Aussies face ticketing dramas at Netball World Cup as questions mount

Aussies face ticketing dramas at Netball World Cup as questions mount

Aussies face ticketing dramas at Netball World Cup as questions mount

What will VIP tickets get you at the Netball World Cup in Cape Town?

A hassle and a headache.

Ticketing issues have been rife throughout the preliminary stages of the tournament and are now carrying into the finals too.

Australian fans who paid premium prices, up to $5,000 for travel packages to secure their accommodation and tickets well ahead of their travel overseas, have been disappointed that local ticket provider Plankton has only been assigning their seats on arrival each day.

This has led to a lot of double bookings – despite hundreds of empty seats in the stands in cheaper sections – with some Aussies shuffled around three times before they could settle in to watch the first semi-final between New Zealand and England.

In a crisis press conference called on Tuesday featuring five key figures involved in running the World Cup, Plankton chief executive Carel Hoffmann insisted that increasing reports the gold medal match had been oversold were untrue.

“It is sold out, but not oversold,” Hoffman said.

That confirmation has done little to comfort travelling fans with tickets to these deciding games, who have run into a range of organising issues during the event.

A ticketing company executive wearing glasses sits at a desk with another man answering questions.

Plankton Tickets CEO Carel Hoffmann has denied reports the gold medal game has been oversold, saying it has been sold out.(Supplied: Gallo Images: Netball World Cup 2023/Ziyaad Douglas)

Media were also told at that presser that the semi-finals were close to being sold out, but in the first session today that has been far from the case – despite tickets being unavailable for purchase online.

One of the best matches you’ll ever see in the history of the World Cup, played between second and third in the world and coming down to the final five minutes, was lucky to be half-full.

Meanwhile, the travelling group of 24 young English netballers and their four coaches that the ABC reported were experiencing group booking issues during the preliminaries earlier this week, were finally able to fulfil the aim they’ve been fundraising for the past four years to watch the Roses play.

The group had already locked away their finals tickets before leaving the UK, but could not gain access to any of England’s six preliminary matches despite seeing empty seats in the stands on TV.

However, that’s as far as their luck ran, as the next session featuring the semi-final between Australia and Jamaica had a bigger crowd and they were also moved three times – missing some of that game as they tried to sort out the issue at the ticket office.

Gold tickets for the finals will set you back the equivalent of $250, regular adult tickets cost $130 and children $70 – far beyond what many South Africans say they can afford, shutting out the local fans.

The prices have been expensive across the tournament, ranging from R700 to R1,100 ($57 to $90) in the group matches. The lower-end of that scale being more than 10 times what cricket fans paid to be part of the record-breaking 12,782 crowd at the Women’s T20 World Cup final in Newlands in February.

As to who determines these prices, World Netball chief executive Clare Briegal said it was a “nuanced process” carried out between the governing body and local organising committee.

“We ask them to put forward their ticketing strategy and help them think about what they are benchmarking against … as there is a role for World Netball to help hosting nations raise the value of the game,” Briegal said.

“In this case they were coming up against other sporting events not only in Cape Town and South Africa, but other high-profile world events [like the FIFA Women’s World Cup].

“So there’s always a balance to be struck on these matters and we look to the size of the venue, the capacity … For the preliminary sessions we probably could have been more sophisticated about the marketing and the local organising committee were quick to act and give partners tickets to give out to the community.”

A shot of players on the court at a Netball World Cup game, with the crowd behind them, including a section of empty seats.

Netball World Cup semi-finals are usually packed affairs, but there were sections of empty seats at the England – New Zealand game.(ABC News: Brittany Carter )

In regards to the ticketing issues for fans that can afford to attend, Briegal said the fact the Cape Town International Convention Centre is not a netball venue has made things challenging.

“Because it’s not fixed seating, the organising committee have had to bring it all in, so there were challenges getting that right with the ticketing and World Netball has had to intervene more than we have in the past,” Briegal said.

