Earlier this month, Charlotte basked in international headlines thanks to the professional soccer match between Italy’s AC Milan and England’s Liverpool in Bank of America Stadium.
Liverpool won 2-0, to the delight of fans who turned the stadium and Charlotte’s uptown streets into a swirling sea of Liverpudlian red.
When Steven Gerrard, captain of both the English national and Liverpool teams, came on the field in the second half, you could probably hear the cheers from Asheville to Raleigh.
With Charlotte’s turnout of more than 60,000, more than many other American cities on the tour, the game helps build the case for a MLS professional soccer team for the Carolinas, based in Charlotte.
Despite the event’s overall success, there were still a few problems on and off the pitch. AC Milan’s talented individual players, including Mario Balotelli (Italy) and Keisuki Honda (Japan), who both scored in the World Cup in Brazil, were unable to put the ball in the net.
Meanwhile, outside the stadium, a disappointed crowd of more than 300 spent part of the first period dealing with ticket problems.
After purchasing tickets through Ticketmaster and other online vendors, and either printing them at home or loading them to their phones, some fans were turned away by gate staff when hand-held scanner units refused to validate the tickets.
They were sent to the stadium’s ticket office, a small area behind the stadium, where a single window was dedicated to customer service.
By 15 minutes before kickoff, an extremely slow-moving line stretched nearly to the street. No stadium staff were outside to advise customers. One father, his young son fidgeting unhappily beside him, said he had been in line for nearly an hour.
He first stood in a “Will Call” window line for a half-hour, he said, only to be told when he finally reached the window that he needed to stand in the line for customer service.
According Bank of America Stadium’s technical staff, who work with ticketing, the problem stemmed from a large number of “print at home” tickets for the soccer match. At Panthers games, most fans have traditional printed tickets. Although extra staff was assigned to work inside the windows, the process was slow because each problem had to be evaluated individually, to avoid fraud or turning someone away from the game unfairly.
Technical staff suggest these ways to avoid problems at the stadium’s virtual turnstiles:
• For “print at home” tickets, be sure the print-out includes the entire barcode. If part appears to be cut off, reprint the tickets. However, if you do this, do not mix different printed versions, since a new code is printed each time. Having two versions may cause the ticket to be rejected. Obviously, do not fold or wrinkle the bar code.
• If the scanner cannot read the bar code but a series of numbers is visible on the bottom of the ticket, ask the ticket checker to type in the numbers. If the ticket is valid, this should solve the problem.
• Scanners can read phone code without problems. Phones, however, require a “QR” code, not the bar code used for printing. Be careful when downloading tickets to pick the correct type of download for your device.
• Most of all, try to get to the game or event early. Lines at the ticket windows were reportedly much shorter an hour before the match began.
With upcoming college football games and, hopefully, more international soccer matches, on tap for Bank of America Stadium, technical staff are working to improve the situation.
Charlotteans can also enjoy quality, entertaining soccer this fall featuring some of America’s rising stars. UNC Charlotte and Davidson College both field competitive women’s and men’s soccer teams. Garinger High’s wonderfully international soccer squad was ranked seventh in the state, and 25th in the nation, in 2013-14.