UPDATE: NFL International Series – Season Ticket Renewal Fiasco

Football Photographer, longtime Britball Zebra, and regular behind-the-scenes contributor to DC, Roger Goodgroves, is back with an update to his post earlier this week regarding the fiasco season ticket bookings turned into late last week.

Roger got in touch with Alistair Kirkwood, Managing Director of NFL UK to share some more info with the #BritballNation

 


 

This week in the NFL started in a big way on Tuesday with the live announcement of the teams for the four games to be played in London during 2017.  Whilst reaction to some of the teams was lukewarm, there was almost universal negative reaction to there now being two games at Twickenham.  There was talk that the NFL was picking poor teams to test if the UK is viable for a franchise, where match ups won’t always be top-notch.

The one group of fans the NFL will depend upon to make a franchise a success are the 39,000 annual season ticket holders who book to attend all the games.  Unfortunately the NFL ‘conceded a Safety’ on Thursday when the Ticketmaster booking system had numerous issues causing frustration and anger with this most-committed community.

Issues included certain internet browsers that wouldn’t work at all, over 60 minute delays to get into the system and fans once in, unable to complete their purchases and being kicked back out into that long queue.

Most frustrating for the season ticket holders was the inability for them to successfully move the location of their season tickets to another part of the venue.  This was an option that the NFL has said was going to be available, however it looks like nobody checked that it would work on Ticketmaster’s system!

In what in my experience is an unprecedented move, NFL UK announced that all booking fees for transactions made on Thursday would be refunded.  This included transactions made after the issues with the system were sorted.

This is a very proactive and positive move by the NFL.  Whilst it doesn’t secure the seats fans had in their basket and lost due to the issues, it does at least recognise that there were major issues that should not have been allowed to happen.

I put it to Alistair Kirkwood that what would be great in addition to the booking fee refund are the following:

Existing season ticket holders to have another opportunity to change their seats

Fans lost out when good seats in their preferred sections were taken from their baskets due to the Ticketmaster issues.  Even if they changed seats when the problems were resolved they didn’t get what they should have had.

There are season tickets that may not be renewed but are still being held during the booking window (closes 9am, 28th Dec).  There will also be tickets held for existing season ticket holders who have now opted for different seats in the same venue and these will also not be released until the window closes on the 28th.

It would be wrong for these seats to be made available to new season ticket holders when existing season ticket holders were ‘robbed’ of  good seats that they had, but lost, due to the Ticketmaster issues.

If the NFL agreed to this they should sort whatever payment/refund adjustments were due as fans may have taken seats in more expensive sections only because their particular sections showed no availability when the problems were eventually solved by Ticketmaster.

In response, Alistair noted:

“We are still trying to work out what’s feasible. Though your suggestion is a good one, the implementation of it is quite complex….[we] would only do it if the window worked seamlessly rather than compound issues”.

Set up a user panel who can ensure these issues don’t affect future years

A user panel should be set up who can assist the NFL in testing future ticket sale opportunities (not just season ticket renewals). They can give the NFL valuable information about what they would like to do and how this should look from a user experience.  The NFL could reward the people who help with unique incentives (not relating to money) such as pre-game sideline experience or meet and greet opportunities.

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Alistair Kirkwood explained that

“Our season ticket offering is more complex than equivalents being in 2 different stadia and with option of same or changing seat within the same transaction.

That being said, the customer experience for those affected during the first 90 minutes of renewal was poor, inexcusable and a cause of embarrassment.  Whilst the offer by Ticketmaster to waive transaction fees for all renewals until midnight of that day was a good one, we will ramp up and intensify all forms of testing for next season including user panels.”

It is very encouraging to see that the NFL recognise the issues that affected the 39,000 season ticket holders and it was also very encouraging for future franchise plans to hear from Kirkwood that

“Over half of last year’s number renewed in the first 24 hours – considerably higher than equivalent day last year.”

 

So on that topic, back to fan complaints in general….

Game Scheduling and Season Ticket timing

Whilst reaction to some of the teams was lukewarm, there was almost universal negative reaction to there now being two games at Twickenham.  There was also talk that the NFL was picking poor teams to test if the UK is viable for a franchise – where match ups won’t always be top-notch.

Some fans complained that they were being asked to book season ticket renewals before the exact date and time for each game was known.  It’s in some ways understandable if you are traveling large distances and need to book hotel rooms (either the night before or after), however we are lucky in the UK in that we at least know the teams and the dates.  This isn’t an option for NFL fans in the US where season ticket renewals often occur prior to the schedule being announced in April.

We are only getting team announcements early as those home game shifts to London have a direct impact on the number of games included in the US season tickets.  It’s also the case that game times in the US are moved at relatively short notice.  So whilst possible 5pm/6pm kickoffs may cause some inconvenience (if they happen), Cardinals/Rams being most likely due to both being toward the West, it is something we are going to have to come to terms with if we want a franchise.  If we want to be ‘another’ NFL team we can’t always have it all our own way.  Just imagine how hard a Monday night home game could be for us!

New Stadium at Tottenham

With at least four games in 2018 (and possibly five), including a couple at the new Totenham stadium it becomes increasingly important to test the season ticket renewal process to ensure we get no repeat of Thursday’s fiasco.  The NFL’s response to the issues raised are refreshing, and most encouraging are Alistair Kirkwood’s final words,

“We will learn from this.”

 


 

Did you also experience issues with your season ticket renewal? Do you agree with Rogers suggestions, or have some more of your own that would help smooth the process moving forwards?

Share your thoughts in the comments down below, on Facebook, or @Dbl_Coverage, we’d love to know the community’s opinion on both the games offered so far for next season, and also whether more needs to be done to ensure the NFL’s most committed fans get the best experience possible?

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