Mobile-only ticketing was blamed for another catastrophic failure in fan experience last weekend, as thousands of Pittsburgh Steelers fans waited in huge lines outside of Heinz Field for the team’s home opener. Pittsburgh, like most every other team in the NFL and beyond this year, effectively stripped fans of the right to get tickets in any format besides mobile-only for the year, and that led to huge backups on the way in.
“We all agree, PNC is the Best Ball Park in the Major Leagues!” tweeted one fan with the twitter handle @TheHiTechGuru, attaching a photo of a huge crowd (without masks) outside the stadium. “Well Heinz Field is the WORST Stadium in the NFL! It took almost the first quarter to get into the game and we were in line starting at 12:35. We got in because a gate was opened and people rushed in. No tixs checked!”
The issues seemed to mirror those experienced at numerous venues during this forced transition to a mobile-only ticketing world, which has been seized upon by event organizers using COVID safety as the reasoning behind a shift to the technology which affords them enormous access to user data as part of the system. Ohio State also saw massive wait times and many fans entering the stadium after the game had been well underway – and with some percentage getting in without even seeing their tickets scanned. A week later, the Buckeyes saw the lowest crowd in a generation, with just over 76,000 making it to the Week 2 contest after the first week nightmare of mobile-only issues passed. That crowd is was the smallest at the school since 1971.
Also similar to Ohio State, Pittsburgh officials blamed consumers for the issues at hand, indicating that the massive lines were a product of fans who hadn’t downloaded their tickets to their digital wallets before getting in line.
“We asked our fans to make sure they got their tickets downloaded to their Apple Wallet or Google Pay before they got to the line, and unfortunately some didn’t and it caused some backups,” Steelers Director of Communications Burt Lauten said. “But we anticipated some of that given it’s the first regular-season game with this new mobile ticketing.”
While it is true that there is a learning curve in any transition, it does seem fair to point out that massive entry delays and mobile-only ticketing seem to go together like peas and carrots, or whatever other metaphor you’d prefer. In the rush to hammer fans into a digital ecosystem where every action generates data and every interaction with the ticket can be owned and controlled by the team or its ticketing vendor, there seems to have been a drastic lack of consideration for the point of a ticket – which is getting people into the event (on time to see the whole event).
Pittsburgh has suggested that fans do things better for their next home game against Cincinnati – by showing up earlier.