Computerised ticketing: cultural change needed

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THE Premier Soccer League (PSL) has floated a tender for electronic ticketing, a welcome step that takes us into the modern world of computist and, hopefully, we will soon be reaping the benefits of this move.

This welcome development has several benefits that it should bring to football in Zimbabwe, especially the country’s elite league and clubs that play in it.

And by owning and commissioning the ticketing system themselves the PSL will be harnessing economies of scale that the individual clubs cannot if each went on its own.

The introduction of a computerised ticketing system would — it is my hope — do away with quite a few of the hordes of ticket handlers we see at matches at present and this reduction should be to the benefit of clubs themselves – they save a marginal dollar from the excision of each ticket handler that will not now be needed.

A computerised ticketing system brings with it greater and easier ability to account for match attendances and gross ticketing takings at matches.

History is that in the past there has hardly ever been agreement on takings, especially at matches that have high attendances, leaving a high probability of some money leaking out into private pockets illegally.Surely this should make clubs stronger financially.

To the match-going public computerised ticketing will mean faster entry at the turnstiles and a feel good factor that what one is paying at the entry point is going to football rather than being frittering away into thin air after being grabbed by some sticky fingers.

Of course, the system will still be manipulated — our people are very good at this — and, as they say in the language of computers, garbage in garbage out!

However, it is still worth taking this step. The slight beauty though is that the system can always, to some extent, tell who manipulated it if necessary and adequate security features are included in the package.

One of the benefits that the public should get from the adoption of a computerised ticketing system is that people can buy their match tickets ahead of matches, further reducing the possibility of queues on match days.

One of the issues that turn some people away from football matches is the need to go to the venue early in order to be able to buy a ticket to watch the match.

With a computerised ticketing system one can buy a ticket days in advance, if not right at the start of the season should the system have the season ticket capacity in it, and then simply go to the match venue on the day in question.

However, for the advance ticket system to work there is certainly need for a culture change in some of our people. Some two decades ago there was a short-lived trial with advance tickets for national team matches.

The biggest problem that this initiative ran into was people not respecting it when it came to seats — if a group of five bought tickets they sat in one bunch even if this meant taking seats that had been bought by someone else in advance.

When the ticket holder came in they found their seat occupied by people who would obstinately refuse to vacate the seat.

This culture simply has to go, otherwise nobody will waste their hard-earned funds on advance and season tickets. Changing this culture will be the biggest challenge the PSL and clubs will face once they adopt the computerised ticketing system.

There are several benefits that come with advance and season tickets. It would be unfortunate and a great pity if these were not incorporated in the system, and implemented, simply because we have an inhibiting culture!

For starters, advance tickets, particularly season tickets, give clubs and the PSL revenue even before staging a match and dollar today is better than a dollar tomorrow, they say in finance.

What this calls for is a massive educational campaign for a change in culture so that people can start respecting those holding advance and season tickets once these are adopted.

At the initial stages it will also be necessary to enforce this respect of advance ticket holders until every person who goes to matches has accepted this new culture.

Econet management last week told a visiting parliamentary delegation that their company, the biggest by both capitalisation and market size telecommunications company in the country, they are not likely to go back into sponsoring football any time soon.

Of course, it was quite good realising that we have some MP’s who are concerned about the wellbeing of the country’s biggest sport! Econet said that at present they would rather put their money on the less privileged of society and they are certainly doing a fantastic job of it through scholarships and other social corporate investment initiatives.

However, I feel that the Econet management was telling the MP’s, almost tongue in cheek and in a diplomatic way, that any corporate worth a serious and quality image would not go into bed with our football at present.

There is quite a lot that football is short of in terms of best practice corporate governance and it is sad that the recent elections of the Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) did not help matters — an opportunity to start cleaning up the image of football was lost.

One does not need to be a rocket scientist to appreciate that the top hierarchy of the Zifa board does not inspire confidence at all.

It is appreciated the people at the top of the Zifa board do not like to hear this, they would rather we sing praises, but this is the truth and no amount of acres of stories that paint a good picture will solve this — you simply cannot make a frog beautiful no matter how much lipstick etc you apply to it!

In this regard, the call by Sports minister Andrew Langa for Zifa to clean up its image could not have come ata better time and we wait to see whether Zifa can live up to this challenge.

Advice to Langa is that he must set timelines for the answering of his call and put in place a monitoring and evaluation mechanism to see to it that something is being done.

In fact, Econet got inspired — they spoke for a lot of other companies!