ON THE OUTER
By BRAD GREENSHIELDS
MANY of Coffs Harbour's rugby league fans keen to get a grandstand seat yesterday for the upcoming City v Country Origin extravaganza on May 3 have been left both angry and empty handed.
With only 936 grandstand seats available at the BCU International Stadium, a reserved spot in the stands among an expected crowd of somewhere between 12,000 and 15,000 people was always going to be similar to finding a golden ticket to Willy Wonka's chocolate factory but few were aware of just how hard getting a grandstand seat was actually going to be.
Before any members of the public could purchase a grandstand seat during yesterday's opening day of ticket sales, first right of refusal for tickets was given to the NRL, then members of the BCU International Stadium and finally those who were members of the BCU.
Toormina mother Jacqui Hey was one league fan left dismayed at not being able to get a ticket yesterday.
A regular attendee to the big sporting events that come to Coffs Harbour, Hey said that yesterday's ticketing fiasco has left her feeling gutted.
"It's left a pretty sour taste in my mouth," she said.
"I don't really want to watch the game now."
Hey logged on at 10.00am yesterday to purchase her tickets online through the Council's website only to find that once she'd agreed to the terms and conditions of the ground, the only tickets that were available to her were in the outer ground section.
"I was a bit annoyed and straight away I got the number for the Jetty Memorial Theatre to ask why," Hey continued.
"I just said to them that it's discrimination against members of the general public that want to sit in the grandstand. I also suggested that that information should be on the website."
As numerous disgruntled league fans rang the Coffs Coast Advocate's Sports Desk yesterday to voice their disapproval, Coffs Harbour City Council's Sports Unit manager Ben Payne explained the reasons why tickets were so hard to get for general members of the public.
"Due to the NRL being the host of the game, they have the contractual rights to request an amount of tickets for the City teams, the Country teams, NRL sponsors and also sponsors of the City-Country match itself," he said.
"That, coupled with Stadium members, BCU members and the fact that it's a very small grandstand has resulted in only a handful of tickets being available for the grandstand to the public."
Payne was quick to point out that there will still be some limited scope for people to get a grandstand seat next week when the NRL hand back any tickets that they see as surplus to requirement.
"Firstly we're hoping to have tickets re-released back to the public on Monday," he explained.
"Any people who've missed out can go to Jetty Theatre and have their name placed on a waiting list for any released tickets. The list will be on a first come, first served basis and people will be notified in that order on Monday.
"From past history we've learned from events such as the trial games like the recent Titans-Storm match, somewhere between 100 to 150 tickets should get released back into the public pool."
If there's one lesson that should be learnt from the situation, it is that becoming a Stadium member is akin to the well touted advertising slogan that American Express use: 'Membership has it's privileges'.
"Until the International Stadium is upgraded so that more grandstand seats are available, people should look at joining the Stadium as a member," Payne said.
"As a member you will always have a much larger chance of securing a grandstand ticket for the big events."