With 142 days to Headingley staging the Investec Test Match later between England and Sri Lanka commencing on Friday June 20, this week we are looking at what it takes to stage a major match at our famous old venue.
Today is the final day to take advantage of the Early Bird Discount and with tickets selling well for the first two days, particularly for day two (Saturday January 21) which is heading for a sell-out, cricket fans are being encouraged to buy now and save before the prices increase on Saturday February 1. Book online now.
In the third of our series of interviews, we spoke to Head of Customer Operations Sam Hinchliffe.
As with most Club departments, the preparations for a Test Match at Headingley are a year in the making, particularly important this year with a change of ticketing systems and renaming of the stands.
But what about the day of the match? What happens to make the turnstiles turn when presented with a ticket? Here, Sam describes a general day in the Ticket Office when England come to town.
Pre- Gates Opening
We’re usually in from about 6:30 am, so David Ryder isn’t always the first one in despite what he says! To be honest, the first thing we do is check nothing has broken overnight as usually that’s what we’re all worried about.
The systems all need to be set up and ready to go in advance and we really don’t want any problems with the turnstile systems or ticket systems on the day. It has happened before and it is a complete nightmare so we’re always on the ball and checking the systems. So checking that is a huge part of our morning!
We also set up the signs, the barriers, make sure all tickets are ready for collection and the players complimentary tickets go over to the dressing room, make sure the stewards are aware of their roles around the ticket office, dealing with potential queues and which window is open for which query and so on.
Ahead of Play
Opening the gates is always a bit of a nervous time because there’s usually a queue and anything can go wrong in those brief moments – the turnstiles will only open and accept tickets if the right systems are all talking to each other and we really don’t want them to suddenly stop talking to each other right on gate opening time! Technology is difficult sometimes.
But once the gates are open we can relax a little bit and start selling last minute tickets and making sure we’re helping with any queries. We also try to smile as much as possible and point people in the direction of their seats or ticket collections or purchases or queries… if we can get chance to stand outside!
Time to have a cup of tea! Generally we won’t get chance to have a break all day so as soon as play starts and we don’t have a queue is the best time to grab a sandwich and take a moment to catch up. It gets busier again closer to lunch time and the afternoon session is generally when people are wandering the ground so we get a lot of queries then.
We’re also continually monitoring the attendance rates and reporting to operations and the stewards and finance departments of any updates very regularly. We always need to make sure we are fully aware of the numbers in the ground in case of emergencies – we even monitor each stand attendance although this isn’t live like the turnstile records are. They keep a record of people entering and exiting the stadium.
It’s also a chance, probably whilst having another cup of tea being very traditionally British, to chase up on any queries for future days. Generally, even though all hands are on deck to deal with queries and sales and collections at the windows on the day, the phones are ringing off the hook for people querying tickets for future days. So the afternoon is a good opportunity to call as many people back and take as many calls as possible and begin to prepare for the next day.
There’s a lot of post-match reports to be run for finance, operations and other departments. These can take a while to run off the systems and we can’t start these until the last person has exited the turnstiles.
As soon as these are done and we close down the systems we can prepare the ticket collections for the next day and manage any last minute enquiries. We usually leave around 8pm and do usually just end up all eating at the pub up the road to save valuable sleeping time!
What’s the silliest fancy dress costume you’ve ever seen?
I remember once seeing a stag party dressed up as Old Age Pensioners. They made all the traffic stop for them crossing Cardigan Road which wasn’t ideal at the time because of all the busy traffic and increased footfall anyway but quite amusing to look back on.
What’s your fondest Test Match memory?
I know people have said this before but I think Joe Root’s Maiden Test hundred last year was a huge moment to be part of and Kevin Pietersen’s 149 against South Africa in 2012. The atmosphere when he made that hundred, and the way the crowd clapped him off when he was 149* at close of play. That was magic.
Who’s your biggest claim to fame? Have you met any famous people?
I don’t think I can pick a biggest claim to fame! We do get to meet the commentators, the likes of Bumble (David Lloyd), David Gower, Ian Botham, Geoffrey Boycott and Jonathan Agnew… I think they’re really interesting to talk to, they always have great stories!
Finally, your favourite thing about a Test Match at Headingley?
The staff drinks at the end of a Test Match? No, actually usually everyone’s asleep by that point! I do think it’s great the way that a Test Match brings Headingley together though. Everyone helps each other and we’re all here to make the best possible experience for our customers.
By day four and five everyone is running on adrenaline after over a solid few weeks of 15 hour days and I think spectators don’t often realise the effort that goes into it by all involved. I’m sure that’s with every game in every sport but I think we’d all rather they didn’t notice all the small things – it’s good if they don’t and as long as everyone walks away having had a great time at Headingley, it’s worth it.
The atmosphere and buzz at Headingley just gives everyone that extra little push to keep going and even though it does get stressful, looking back on memories of Test Matches at Headingley it does remind you of how amazing it is to be involved. Having Headingley full and buzzing for cricket is how it’s meant to be, there’s so much history at Headingley and just being a part of that is really special.
Don’t miss a moment of cricket at Headingley this summer. Tickets are available at the Early Bird Discounted rate until 5pm tonight. Click here to book.