As UEFA have rebranded the UEFA Women Euro 2022 tournament and opened the registration website, let’s look at the challenges facing the tournament organisation in terms of ticketing.
Football fans can now register to access the pre-sale on the UEFA website:
The FA have set an ambitious target to beat the attendance record at a Euro final (41,301) and also the recent FIFA Women’s World Cup final attendance (57,900).
With Old Trafford’s capacity of 74,879 and Wembley at 90,000, it should be possible with the right promotion and pricing.
There are around 700,000 tickets to be sold and the biggest problem will be keeping fans happy with ticket access. You get different kind of fans: hardcore women’s football fans, regular women’s football fans and casual fans. Also there are the England fans who support all the England teams.
One of the key components is pricing and it will be interesting to see if the tournament is marketed as a premium product to maximise revenue as happens with the men’s Premier League. You would certainly hope that pricing will make it affordable for families to attend as a primary target market.
The biggest problem for the tournament is getting fans to come to “less attractive games”. Finland v Austria would not be as easy to sell in comparison to England v Norway, for example. I remember going to the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2019 at home in France and attending Australia v Brazil in Montpellier. A game with two top tens teams of high quality but the attendance was disappointing.
It is quite obvious that there are games where demand will be high and could sell out: the Old Trafford opener, the final at Wembley Stadium and all three England group games. You would certainly expect England to sell out Brighton and Southampton with 30k and 32k respectively. Old Trafford is also likely to attract plenty of fans.
The semi-finals, played at Sheffield and Milton Keynes both with capacity at 30k, should really attract many fans.
One of the factors to take into account and not underestimate is the international fans who will come to support their team and make a holiday out of the tournament. Can the ticketing strategy keep all those fans happy by giving them access to the games they want?
There is obviously the usual “follow my team’ scheme sold via National Associations, but those allocations are not huge, so it means many fans will have to buy via general sale, if tickets are available.
The French LOC at the 2019 WWC was surprised by the number of overseas sale, especially from the USA. Obviously, the USA fans will not be there, but you would expect fans from the big nations to turn up, especially the Dutch, who really filled up the grounds, as their group games were all played in Northern France, all the way to the World Cup final.
So, foreign fans will certainly top-up the local crowds for certain games. Those might end up being sold out alongside the expected big games. The group C and D games will certainly end up with sold-out games and frustrated fans, if foreign teams with a big following are drawn into those groups.
In Group C, Leigh Sports Village at 8k capacity will surely sell out, while in Group D the Manchester Academy Stadium at 4.7k should really sell out quickly, regardless of the teams playing there. The New York Stadium in Rotherham with 12k should also reach full capacity especially if some big names are drawn to play there.
In group B, the brand new Brentford Community stadium with 17k could also get close to being full, depending on the teams being drawn into that Group.
The seeding will be decided by the UEFA national association coefficient and England, Germany, France and the Netherlands (holder) could be seeded. It will be interesting to see where those teams end up in term of stadiums. Having the Dutch team in Group D would probably mean a lot of fans fighting for a smallish number of tickets compared to the other grounds.
We also have to remember that many seats in the stadiums are not actually on sale. You have the seats reserved for UEFA, those reserved for the sponsors, those for the national associations, the VIP seats and so on. Some fans might end up buying premium tickets to secure a seat in the smaller grounds.
Another challenge is spreading the tickets through the different sales window. Usually, you get two main selling windows. Before the final tournament draw, where fans can buy stadium packages only, but not single games. And then after the draw where fans can buy single games, as they now know where their favourite teams will play.
Inside those main selling windows, you also get a VISA pre-sale. Visa are a main sponsor of women’s football with UEFA and the preferred card processor for many UEFA/FIFA tournaments. You can also get tickets allocated to the football family via the club and leagues, that’s how they did it in France ’98 and 2019, with tickets on pre-sale via for football club members and leagues/county members.
It will be interesting to see if the FA places the Old Trafford and Wembley games as part of a package or if they go on standalone. You could see a game opener/final packaging for example. I would expect the semi-finals to be sold in the Sheffield and Milton Keynes packages, as those ground will have four games each.
Again, the number of tickets on sale via packages and on sale via general will dictate the fans’ options and chances to buy the tickets they want and it is certainly a delicate balance to find.
The final point, and probably the most important one as part of the fan experience, is to have a very strong ticketing website. When the general sale opens, it is a free for all and the odds of a system crash will be high. There were loads of problems with the FIFA WWC ticketing system, especially on the seating charts and you would hope that a robust system will be put in place to deal with the huge number of people that will simultaneously connect to buy the precious tickets.
With 500 days to go, and most of the qualified teams now known, there is a feeling that things will be great for the tournament, especially as the pandemic will hopefully be over by then and the tournament can be a giant party celebrating women’s football in England.