Saturday, October 13, 2012

Obsessions: match tickets – a life story told in ticket stubs



The original of this article appears in Issue Seven of Umbrella magazine


If there’s one thing that the Obsessions features prove, it’s that men are seemingly addicted to keeping a record of the things they’ve done and places they visited.

In the age of the smartphone, everyone is free to archive every moment of their existence, as can be seen by the countless held-aloft phones at big concerts, and more embarrassingly, football matches.

But the ultimate “I was there” memento isn’t a digital file or photograph. It’s something real, an otherwise ordinary piece of paper that just happens to have the good fortune to have something important – to the owner at least – printed on it. We’re talking, of course, about tickets.

Ever since I went to my first away football match I’ve kept the game’s ticket stub, an immediate ‘aide mémoires’, taking me back to a day that otherwise would be lost forever. 




The first one is a ticket for Coventry’s Highfield Road – now replaced by the soulless Ricoh Arena – followed by stubs for Old Trafford, the Victoria Ground (also gone) and Derby County’s Baseball Ground (sense a pattern here?). Later, come tickets for Wembley, Villa Park and most poignant of all, Hillsborough’s Leppings Lane terrace, dated April 15, 1989.

The designs change, too. Even in the 1980s the digital hand of the computer is found, but as we enter the new century, multi-coloured printing comes to the fore with holographic images and flash sponsors’ logos. The prices change too, ever upward into the inflation stratosphere. 




These tickets tell quite a story then, not just my own, but of the role of entertainment, particularly football, in this country. It’s not just soccer matches, the difference in cost between Spike Island (£14) and Heaton Park (£55) demonstrates how “being there” is something people are prepared to pay a premium for.

And just as some like to watch a gig through the lens of their iPhone, so a number of ticket collectors may prefer the experience of slipping the stub into their album rather than actually witnessing the event the ticket is for. It may sound mad to some, but to me it makes perfect, and very orderly, sense.


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