THE chairman of Sunderland Football Club, Mr Keith Collings, today admitted that the club had, on reflection, completely under-estimated the response of supporters to the voucher offer for tickets for the Sunderland-Luton F.A. Cup-tie.
Hundreds of calls and letters were received by the Echo today expressing dissatisfaction with the chaos outside the ground on Saturday when hundreds failed to get into the match, and hundreds more did not get vouchers.
The main complaints against the club were the system of distribution of vouchers and the times at which the turnstiles were opened.
One supporter, signing himself “B. Fair,” said he had queued from 1.10pm but his turnstile did not open until 2.03pm. “Word finally leaked out at 2.35 pm that all the vouchers were gone,” he wrote.
“Despite this I paid my 50p, only to find the adjoining turnstile was still issuing vouchers and, indeed, appeared to have hundreds left.
“Myself and some 20 others protested vociferously and eventually bodily jammed the turnstile preventing the issue of vouchers. This despite threats of arrests from a solitary police constable. It was, in fact, the steady sense of the law which solved the problem by taking vouchers from the groundsman and issuing them to we protesters. I find it disappointing that the club should invite such scenes by advertising the issue of vouchers.”
Mr Alan Quayle, of Fern Street, who bought his tickets for the match on Monday last week, accused the club of issuing vouchers to attract a bigger gate on Saturday. There were large queues at 12.30pm on Saturday but the gates were not opened until 1.48pm he said.
Another supporter, Mr H Robson, of East Herrington said that despite the “first come first served” promise of the club, persons entering the ground through turnstiles 18 and 19 after 2.25pm were told that all vouchers continued to be issued at the adjacent gate long after the delay kick-off time of 3.15pm.
Mr T K Wilkes of Whitburn, who joined a queue for the clock stand Block J at 12.40pm with about 350 to 400 in front of him in the queue, said the gates opened at 1.57pm and by 2.20pm all the vouchers had gone.
“You asked us to come and support the team and we came in our thousands, but you did not open the gates until 1.57pm,” he writes.
Mr James Robert Troupe, of Fulwell Road, Sunderland, said he attended 90 per cent of home games and had been a supporter for 20 years. He bought a clock stand ticket last Monday and on Saturday afternoon about 400 people were in front of him at the turnstile.
The gates opened about 1.50pm and he was in his seat at 2.20pm. But he did not get a voucher. The gateman said he had received only 200 vouchers.
“There were four turnstiles, so that means there were only 800 vouchers for about 3,000 seats. Just before half-time a policeman said there were vouchers left for the paddock and we could get them if we went out of the ground and paid to get back.
“To me the club just wanted a 40,000 gate for Saturday’s match against Oxford and they did not care about the faithful supporters. If they try it again, I for one, will not be going back to Roker Park.”
Today the club, in a statement apologised to supporters for the congestion on Saturday, and said that the decision to issue the vouchers had been responsible.
Mr Ron Linney, the club secretary, said that the first turnstile opened at 1.20pm and all the stand turnstiles were open by 2pm.
On Tuesday evening the gates were opened for the Manchester City Cup replay two hours before the kick-off and 50,000 people got into the ground before the start.
He pointed out that the vouchers for the stand seating would be given out more quickly because of the limited number of seats available for ticket sales, and although vouchers were distributed evenly to all the gates, some gatemen got the queues through quicker than others and so their vouchers ran out more quickly.
Story taken from the Sunderland Echo on March 5 1973.