Tyne & Wear

Olympic football delay at St James' Park 'unacceptable'

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Media captionPeople hoping to buy tickets were in the queue alonside those picking up pre-booked ones

Ticketing delays at St James' Park which meant some fans missed an Olympic football game were unacceptable, a senior 2012 official has said.

Some people missed the Mexico v South Korea game on Thursday in Newcastle due to long queues for tickets.

Geoff Hodgson, the North East board member for Locog, said: "We cannot allow this to happen again."

On Wednesday, three people due to work as staff at the venue were arrested on suspicion of immigration offences.

Queues had already formed on Thursday before the ticket offices opened at 09:30 BST.

Soon hundreds were waiting, both people hoping to buy tickets and those picking up pre-booked ones.

In the first game, Mexico and South Korea drew 0-0. The second match between Gabon and Switzerland ended in a 1-1 draw.

Image caption Mark Ridley and his son ended up missing the first match

Mark Ridley, who took his five-year-old son to the matches, said: "We arrived in plenty of time to collect our tickets and found a queue around the block.

"We spent in the region of two-and-a-half hours queuing.

"It was the first game I'd brought my little boy to and we missed the whole game. I feel incredibly let down by it."

Locog said that the box office had opened five hours before kick-off and those collecting tickets to the day's matches had been prioritised.

Box offices at Olympic venues are managed by Ticketmaster, but Locog determines staffing numbers.

Speaking on BBC Radio Newcastle, Mr Hodgson offered his apologies.

He said: "Last night was totally and completely 100% unacceptable."

"It had the potential to be an outstanding night, and I think for many people it was, but for those outside queuing it was unacceptable.

"There were a series of conversations and meetings last night at the ground, and I was back in harness at 6.30 this morning.

"We cannot allow this to happen again."

He added that it had involved a global ticketing system.

"The procedures that they have appear to be a one size fits all," he said.

"Unlike every other sport there was not a test event for football at a football ground that was being used."

He said talks were taking place to determine what went wrong.

A spokesman for Ticketmaster said: "The Olympic events outside of London are proving to be extremely popular, and as a result we saw extremely high numbers of spectators arriving at St James' Park to purchase football tickets on the day of the event.

"While Ticketmaster is contracted to manage the box offices at Olympic venues, the staff numbers at those venues are determined by Locog.

"We will continue to work closely with Locog to ensure that the box office staff levels are sufficient to meet the demands for ticket sales and collection."

A spokesman for Newcastle City Council said: "This is unacceptable and we have told Locog it is unacceptable.

"We have made strong representations to Locog about what they should do in terms of ticketing arrangement, including more staff on duty and longer box office opening hours."

In a separate incident, the UK Border Agency said it had arrested three people due to work at the stadium in Newcastle after accreditation checks were carried out on private security staff.

Two remain in custody and one was released without charge.

It was announced on Monday that more than 500 staff from other companies were replacing G4S at St James' Park.

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