Andy Cullen insists lessons can be learned after ticketing chaos influenced Portsmouth's lowest league crowd since 2013

Andy Cullen reflected on Pompey’s lowest league crowd for eight-and-a-half years and admitted: Lessons can be learned.

Sunday, 15th August 2021, 5:00 pm

Just 11,470 were present at Fratton Park to see Danny Cowley’s side beat Crewe 2-0 to move into second spot.

However, the fixture represented Pompey’s smallest league attendance since hosting MK Dons in February 2013, when 9,815 showed up.

The build up to Saturday’s return of supporters to Fratton Park after 18 months of restricted access had been blighted by ticketing problems, prompting much fan criticism.

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And the Blues’ chief executive conceded ticketing had been one of several issues which impacted upon crowd numbers.

Cullen told The News: ‘There are a number of lessons that we can learn.

‘Particularly in terms of the first day on sale, when we had long queues. That process could have been managed a lot better and I take full responsibility for that.

‘The fact that it was quite a complicated process with the seat moves and everything else is something we again have to look at and make a lot easier.

The Fratton end celebrate John Marquis' opener in Saturday's 2-0 victory of Crewe. Picture: Jason Brown/ProSportsImages

‘Of course, we can talk about the next time, but it will be entirely different. This has almost been like a perfect storm. It will be unusual for all these things to come together again.

‘We’ve had three weeks to get season tickets. Normally when you do a season-ticket campaign it’s 10 weeks, including tickets being sorted, processed and delivered.

‘There’s been issues with staffing. More than 50 per cent of our staff were off at one point or other during July because of being pinged or suffering symptoms themselves.

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A full Fratton end, yet a total of just 11,470 were at Fratton Park for Saturday's 2-0 win over Crewe. Picture: Jason Brown/ProSportsImages

‘I believe previously the club had ticketing partners providing a back-up solution in terms of having 20 more lines on. The ticketing partner has now closed that operation down because they can’t get the staff to run it.

‘Of course, the biggest issue for us has been complicated by the fact we’ve had to close certain areas of seats down which are part of capacity restrictions and development work.

‘When somebody wants to come in and change their seat, they want to go carefully through all our options, so that takes more time for us to get through.

‘Certainly there are some key learnings from it all, such as understanding matters better in terms of not making things too complicated and how we can support elderly and disabled supporters in queues.

‘I have learnt a lot from it as well. It has helped me to learn where the stresses are within the business and how we can fix those and make them better.’

The last time Fratton Park entertained such a small league crowd was during the League One 2012-13 relegation season.

That MK Dons encounter finished 1-1, leaving the Blues rooted to the foot of the table under caretaker boss Guy Whittingham.

And Cullen insists there were mitigating circumstances behind Saturday’s attendance numbers.

He added: ‘There is still a lot of nervousness among people wanting to come back into large crowds, crowded areas and queues.

‘When you are reporting crowds, you report all your season-ticket sales as well. Generally there can be anything between a 15-20 per cent no show at this time of year.

‘But Saturday was like a cup game in that there were no season-ticket seats, those actually in the stadium were counted.

‘Also, don’t forget, we have a huge amount of people away on holiday at the moment.

‘The next Saturday home game is September 18 against Cambridge United. At that point I would fully expect to start seeing attendances rise.’

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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