Eden Park mayhem as Phoenix fans arrive ticketless

By Michael Dickison

Saturday's match was the first soccer match at Eden Park since the All Whites played Israel in 1988.  Photo / Getty Images
Saturday's match was the first soccer match at Eden Park since the All Whites played Israel in 1988. Photo / Getty Images

Thousands of people were stranded outside Eden Park in "absolute mayhem" at the opening whistle as the stadium was tested in a soccer match for the first time in two decades.

The Wellington Phoenix played Adelaide United to a 1-1 draw on Saturday in what was seen as a trial for soccer in Auckland, with potential All Whites' games as the prize.

Extensive advertising drew more than 20,000 - a regular-season record for the home team - to Eden Park, including a walk-up crowd of 4000 without pre-paid tickets.

The sales booths were overwhelmed. "There was absolute mayhem," said Angus Welton, of Ponsonby. "No one was taking control of the situation."

He arrived 45 minutes before kickoff but still missed most of the first half.

Thousands of others were caught in lines stretching from every booth around the stadium. Some groups left in frustration.

"There were people getting pretty agitated," Mr Welton said.

"I felt sorry for the ticket sellers because people were yelling at them. [The organisers] were calling this the showpiece to get Aucklanders into football. There'll be several thousand who won't be back."

Glendowie resident David Mairs said the event had only got the crowds that organisers had encouraged to come. "Radio advertising was telling Aucklanders that the Phoenix management were hoping for a big walk-up crowd. Well, the walk-up fans arrived but the Eden Park ticket box office facilities proved to be totally inadequate."

Eden Park chief executive David Kennedy said every ticket booth had been opened and the maximum number of staff were on hand.

The lesson was to get the message out that people should buy their tickets online - they could then be printed at home - or at Ticketek outlets, he said.

"We've coped with much bigger crowds. The real message for us is to just get much better at communicating to supporters how to get tickets before they come."

Mr Kennedy said the strong turnout had nonetheless been positive for Auckland.

"Both the Phoenix and Adelaide commented about how good the ground was."

Since the stadium's redevelopment for the Rugby World Cup, Eden Park had become a world-class venue, he said.

"It was great to see football goals instead of rugby posts for a change."

Saturday's was the first soccer match at Eden Park since the All Whites played Israel in 1988.

- NZ Herald

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