Date: 6th August 2007 at 10:07am
Written by:

Last week, Mrs Dr Watford rang to let me know that my new season ticket had landed on the welcome mat at VitalWatford Towers. News that she knew would be greeted by me like a little boy on Christmas Day morning.

But don`t be fooled, this was also a thinly disguised mental reminder to me that, whilst she had come to terms with the fact that the weekend trips to Ikea and Homebase were about to come to abrupt ending, my next 2 weeks would be filled with more DIY than you could shake a Dulux colour chart at.

Mrs Dr Watford ain`t stupid.

But my season ticket had arrived none the less. And this year things were a little different. No ticket booklet with tickets 1>24, no A-E vouchers in case of special circumstances, no ‘free hotdog` coupon when you spend an arm and a leg in the club shop.

In fact, in my usual season ticket`s place sat (drum roll please, Maestro) a ‘loyalty card` – no bigger than a switch card, no smaller than a train ticket?.It appears Watford FC have gone all space age on us.

And then I read the attached information. Ok, so like every bloke I don`t often read instruction manuals (after all how hard can it be to plug something in and watch as random buttons flash before our eyes) but now they had intrigued.

It turns out that over the next ‘couple of seasons`, the powers at be down at WD18 will be “rolling out a ‘stadium access control system” (basically meaning they are gonna put new electronic card reader system on turnstiles and cash registers and kiosks to track our every movement!!!)

A step forward? Yes certainly – never let Dr Watford be one to stand in the way of progress – but given ‘said technology` is already tried and tested at grounds on par with us, I have to ask the wider question – why then is it to take 3 years to install at Watford?

An average crowd of 15,000 can`t be that hard to ‘access control` surely?

Installing a reader at the Rookery wouldn`t be that difficult?<It appears so. And Watford, being Watford, are gonna continue to do things the traditional way for the next few years.

So I`ve got to flash my loyalty card at some underpaid but overkeen supporter who chooses to spend the best of part of his matchday sat in a ticket booth, pressing the ‘hot spot` button labelled ‘turnstile`.

I can`t help but question the logic. It`s a bit like those new self serve tills in a well known supermarket where you can scan, weigh, pack and pay for your own groceries. All well and good until you realise there`s a greater spotted teenage oik stood behind you with an eagle eye, making sure you don`t sneak an extra bag of carrots into your carrier.

Surely it would be quicker and easier for everyone concerned to put ‘said oik`s` talents to better use behind a till grunting ‘you got a club card` as he does the hard graft for you?After all, “every little helps”!

So will these ‘new fangled` loyalty cards eventually mean faster entry to the Vic on matchdays for those that turn up fashionably late at 5 to 3?

Quite possibly, until the whole system goes kerplunk after someone with 6 pints of the Red Lion`s finest inside them, tries to gain entry using a blockbuster video membership card and then spends the next 5 minutes pulling out the contents of their pockets trying to find the ‘season ticket`.

And will it mean the club can now get more information on what I`m about? Damn right it does – right down to which away games I`ve been to, which range of tacky merchandise I chosen to spend my ‘hard earned on`?you name it, they`ll know.

This data would have meant a great deal last season to spot the intruders into our Saturday afternoon when the big boys rolled into town but will now only mean the club can ‘target me` more cleverly.

So I`m expecting to get more phone calls trying to sell me ‘a piece of Watford history on a brick` when they knock down the East Stand or an abundance of emails when I`ve not taken up the ‘auto cup ticket` to pay a tenner to watch our reserves take on Hemel Hempstead U15s in the Carling Cup.

Will they ever ‘target me` to canvas my opinion on whether or not to play Mariappa ahead of Doyley on matchdays? – I doubt it but I have my list of cons (and very few pros) by the phone just in case.

It`s only when you see the chaos caused at the Stadium:MK on Wednesday night, as over 2,500 away fans packed themselves into the bore draw against MK Dons, that you realise that that WFC board might have made the right call to adopt the ‘slowly slowly catchy monkey` approach` this time around.

Thankfully, unlike the 600 strong others left stranded outside the ground, the Good Doctor had few problems getting into the ground for the preseason friendly.

In truth, the all new bar coded readers installed by the MK Dons worked a treat. It took just 5 seconds to recognise me and ‘allow entry` and then the bloody thing struggled to let me out again after the first dour 45 minutes, despite my hissy fit.

You could almost hear the automated logic churning out “well you paid for this rubbish, now you got to endure it fool”?

Bloody Technology.