Meet the Member: “I was probably at the very forefront of helping push for digital ticketing”
February 8, 2023
Ticketing is one of the areas of the sports business that has seen the most change over the last few years. To discuss the change we have seen and take a look into the future, we told our Content Manager, Alex Brinton that he needed to speak to Jeanene Valentine, Director of Ticket Sales and Premium at San Diego Wave FC to find out what 2023 could mean for ticketing.
So Jeanene, you have worked in ticketing for ten years now at a variety of different clubs. What is it about tickets that keeps you coming back?
I have actually worked in ticketing for over 20 years, but specifically in soccer for 10. I don’t know, I think I just have a really good knack for ticketing. I know my markets very well. I know, my audiences, crowds, the kind of experiences they’re looking for, the kind of money that they can afford.
And then also just find like, a lot of sports tech is really interesting when it comes to ticketing now. And it’s not just, you know, sitting down at a computer being able to buy a ticket, and you know, you’re off. There’s the whole resale market, all of the digital ticketing, now they’re putting things like NFT’s into digital tickets, and bringing in blockchain. It’s getting pretty challenging, so it’s nice to stay on the forefront and just kind of see what’s next.
Over the last ten years then how has the space evolved, there has obviously been the move from paper to digital. How have you seen that from your point of view?
I’ve loved it, I was probably at the very forefront of helping push for digital ticketing. I’ve always made any of the new clubs I went to, or the new stadiums I opened, that we were going to go full digital from the beginning. A lot of people were paranoid, because everybody is used to having their paper ticket, everybody wanted something tangible, right? Something that they could keep.
It’s just a lot of education, especially opening Allianz Field for Minnesota United. They were very, you know, traditional. We didn’t give them an option from the beginning, they kind of had no choice. They took to it right away, it was super simple. We just spent a lot of time and effort on education for our fans before we even got close to the season. And now in post-COVID. I mean, that’s kind of the way of the world now. So I was really happy to be part of that revolution and help push digital ticketing at the beginning.
You have worked across a lot of different sports in America, but recently you have made the transition from men’s football to women’s. What differences have you noticed between the two?
The NWSL has a lot of growing ahead. So there’s a lot of changes and opportunities for growth. For example, we’re just talking about the introduction of VAR this year. But with women’s soccer becoming so popular now. It’s getting better, it’s growing in leaps and bounds. And now NWSL is announcing that they’re going to add three more expansion teams next year. So they’re growing pretty quick. I think that it was really nice for me to come from MLS with a lot of the knowledge that I have working in men’s sports, and help bring that to women’s sports to help that transition and growth a little bit easier and faster.
In your two most recent positions at Inter Miami and Wave FC you are coming into clubs that don’t have a fanbase already in place. What has that been like and what particular challenges has it posed?
That makes it harder because we have a lot of work to do. More grassroots. But I think it’s a little better that way. And there’s definitely more fun to be had because you’re working with a blank canvas. So it’s about what direction you want to go in, or how you want to build this fan base. It just gives you a lot of flexibility for example, we’re really focused on growing our supporters this season. Last season, we just kind of wanted to let everybody know that we were here and this season we’re focusing heavily on supporters growth and then venturing down into South San Diego County. We’re only 13 miles away from the Mexico border so I know that all the Latino community can be our fans. When you’re Latino football is life, I’m of Spanish descent, so we just have to get in South County and let them know we’re here just and come grow with us.
From your experience is the UK and Europe lagging behind the US when it comes to innovation in this area?
That’s a really good question. Because as you know I do work with teams in the UK. I think they’re becoming quite equal. I think the UK was a little bit hesitant for change. But I think that now everybody kind of started to think differently, especially with COVID, but the UK was cashless before America tried going cashless. So I think they’re well on their way with technology.
And I think that because the UK is so kind of new coming into this, they’re thinking is more open, because they are working with an open playbook, they’re able to think outside of the box and bring new ideas. So I think that not only will we be even pretty soon, but I can see the tech in the UK is surpassing the US pretty quick.
Looking forward, we’ve gone from paper to digital tickets. Where do we go next?
I think that RFID technology will probably become more prominent. I definitely wanted to try that years ago with X Games, I thought it would be cool to have a tangible item, like a skateboard deck or something that was kind of your ticket to get into like big premium spaces and stuff. So I think that we’re gonna keep going down that road of making it easy and fun. Now with digital ticketing, you can use your Apple Watch to gain entry.
So we just got to keep thinking of new fun and innovative ideas like that. I want to see holograms or something. It’s 2023. Let’s get creative, let’s get fun.