Michael Burgess is a sports writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Soccer: Fans do their bit, Eden Park doesn't

Nicholas Ward of the Wellington Phoenix controls the ball watched by Zenon Caravella of Adelaide United. Photo / Getty Images
Nicholas Ward of the Wellington Phoenix controls the ball watched by Zenon Caravella of Adelaide United. Photo / Getty Images

The Phoenix got the crowd they were looking for but Eden Park couldn't cope with the large number of walk-up fans. Thousands missed the kickoff of last night's match and hundreds more were stranded outside for most of the first half.

Queues on every gate snaked long around the corners. The bright sunny afternoon had brought the undecided punters out with more than 20 per cent of the 20,000 strong crowd attempting to buy their tickets in the hour leading into the match. A Phoenix spokesman said every available ticket booth was open and manned.

"We couldn't have done it any faster," said marketing manager David Dome. "We had over 4000 people wanting to purchase tickets between 4pm and 5pm. All those with pre-paid tickets breezed straight in. We do encourage people to come early but having said that, we are sorry that some people missed the start of the game."

Orakei resident Geoff Dale spent almost an hour queuing for tickets and missed more than a third of the match. He arrived at 4.40pm and didn't enter the ground until 5.35pm, 35 minutes after kickoff. At that time he estimated that the remaining fans had at least a 10-minute wait, meaning they would probably miss the entire first half.

"We want to support them but it wasn't a great experience," said Dale. "They needed twice the number of ticket windows open. I guess I'll come earlier next time."

Dale had first joined huge queues at Gate A, before being redirected to Gate D where the lines were just as long. He also tried to purchase a ticket online at 4.50pm but found online sales had been shut down by then. Meanwhile Dome said they were "very happy" with the attendance and admits that it puts Eden Park in the "shop window" for future Phoenix matches.

"We have been well supported in Christchurch, Dunedin and Hamilton but certainly this puts Auckland in our thinking," says Dome.

Ricki Herbert was also thrilled with the crowd but said he had "no say" in the location of any future games outside Wellington.

Adelaide captain and former Phoenix star Jon McKain said it was a fabulous atmosphere.

- Herald on Sunday

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