First the good news, because what follows does not contain very much of that. So here goes. I have tickets for the Challenge Cup semi-final between Saints and Leeds on July 31. In the North East corner, which is sort of near the Saints fans maybe. Or something.
So anyway you will remember how I was blatantly misled by the Saints website into believing that I, as a season ticket holder of our exalted and glorious club, would be able to purchase tickets for the game ahead of the general sale just like everyone else who has a season ticket? And then how I turned up to the stadium only to be told that my money was no good there (or words to that effect) and that I would have to contact the RFL. And you remember the ensuing, 1,000 word whinge about this incident?
Well I received a tweet from Saints telling me that they would look into it for me. All very generous, except that all they did was confirm what we already knew, which was that they were not able to sell them to me. They haven’t quite explained why the information on their website was incorrect although I suspect they are not arguing the point. Something has made them feel guilty enough to contact me following my earlier blog.
The best (or worst) part of all of this preamble to actually getting the tickets was the gentleman on Facebook who was arguing with me hammer and tongs about whether I should have the right to buy tickets through the club first because of my season ticket holder status. He had a disabled daughter, he told me, and he has won awards for championing the rights of disabled people and it was his view that it is entirely fair and sensible that wheelchair users should contact the RFL. The argument seems to be that there are only a limited number of spaces and so…..and so what? There are only a limited number of spaces for everyone and that has been the case at sports events probably since the Taylor report made stadia more safe. If clubs can’t sell tickets to wheelchair users then how can they reasonably suggest that they can sell them to anyone? However many you have available, why would you not split that figure between the clubs and allow the respective season ticket holders first dibs, as you do with non-disabled tickets? The reasons why this cannot happen are unknown and my head hurts just thinking about it frankly. Incidentally I’m sure the gentleman on Facebook has done an awful lot for disability in this country but you know, Ron Atkinson did an awful lot for black footballers in Britain and still got the sack for being a racist. Like Lee Harvey Oswald, sometimes we are judged on our one-offs.
And so to today’s absurd correspondence with the RFL over the actual tickets. The semi-final is 25 days away as I write and so there was no other way I was going to get them than to comply with their discriminatory policy and call the ticket line. When I did, and made the booking, I asked the customer service operator why it was the RFL’s policy not to allow wheelchair users to buy tickets for these events through their clubs in the same way that non wheelchair users do. Of course this is an unfair question. Part of my work involves dealing with telephone enquiries and I am all too aware that it is not his decision, and that actually it is just his misfortune to be employed to deal with angry people who are questioning shit decisions made higher up. I know how that feels and I explained to him that I was not blaming him, I just wanted to see if he knew what the reason was for the bizarre policy.
He actually went away to double check it. Double check it? Fuck. Brilliantly, the answer to this now well-worn riddle is that only the RFL know the stadia that are being used to host the events and so the clubs would not have a very good grasp on where the best places would be to sit wheelchair users. Yes, it is impossible in the view of the RFL to train staff employed by a rugby league club to be able to tell wheelchair using customers where the accessible seating might be in another team’s stadium, and to let them make an informed choice on buying tickets based on that information. Forgive me….how do they know where the best place is to sit for non-disabled people? A stadium plan you say? On a bit of paper? Using things like colours, numbers and letters to identify sections of the ground. Fuck off. Can’t be done.
There’s more, as a famous and utterly crap Irish comedian of the 80’s used to say. The RFL’s man had not asked me if I was a season ticket holder before he sold me the tickets. When I pointed this out he adopted what can only be described as the stance of a rabbit caught in a very bright set of headlights, fumbling his words like Mumbles from Dick Tracey and then admitting that actually, it’s a fair cop, having a season ticket has no bearing on whether you get a ticket or not for an RFL event if you are a wheelchair user. Non-disabled season ticket holders at Saints have this week to secure their tickets before they go on general sale to the rest of you next week. I don’t. Wheelchair accessible tickets have been available from the RFL to any Thomas, Richard or Harold presumably since the dates and venues of the semi-finals were announced. It’s an open and shut case. As clear a case of discrimination as having separate shops for selling bread to black people and white people. Everyone gets their bread, but it doesn’t make it right, does it? And isn’t there a high risk that it might not be the bread they wanted?
Does anyone care except those of us affected? You’d be surprised at how many people do not. One person on Facebook accused me of thinking that the world owed me a living which is quite laughable. He went strangely quiet when I politely explained to him that actually I work Monday to Friday the same as everyone else and pay for a season ticket the same as everyone else. Despite some strides having been made in the field of equality, it is clear that some people still assume that to be disabled is to sit around on your ‘arris all day claiming benefit and trawling through social media so you can scream when something goes against you. There may be disabled people like that, in fact I can assure you that there are, but I’m not one of them and I resent the implication that I am. I don’t sit behind a boring desk in a boring office all day to be disrespected by clowns with pre-conceived ideas from 1964.
It’s very likely that I won’t be able to change this policy and the attitudes which perpetuate it with any number of angry phone calls, social media rants or even eloquent blogs. But I’m buggered if I am going to put up with it quietly.