Traveling American soccer fans will have access to some marquee English Premier League games for the first time and could eventually have full access to all games after a groundbreaking shift in ticketing procedures for the world's most popular domestic competition.
For years, soccer-loving Americans visiting Britain faced disappointment due to the previously restrictive and complicated process for acquiring tickets, with many either missing out or forced to pay drastically high prices on the black market.
However, top teams have now been authorized to allow their fans to sell spare or returned tickets on the secondary market, meaning greater access to patrons who were previously shut out of the biggest games.
StubHub, the California-based online ticket marketplace with a recently-acquired U.K. arm, will announce Friday that it has agreed to a deal with popular London club Tottenham to offer seats for its home games. Although StubHub had previously agreed to similar arrangements with mid-level clubs Everton and Sunderland, the acquisition of the contract with Tottenham is seen as the move that will encourage all major clubs to eventually come on board.
"This is built on the understanding that the fan experience is paramount," said Tracey Keenan, Tottenham's head of global partnerships.
Ever since the dark days of the 1980s, when hooliganism and violence were rife in English soccer, stern restrictions on ticketing have been in place. Opposing fans remain segregated at all matches, with a security or police cordon often separating them, especially at games between fierce rivals. Season ticket holders were not legally allowed to sell tickets that they were unable to use themselves.
"This puts the power back in the hands of the season ticket holder," said StubHub business development chief Nick Harford.
The visiting fan still cannot walk up and buy a ticket to an EPL match. Until now, the only option other than the black market was to join a team's official fan club and apply for tickets through those means. However, the whole process was long-winded and unwieldy, and certainly not suited to travelers from across the Atlantic.
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With StubHub, the final sale price may turn out to be higher or lower than the initial ticket value, depending on factors of supply and demand.
"It is about time," said Tottenham fan and season ticket holder Jack Wayland. "There are a few times a year when I can't go. This way, I get some of my season ticket money back and the seat goes to someone who will appreciate it."
Furthermore, apart from the price, there are genuine pitfalls involved in buying from scalpers. Many an American fan has been left out of pocket and devastated by unscrupulous brokers selling forged tickets. Although there is always a strong police presence at grounds and posted warnings, many still took the risk as there seemed little other option.
"The whole fan club system is a joke," said Declan McGrath, a 22-year-old college student from Columbus, Ohio, told Yahoo! Sports.
"I was in London and I was desperate to see Chelsea play. … The sad part is that I had been worried about fake tickets but when the guy asked such a high price [$155] I thought they must be legit. Then I got to the entrance and was told no, I couldn't come in. I sat watching the game at a pub around the corner. You could hear the cheers which made it even worse."
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