On Tuesday morning, single game tickets for the NFL UK International Series went on sale via Ticketmaster. All tickets were sold out within the hour, with fans complaining over the Ticketmaster app crashing, and a large number seemingly placed on reseller sites for almost five times the price. Year on year, the issue gets worse and we’re told by those with a close association to NFL UK that it is a priority for them to fix the issue, but as fans we’ve heard this all before? We don’t want words anymore. We need action.
Other industries and companies have managed to come up with a plan. The owner of popular music event Warehouse Project, regularly cancels tickets when he finds them online for sale at ridiculous prices. Even Glastonbury Festival have a plan in printing names and photographs on tickets, which must match the user upon entry. Something can be done, yet it looks from the outside that NFL UK are choosing to ignore it.
We love the fact we get games here in the UK, but if tickets are ending up on resale sites for £500 a ticket, fans will opt to save their money and head to America to see the real action. Genuine fans are being priced out by greedy individuals and businesses. If this continues, the NFL will see less fans being able to attend games, and in turn fans confidence will be lost when it comes to a franchise. To put the issue at hand in perspective, one fan tweeted me to say they have booked a trip for one week at Las Vegas in November for less than the price ticket touts are selling for. I shared this tweet with my followers, along with my opinion on the whole debacle. All in all, my opinion was that the resale of tickets with the purpose of making profit should be illegal. I feel companies should be braver and remove these from sale. It’s not fair on real-fans and not one person has disagreed.
The opinion from fans, and I hope this isn’t the case, is that NFL UK only cares about making as much money as possible at the expense of fans and that they only care about making as much PR noise as possible around the fact that tickets are sold out, to look good and position London as a franchise. But this wouldn’t be the first time NFL UK has been seen to act in the interest of themselves and not the fans. For example:
- Game Pass was given a separate platform for European fans, with a new supplier, not for the benefit of fans or because the old system was struggling (it is still used in America), but so they could market and generate extra revenue from it.
- Seahawks v Raiders is going to be held at Tottenham instead of Wembley, not because it will allow the most fans to get tickets to watch two top ten UK supported teams play (it won’t), but to generate more media attention and hope two of the more recognisable NFL brands will interest BBC sport enough to show the first game at the new Tottenham stadium live in prime time Sunday evening.
- The absurd situation of the ticket sale for the Saints v Dolphins last year when all the single game tickets ended up being sold during the Pre-Sale!
It seems the key importance for NFL UK is to make sure the US perception of the UK market is that demand is so high and there aren’t enough tickets to go around. But there’s always been demand for these games. Going back to the first in 2007, NFLUK had over 500,000 ticket requests for the New York Giants v Miami Dolphins. It was the same story the following year. That’s eleven years to get these sales right and into the hands of genuine fans but it just hasn’t happened.
To blame the situation on the popularity and growth of interest in the game on these shores is at best disingenuous. Of course interest in the NFL has increased markedly over the last decade but the demand, like with almost any high profile sporting occasion in the UK, has always been there.
What it really is, is pure greed. If genuine fans had the tickets and not touts, I wouldn’t be writing this article right now. When a ticket that is usually £40 is suddenly showing at five times the price for the same seats. It’s hardly surprising that fans would opt to miss out. Is that a price NFL UK is happy to pay?
There are a lot of fans we know that have bought season tickets because they want to attend one game and going down the season ticket route, as today showed, is the only way to guarantee a ticket. This would be alright if the NFL Ticket Exchange was available so that fans could sell their tickets through legitimate channels at face value but it isn’t and there’s no sign that it will be anytime soon. One can only begin to imagine the fall out we’re going to see when the tickets go on sale for the Seahawks v Raiders game at Tottenham in August. Currently we’re led to believe 90% of season ticket holders will get tickets. With supply so short it’ll probably end up an even worse situation on the secondary ticket exchanges.
This isn’t an issue for just NFL UK, we saw similar problems with this year’s NBA game and this is a huge one for a number of musicians and entertainers too. The issue seems to be Ticketmaster, and fact tickets end up instantly on their sister sites for prices real-fans cannot afford. NFL UK has the chance the lead the way in using an alternative option that puts the fans at the heart of all they do, question is, will they take ever it?