What’s the real cost of secondary ticketing?

Published 29/03/2018 by Mark Dewell, MD of Commercial and Third Sector

This month, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) took action against four secondary ticketing sites – GetMeIn!, Seatwave, StubHub and Viagogo – by banning their ‘misleading’ pricing information. As a result, such sites are now banned from not making the total ticket price - VAT-inclusive, booking fee and delivery fee - clear at the start of the booking process. This follows new Government legislation in January which banned touts from using bots to buy tickets in bulk.

So how big is the problem? According to a recent Which? Investigation, a staggering one in four tickets end up on secondary ticketing sites. As an example, tickets for the first night of the BBC Proms, originally costing £38, were found to have a mark-up of 300% on GetMeIn! (£152).

And this damaging effect isn’t just limited to live music – it includes theatre, comedy and sports as well. With only a few months left until the start, the demand for 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia tickets keeps growing. More than three million tickets have been requested since December both by domestic and international football fans. And while FIFA emphasises that tickets obtained from any source except FIFA website will be automatically cancelled once identified and the ticket holder will be denied access to the stadium or any refund or other compensation, World Cup 2018 tickets are still breaking price records on secondary-selling websites.

In the UK the resale of football tickets is illegal under section 166 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, unless the resale is authorised by the organiser of the match. However, as StubHub and rival Viagogo currently have deals with many of the Premier League clubs as secondary ticketing exchanges, they are authorised to do it.

It’s a growing problem for all venues and stadiums – but many fans have had enough. The Everton Supporters Trust has urged the club to end its partnership with StubHub amid claims that fans can be exploited on the online ticket exchange. While Everton has been praised for its progressive ticketing pricing policy, the club’s association with StubHub has drawn criticism, with the Supporters Trust arguing the club’s positive pricing steps are being undermined by its secondary ticketing partner who advertise tickets at many times more than the face value.

So, what’s the solution? Should more sports clubs look at setting up their own ticket resale exchanges, as Liverpool and Arsenal have done, to protect their fans and their reputations? We are big advocates for supporting clubs in their efforts to take back control – for many reasons.

  • It helps to reduce ticket touts, keeping the value of the ticket within the club and benefitting the fan with money back towards season tickets
  • It means less empty seats, more fans being able to attend and making it overall more affordable to attend
  • It also reduces the negative brand impact that association with secondary sites has with clubs’ fans

There’s not only an appetite for such innovations, but good progress already underway. One example is our work with Leeds Rhinos and its Buybacks Scheme which means that Rhinos Season Membership holders can release their tickets for sale to other members of the Rhinos family. Tickets can be listed at any time and released for sale by the club. Once the position is sold, the season membership holder will be informed by email or the status of the Buyback can be checked online. If a fan’s ticket is successfully sold, they receive a ‘thank you’ reward in their Leeds Rhinos account which can be used towards away tickets, semi- final / final tickets or money off the fan’s 2019 season membership.

Southampton FC is another club that benefits from a buy-back system based on our ticketing system – this allows season ticket holders (STH) who cannot make a match to release their ticket back to the club. This ensures that the club will also be able to manage the secure sale of the ticket to another supporter, so the fan gets a bit of money back to soften the blow of missing a game, as well as driving value for the club.

We’re currently working on new innovations on our buy-back system, in the form of a full Ticketing Exchange, that will broaden the benefits this offers to clubs and fans alike. Being able to not only safeguard their brand reputation - avoiding headline horror stories of fans paying ridiculous amounts to get a ticket – but demonstrating real value add will actively drive greater fan engagement and loyalty. Imagine stadiums that are more likely to be full, fans able to benefit if they must miss a game on their season ticket, and equally, additional and often new fans being able to take advantage of one-off opportunities to attend – it really is happy days all round!

Sports fans deserve better than hugely inflated tickets that may, or may not, actually give them access to the stadium. And we have a responsibility to make it happen. This is certainly one way to provide it.