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IT’S all been a bit of a public relations disaster for NFL UK in the last few weeks. Fans have been clogging Twitter with complaints ever since prices for season tickets for this year’s International Series games went up and there are few signs that the disgruntled will be appeased any time soon.
Things didn’t start well when their tweet at on May 22 at 3pm, meant to announce information regarding ticket sales, instead announced that their announcement would be pushed back to 5pm.
It was comedic in its execution and from there it went from bad to worse, with a string of changes that irked long-time consumers of the product.
Previous season ticket holders, to the Wembley games, were met with the news that they would no longer be assured first priority to the games held at Tottenham.
This was despite being promised that if you had a Wembley season ticket, regardless of how long you had held it for, you would have first shot at the newly released tickets.
This wasn’t the case and the way they found this out was to read that all season tickets had already sold out on the release of season ticket information.
There was also a change in payment plans. Instead of the usual option of three payments spread across three months to pay for the tickets, that can reach as much as £160 per person, the decision was made to shorten that to two. An alienating move that risks pricing out supporters with tighter financial means.
This won’t be a problem for the league as was evidenced by the fact that their season tickets had already sold out, but the pricing out of some fans is reminiscent of how English football — especially at the top level — has all but priced out its working-class roots.
Have I mentioned the issues on Ticketmaster and waiting fans having to refresh their browser only to be pushed to the back of the queue be forced to watch the same crash play out like a digital Groundhog Day?
There wasn’t much in the way of help to fix this issue other than apologetic tweets, which ironically caused more anger due to the lack of practical solutions.
This is also not the first time the ticketing service has crashed making it clear that the NFL and Ticketmaster have failed to learn from the past.
Tottenham Hotspurs’ beautiful new stadium is also looming large and a key part of the continued growth of the sport in Britain. An understandable decision then, in a bubble, to have the venue host games instead of Twickenham, but its smaller capacity (62,062 compared to 75,000 at Twickenham and 86,000 for Wembley) means that thousands of fans will miss out.
This was at least expected but when factored in with the other problems for the 2019 edition of the International Series it’s easy to believe that fans are being held in the upmost contempt.
There are those who naturally defend some of the decisions made. Some even suggest that UK fans have become more entitled as we become accustomed to the league visiting us each autumn.
That may be the case in some circles and of course if the International Series were to be taken away from England we would pine for its return in any form.
But that does not excuse poor execution and that assessment is largely an unfair jibe at rightly upset fans who have been met with a string of errors and broken promises.
There will always be a way for tickets to be resold but that does not mean the league and official ticketing sites should wash their hands of responsibility when it comes to trying to minimise that.
If anything, they have a bigger duty to ensure it is kept to a minimum.
StubHub had tickets advertised as soon as three minutes after they became available and some were being sold for as much as £400 per ticket, and that was for nosebleed seats. Some of the higher quality seats had a price tag of up to £1,200.
Then there were the booking fees starting at £27 and a mere £3.25 for postage and packaging.
When factoring in travel and hotels in London the price can come to a whopping £1,500 if erring on the cheapest side of things. That is all before considering the little things like the cost of food and drink, the Tube system to get around and perhaps merchandise.
The appeal of the International Series will always ensure that stadiums are filled, but the type of fan that fills those seats is changing with the more hardcore fan base contemplating a trip to the states to witness the authentic experience for roughly the same price.
There is a sad irony that the league is driving more fans over to the States with their efforts to bring the game to them in England.
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