Central ticketing for the SPFL, a move that would benefit football fans, is a practical idea whose time has come.
In practical terms, 42 clubs selling tickets to matches 18/19 times a season is not a complex proposition. Yet, it is. There are still Premiership clubs who you cannot buy tickets for online. There are clubs who still demand you visit the ticket office to buy away briefs. This is not a legitimate way to treat fans in 2017. It’s unacceptable. It doesn’t reflect the daily lives of thousands of fans, many of whom live miles away from their home ground or don’t have jobs where tickets can be purchased during working hours. Or you get the farcical situation where seats are unsold to neutrals because “they aren’t on our database”.
It’s a problem that could easily be overcome, if there was a will from the SPFL’s membership. Most major leagues have some sort of shared platform for selling tickets. Even the amateur GAA has a central platform that allows you to buy tickets for games months in advance.
The advanced bit is crucial here. Our lives are more frenetic that ever. We should be making it as easy as possible for fans to buy tickets. A centralised system would allow fans to print their own tickets at home, or even more radically, access the stadium through the turnstile via their smart phone. It wouldn’t be beyond the whit of those designing the system to ensure that away tickets could be sold fairly too. That’s not to mention the ability to sell tickets to tourists in advance. Millions visit Scotland’s main cities each year, why shouldn’t Scottish football have a piece of that action?
The major benefits to a centralised ticketing system for the clubs would surely be a reduction in operating cost. It’s a question of sharing a resource than 42 different operating (or not operating) systems. Whilst the majority of its use would be for the bigger teams, it would prove helpful for smaller clubs when they draw bigger teams in cups.
The biggest beneficiary to the move would be the SPFL. By owning the data of their fans, it would give them a clear insights into fan behaviour as well as a greater understanding of their audience. If you not only have the ability to sell them tickets but the opportunity to survey them more regularly about their habits then the SPFL will be in a stronger position when negotiating with advertisers and broadcasters in the future.
A centralised approach could also have other benefits. Why couldn’t this system lead to easier negotiations on travel bundles to away games for example? The data could also be used to help sell tickets to games such as the league cup semis. Let the data inform any decision about ticket allocations, not a political carve-up. There’s also the potential to incentive fans to attend their local lower league fixture on international breaks.
For football to remain Scotland’s national game, it must be a game for all of the nation. A move to centralised ticketing would be a small babystep in the direction of common sense and common cause.
Written by Duncan McKay