Member Insights: COVID-19 – How Ticketing Has Felt The Impact
March 27, 2020
David Hornby, UK MD of ticketing engagement platform SecuTix whose clients include UEFA, Everton FC, Lancashire Cricket, The R&A and England Netball, looks at the challenges facing sports ticketing in the light of the coronavirus outbreak and the potential future ramifications for this vital part of sports business.
In just the space of a few days, COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on the 2020 sports calendar with events cancelled or postponed. The latest being the Tokyo Olympics which have been postponed until 2021 to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. It’s the right thing to do in this unprecedented situation. The consequences for the business of sport will be far and wide, with the economic ramifications from the loss or suspension in ticket sales, one of the principal revenue streams for sports, being a very serious concern.
For those working in sports ticketing, the immediate challenge is managing mass refunds. For tickets bought online with a credit or debit card, refunds can be processed fairly simply. But those purchased by direct debit, credit schemes or PayPal are more complicated to process. Added into the mix is managing the inventory of different types of tickets – one-off games, season ticket holders, hospitality and VIP packages – and working out whether to roll payments forward to later games and events or give automatic refunds.
At SecuTix our focus right now is supporting our clients through this difficult time. Our clients are facing a complicated situation and are at the coal face of dealing with the frustrations of their fans. What is clear is that good customer service and maintaining strong fan relationships is fundamental at a time of crisis.
Will we go from 0 to 100% attendance overnight? I’m not sure. The sports business needs to prepare itself that this might not happen straight away.
Major sports clubs and rights holders are at the forefront of using fan data to improve the customer journey. They use insights to get a true picture of who every fan is and harness the data to enhance the fan experience. Now is the time to use that fan data to really show fans how much they are valued. Ticketing teams are having to respond quickly in this fast moving situation, but I urge them to consider how they can personalise their dealings with ticketholders. The same degree of personalisation used when selling tickets should apply to all interactions. Think about what added value you could offer the loyal season ticket holder or the big spenders on VIP packages. In some cases, forget about the emails, pick up the phone, ask how they are and what you can do for them. How you treat fans in a time of crisis could future proof your fanbase and business.
In this unprecedented situation, any single sports club doesn’t hold all the answers and now is the time to learn from other live entertainment areas, other sports, other geos. We need to share best practice and examples of what people are doing that’s making a real difference. By doing so, hopefully sport can come out of this stronger.
Moving forward and once we are all through this, will we go from 0 to 100% attendance overnight? I’m not sure. The sports business needs to prepare itself that this might not happen straight away. There will be some tough questions to address over the coming weeks and months.
We all want a swift return to full stadiums as they are a key driver for economic stability and fan engagement. They attract sponsors, broadcasters and ultimately more fans who want to be part of these vibrant, rich and engaging live sports communities. What we can be sure of is that when sport returns back to normality, there’s going to be one hell of a celebration.