“This is probably the most challenging venue that has ever been used for the World Cup.

“Over the years there has been empty stadia when you have the sessions, because it could be full for the first game and empty for the second based on when one team is playing.

“Our models are changing and developing every time, but I can only apologise if any of the fans have had a less than perfect experience … the purpose of moving people was to make sure that everyone has purchased a ticket was able to see the game and have that experience.”

Why was Plankton assigned the ticketing rights?

Beyond the prices, the seating and ticket distribution needs more investigation.

Plankton is the official supplier at this World Cup and has come under fire for its inability to deliver a clearcut and reliable process.

The ticketing rights for this tournament were put out to tender last year and seven other companies are thought to have applied, including many with major sports experience like iTickets and TicketPro.

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Speaking with the ABC, managing director of iTickets Albertus Potgieter said he could not believe Plankton has been selected as the preferred supplier.

“I was flabbergasted to learn only a few days before the tournament started that Plankton was appointed, because I knew their technology,” Potgieter said.

“I don’t believe it could host an A-list event like this, where the online booking process should be seamless.

“I know they specialise in general admission events, but I haven’t seen them doing ticketing like this before and the web app they’ve created for Netball World Cup is new and customised, so there was a clear development phase since the tender was allocated.

“Was this tested and ready for the tournament? Clearly not.”

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iTickets were established in 2007 and have experience ticketing large events like Top Gear, the Hockey World Cup, and international and local festivals.

Despite working with Netball South Africa before, they were not provided with any explanations about why they had been unsuccessful.

“There are so many variables and settings for an international event like this, the standards are extremely high and so, these results are evident and reflect poorly on the local organising committee.”

TicketPro is the other big player that was knocked back, as the leading company for sports ticketing in South Africa.

Based in Johannesburg, they look after tickets for the Premier Soccer League (PSL), as well as domestic and Springbok rugby games.

TicketPro made it down to the final two in the tender process and one of the reasons they are believed to have lost out to Plankton – who they first heard of two years ago – is because of the latter’s white label process allowing Netball South Africa to run its ticketing page with its branding as if it was its own website.

Several sources suspect minimal commission per ticket sales is also what got them over the line.

TicketPro looked after the Women’s T20 World Cup six months ago with success and were also responsible for selling up to 70,000 tickets at the Springboks matches played against the Wallabies and Argentina over the past fortnight.

“We have one of the best systems in the world that manages that ability to sell a block and a seat and a row, making it near impossible to double book,” TicketPro marketing manager Geoff Lawton told the ABC.

“The other thing we offer is the ability for distribution in terms of in-store sales, so the ability to go into one of our distribution partners like Spar as the official sponsor of the Proteas and buy a ticket to the World Cup.”

After knocking them back in the tender process, the local organising committee of the Netball World Cup reached out to TicketPro for their help about three months ago. Looking to tap into their ability to sell hard copy tickets in shops.

Plankton is purely an online service and does not allow for this type of distribution.

“We did have a conversation with Plankton, Spar and NSA, about three months ago, requesting to enable distribution within Spar,” Lawton said.

“Of course, because of our relationship with Spar, we were happy to do so, but there were costs involved.”

Ultimately, TicketPro were told their assistance wasn’t needed as World Cup organisers believed they’d sold enough tickets after all, but the empty seats at the games here beg to differ.

“We have heard from numerous people in Cape Town that it hasn’t been the greatest experience, but every ticketing platform will have its day where there are problems, I mean, it wasn’t too long ago that we had problems with the URC Final,” Lawton said.

“Although we tried to rectify our problems pre-match day, it still resulted in a lot of public scrutiny, and worst of all, unhappy fans.

“We took the burn and had to face the music that day and we know that day will likely come again.”

As World Netball and Netball South Africa reflect back on the event, all of these ticketing issues will surely be assessed with closer detail.

But questions will continue to be asked as to how a company scarcely heard of was trusted with such a big task to deliver a world-class tournament.