ABs supporters left high and dry   8 Nov 2005

Ellie van Baaren

Around 300 fans on a tour to see the All Blacks play Wales in Cardiff at the weekend were left to watch the match on a big screen or in the pub after their tickets didn’t turn up. ELLIE VAN BAAREN REPORTS.

It was a once in a lifetime experience. The first of four All Black tests as the Kiwi players tried to achieve the Grand Slam, beating all four British home unions on one tour. But instead of soaking up the atmosphere in the magnificent Millennium Stadium, around 300 (the figures vary wildly depending on who you talk to) ended up scrambling to watch it in pubs and on the big screen another company’s hospitality tent.

The rugby fans had paid for either a one or two-day tour with Wanderer’s World tour company that included tickets to the match, but when the buses arrived they were told that they didn’t have tickets.

According to witnesses, abuse, bottles and other missiles were thrown at the company representatives as the crowd demanded their tickets, but none materialised.

Kel Walker, Manager of Operations and Tours at Wanderer’s World, said that around 300 people didn’t get in and they were still waiting for an explanation from their supplier.

"I have no idea why the tickets didn’t turn up. The supplier has the money and we will hopefully be meeting with him tonight [Monday] so that we can begin refunding people from Thursday," he says.

Walker says that only the people who didn’t get into the game would be refunded and they would also have to look at those who managed to get in after kick off.

Tim Lewis, from Shepherd’s Bush, and a group of his mates paid £179 for tickets to the game and a night’s accommodation for the Saturday night. He said they were expecting to receive their tickets before the game, but when they hadn’t heard anything at around 3.45pm (15 minutes before kick off), and began hearing rumours about missing tickets they began to get worried.

He says after Wanderer’s hung up when his friend tried to contact them, they were fairly sure they weren’t going to get tickets.

He and four of his party managed to score tickets from a scalper for an extra £100 each, but he reckons they were the only five from his busload who were able to do so. His other friends stayed in the hotel to watch the game.

Here at New Zealand News UK we received numerous emails from angry fans including Justine Cooper who claims she and her fellow travellers were told several lies during the course of their bus ride.

Beginning with: the company definitely had tickets but they were being counted out for each coach. Ending with: the tickets were on site but a South African had them and he couldn’t be found as he was drinking.

Finally they were told that there were no tickets and that they would get a full refund.

Backpacker Co.’s Steve Hegh, who hired the marquee that ended up housing many of the disappointed people, says that the police were called but "it was a bit over the top as they were in their riot gear".

Lewis said although he was "a bit gutted" by the whole affair he had met other people who were worse of than he was. For example, he met a couple with five seven-year-old boys who were devastated that they couldn’t see the All Blacks in action.

However, he also said he wasn’t confident of getting his refund, but even if he didn’t "hopefully this will bring them [Wanderer’s World] down".

Walker has a very simple statement for those people affected.

"We are very very sorry. It was unintentional even though some people thought it was intentional. We were not trying to rip anyone off. It’s quite embarrassing for us really because it’s sullied our name no end."

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