A £28 / $48 seat in the arena for the Grade 1 Medley Final at the World Pipe Band Championships is a coveted ticket, the entire 3,000-plus seats in the stands selling out well before the event, but many customers were left disappointed, able to gain access only after long delays in line.
When eventual World Champions Inveraray & District played their medley at 1:25 pm the stands were approximately only half full, and even much later when Field Marshal Montgomery competed in the event towards the end of the contest, many seats were visibly unoccupied. Even fewer spectators were in the stands at any given time during the Grade 1 MSR contest.
Throughout the event there were long lines of ticket-holders waiting to be allowed in by ushers, who were apparently adhering to strict policies, including not permitting entry while a band was competing.
Pipe band enthusiast and piper Donald McRae of Gourock, Scotland, was one of the disappointed ticket-buyers.
“We were in the queue at 1:05 or thereabouts and at that time it was snaking back I would reckon a good 150 to 200 yards,” McRae said. “There was no organization in forming the queue; it just morphed, which of course resulted in queue-jumping at certain times. Shotts came on and I reckon we were 20 to 25 yards from the top of the queues at that time. An older and very pleasant lady who had specifically wanted to hear Shotts didn’t make it in on time. She left the queue to try and hear them at the side, which was four to five people deep. She rejoined us after listening to the band.”
While the RSPBA runs the actual competition, which ran with the usual Swiss watch-like precision, the World’s is contracted out to Glasgow Life, the municipal organization that runs the city’s cultural events throughout the year.
“As in previous years we held ticket holders at the entrance to the Grade 1 Arena when bands were competing,” a spokesperson for Glasgow Life said. “Access generally worked well throughout the day with the heaviest queues at the start of the Medley when most people were keen to take their seats. As with all major events, we generally ask people to leave enough time to navigate the site or arena and get to their seats and competition info and draw times were available for some time before the event started.”
“After Inveraray had left the area we got in, but, as with everybody else our tickets were being inspected, which was another delay,” McRae continued.
Compounding the problem was the fact that the only entrance to the stand for the paying public was also the only exit, resulting in a constant bottleneck, and competing bands exiting the arena across the sole entrance/exit lane.
“I spoke to the security member who was standing at the band exit to see whether the security company had formulated the entrance procedure or whether it was the organizers,” McRae added. “The guy didn’t know anything and in retrospect I suppose I shouldn’t have imagined he would know who organized the entrance situation as he was only doing the duties assigned to him.”
McRae said that this is the first year that he and his friends had experienced problems, he recollected seeing long queues in previous years.
McRae said that he has submitted a formal complaint to RSPBA Chief Executive Ian Embelton, copying the chief executive of the Glasgow City Chambers. Despite his concerns, he said that he and his friends will not be asking for a refund.
“We wouldn’t have a comment regarding how people choose to use the tickets they bought,” the Glasgow Life spokesperson said. “The Grade 1 tickets sold out in advance of this year’s competition and the decision whether ticket holders choose to enjoy some or all of the Grade 1 competition is theirs alone.”