in as queues began to form. With ten minutes to go, those queues were snaking around the ground and surrounding roads for hundreds of yards. Following two delays, the game finally started at 4.30pm with many fans still waiting to get in, some giving up and going home.
The scenes around the ground suggest that LFC’s scheme of entry – supporters entering Anfield this coming season, with a few exceptions, need to have downloaded a NFC ticket to their smartphone, which they then hold up at the turnstile before being clicked through – has failed at the first attempt with a large crowd.
As the number of frustrated fans seeking help from stewards grew, so did the chaos and, understandably, anger. Some were told to move to other turnstiles, other than the one they were supposed to enter, as they were opened for anyone to go in. It took some fans, including one of Spirit of Shankly’s committee members upwards of eight attempts to gain access.
This had the feeling of more than teething problems, and it is worrying what will happen tomorrow, when LFC play Osasuna, and in two weeks’ time for the lunchtime kick-off against Burnley with a full capacity.
The club’s statement that delays were due to ‘access processes’ and ‘matchday operations’ will do little to assuage fans’ grievances. Worries over what would happen with entry now relying not only on the technology at the turnstiles but also on thousands of individual phones have been relayed to the club over the past weeks. Those fans who did not get in on time, or at all, should be refunded the price of their ticket at the very least.
SOS have contacted LFC and we will keep members updated.