England fans swamp Wembley ticket hotline

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The Independent Online

NOT SO much a ticket hotline, more a ticket meltdown. Football supporters were left to hit the redial button in frustration as they tried to buy seats for England's Euro 2000 play-off against Scotland at Wembley Stadium next month.

NOT SO much a ticket hotline, more a ticket meltdown. Football supporters were left to hit the redial button in frustration as they tried to buy seats for England's Euro 2000 play-off against Scotland at Wembley Stadium next month.

Demand was so high (and the capacity to deal it with so low) that by lunchtime yesterday only 10,000 of the 36,000 tickets on sale via the hotline had gone. Some were still being sold last night after opening hours were extended to 10pm. A few tickets for the match, on 17 November, might still be on sale this morning.

"The system is brand new," Martin Corrie, a Wembley spokesman, said. "Despite all the technology ... the volume of calls would test any system. We do sympathise with the fans, who will be thinking it is impossible. It is not impossible, but it is certainly difficult."

Not all those who got through found the experience easy, especially if they had a Scottish accent or address. Sales to Scots were banned and callers answering the question "Are you Scottish?" in the affirmative were cut off.

Apart from hotline tickets, 30,000 of the 76,000 available have been sold to members of the official England supporters' club. Another 7,000 will be given to the Scottish FA for Scottish supporters and 3,000 will go to English county associations, officials and sponsors.

With demand so high, a black market is inevitable. A City-based ticket agency said it had been inundated by calls from fans unable to get through to the hotline and who were willing to pay £300 for a £15 seat.

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