On Saturday, one of my sons and I attended the Real Mallorca game.
As we approached the ground, my impression was that the club hadn’t opened enough turnstiles but as we headed for the Roker End, the crowds diminished.
He has an Android phone and had downloaded his ticket, and I’d done the same on my iPhone. My ticket worked first time without a problem and although he needed to bring up the QR code to get in, the queue for the sticky Korean chicken fries was more frustrating, to be honest!
However, behind all the fuss over the new digital ticketing system, there seems to be a well-intentioned but somewhat misguided veil of ageism.
Among the various comments I’ve frequently read are concerns about ‘the older generation who don’t have access to smartphones’.
I don’t doubt the sincerity of the people expressing those opinions, and I’m not going to dismiss them as somewhat patronising or undermine the validity of those who have family members who don’t have smartphones, but there’s also something of a lack of appreciation of the capability of the older generation to move with the times.
I have a casual job at an entertainment venue.
It’s not a big place, but one which tends to attract performers who are ‘stretching out’ their careers.
In recent months, we’ve played host to The Hollies, Yes, Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason, the ‘Lord of the Dance’ stage show and a Genesis tribute act, who recreate the band’s finest moments of the Peter Gabriel era. (Younger readers may wish to take a moment to Google those acts).
I’m soon to be entering my sixtieth year but on such occasions, it’s no exaggeration to say that I’m one of the youngest in the auditorium.
Part of my role is to scan tickets on the door. Most are bought through Ticketmaster, a system which has its own frailties, yet the audience have little problem accessing their e-tickets for me to scan.
Occasionally, some guests do print off their tickets but in a venue that holds 1500, I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of paper tickets I scan for a performance, if any.
The move to cashless bars at the Stadium of Light was greeted by some as something approaching an apocalypse for the older generation ‘who prefer cash’.
However, the older generation no longer collect their pensions in cash from the Post Office and are pretty well-versed in online bookings, if my experience is anything to go by.
As well as working at an entertainment venue, I’m an avid concertgoer, whether that’s in York, Leeds, Sheffield and Manchester (as well as the Stadium of Light). Without exception, all of the venues are card-only at the bar, and entry is via digital ticketing.
Change is never easy and there’ll be some teething problems, but there always are, and for me, the meagre offerings in the club shop and online store are more concerning.
That indicates a lack of commercial ambition and a failure to recognise the desire of the supporters to get behind this year’s squad in this season’s kit.
Each year, this should be the time for the existing and the next generation of Sunderland fans get to wear their new colours with pride.
The digital ticketing system will bed in but, commercially, the club must become far more proactive in engaging with supporters. There’s an opportunity to build a brand around this young squad- one that engages supporters of all ages.