Turnstile Access Problems

Following the problems experienced by supporters at the turnstiles at the home games against Stoke City and Notts County, Spirit of Shankly is concerned that a number of important issues remain unresolved.

Supporters with "active" season ticket/membership cards have been unable to pass through the turnstiles, in spite of the card reader accepting their cards and showing a green light. This has resulted in a build up of queues at a number of turnstile blocks.

The club's response to this issue has been confusing and ad hoc. At some turnstiles a "Fan Support" steward has re-validated cards with a hand held scanner and a representative of the "access control system" company has over ridden the turnstile computer to allow supporters through. At other turnstiles, supporters were required to go to the ticket office to have their cards re-validated and have a paper ticket issued, some at a cost of £10.

These problems at the turnstiles have meant that hundreds of supporters missed up to 20 minutes of each of these games. It has also led to safety issues, with the queuing system failing altogether at turnstile block B before the Stoke game.

Spirit of Shankly is concerned that these issues have revealed the fragmented nature of crowd management at Anfield. Stewards at unstaffed turnstiles have no manual over ride facility, meaning that in the event of a build up of crowds they would not be able to allow supporters at the front to pass through the turnstiles more quickly.

The issues arising at the Stoke City match were raised by Spirit of Shankly members at last Sunday's meeting of the Liverpool FC Supporters' Committee. Spirit of Shankly is shocked at the response given by Ged Poynton, Stadium Manager. Flying in the face of the problems faced by supporters and communicated to the Supporters' Committee, Mr Poynton trotted out the staple "late arrivals" excuse and a line about inactive cards being presented - the latter day "ticketless fans". Mr Poynton further claimed that all supporters affected had gained entry to the stadium by 12 minutes into the game. Something we know to be untrue.

At the subsequent Notts County match, Spirit of Shankly members again observed numerous supporters being denied access by the computerised turnstile system. At kick off time the queues for turnstile Block B at the Kop end stretched across to Lake St and down to the Albert pub (see images). Ten minutes after kick-off the queue of supporters at the ticket office had reached the entrance to the club shop & museum (see image)

Clearly the problems experienced at the Stoke City match have not been resolved. Rather, conversations with supporters and stewards suggest things may have been exacerbated by issues with Auto Cup Scheme membership cards not being activated.

Spirit of Shankly believes that it is purely the good nature and co-operation of supporters that has prevented more serious issues arising. However, it is possible that supporters will not be so accepting about such problems delaying their entry to the stadium at more high profile fixtures. The response of Mr Poyton to the Supporters' Committee, coupled with the fragmented nature of stadium access management, indicates that the club is neither prepared for such a scenario nor equipped to deal with it.

We believe that the club has to put egos and empires to one side where supporter safety is concerned. Many supporters have suggested what may be workable solutions to the problems that have now occurred at two successive matches. The Supporters' Committee minutes indicate that Mr Poynton is not willing to accept that there are continuing issues, he also appears to be totally dismissive of supporters' legitimate complaints and concerns.

Liverpool Football Club and Mr Poynton would do well to remember that Liverpool supporters have good reason to raise safety issues and that Liverpool supporters have a first hand knowledge of what can happen when problems at turnstiles trigger a chain of events. Spirit of Shankly therefore calls on the club to open dialogue with supporters and to listen, without prejudice or threat of job losses, to the views of club stewards who have been open in their criticism of the access control system.

We expect the club to make a full statement explaining the measures that will be put in place before the Manchester United match. We also request that the club fully explain, with evidence, Mr Poynton's claims regarding the problems at the Stoke City game being a result of late arrivals and invalid cards being presented.

In addition, we call on Merseyside Police and the licencing authority to carefully monitor proceedings at the turnstiles on Sunday in order that the competence of the new access control system can be independently verified.


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