UA Responds to Fan Outrage over New Ticketing Policy with 10X Fee Increase

Sam Pittman, Arkansas football, Arkansas football tickets
photo credit: Arkansas Athletics

A segment of Arkansas football fans are up in arms over a tweak to the UA’s digital ticketing system for the 2023 season that is just around the corner.

The Razorbacks still employ mobile tickets, which they debuted in the 2020 pandemic-altered season, but are shifting to a new “tap” technology they say should help prevent fraud along with other practical benefits.

What has some season ticket holders upset, though, is a change that puts a bit of a dent in the wallet.  The UA has also increased the fee to have physical tickets printed from $10 to $100. That $100 fee will also apply to basketball and baseball tickets this year.

One such fan recently complained about the increase on Facebook because his phone doesn’t support the necessary feature and the post received more than 200 comments and 400 reactions, most of which were sympathetic.

“Of course, I know I could purchase a new phone that has the “tap” capability, but either way I’m out a huge extra expense to gain entrance to the game after I’ve already spent around $600 for the tickets,” the fan wrote. “I think the whole thing is ridiculous and something should be done.”

On the surface, a ten-fold cost increase for something so inexpensive for the UA seems somewhat steep, especially for older fans unfamiliar with the technology or those who don’t have smartphones. Some feel that the Razorbacks are prioritizing the bottom line over serving their loyal fans.

However, it is more understandable after diving into the athletic department’s reasoning. That’s what Best of Arkansas Sports did in a talk with Taylor McGillis, the UA senior associate AD for marketing and business development.

Why Arkansas is Making the Switch

The initial move to digital tickets happened three years ago, when businesses across the world were making changes to minimize the spread of germs because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Like many things from that era, it has stuck around out of convenience.

Fans gained access to Arkansas football games — and events for other sports — by scanning a barcode or QR code on their phone. This created two primary problems.

First, on the more practical side of things, McGillis said they couldn’t always account for where the sun was shining or the brightness of each fan’s device, sometimes making it difficult to scan.

Secondly, and probably more importantly, that system opened up the UA to fraud — both intentional and unintentional.

Each screenshot of the QR code essentially created an illegitimate cloned ticket. There was no way for the UA to monitor the original vs the replicants, which ended in a situation where whoever scanned either version first gained access to the game.

When used honestly, this was no big deal. A fan unable to attend a particular game could simply share a screenshot with a friend or someone purchasing their ticket and they could go in his or her place.

McGillis said this is something he did for one game before last season, but then he forgot about it and ended up giving his tickets to another friend closer to that game. It was an unintentional mistake, but one that left a friend on the outside looking in.

There is also nothing stopping a scammer from selling the ticket to 10 different people, sending each of them a screenshot and calling it a day.

All of that can be avoided with the “tap” feature made possible by the NFC (near field communication) technology that Arkansas is implementing in 2023.

Going forward, fans with the “tap” tickets must add them to the digital wallet on their phone and simply hold it up to the scanner to be admitted to games. A screenshot won’t work and it doesn’t matter if the screen is visible to the scanner.

The UA understands that it will be almost impossible to get 100% of fans using NFC technology, as secondary ticket sellers like StubHub still generate barcodes and there will likely still be those who pay the fee for physical tickets. Still, school brass hopes that more and more will get accustomed to the change because of the safety it provides against fraud.

Making Sense of the Price Increase

To put it quite simply, McGillis said the $100 fee to have physical tickets printed is an “incentive” to use the mobile tickets — or, he admitted, a “deterrent” against NOT using them.

Athletic department leaders believe that this technology is well-known enough that it can make such a move. After all, it is quickly becoming the standard in this industry, used for professional sporting events and concerts, as well as mobile payments like Apple Pay.

McGillis also pushed back on what he described as “misinformation” regarding which devices are compatible with the NFC technology. He said smartphones made within the last 6-7 years — including Androids — should all have the capability, an assertion backed by some in the comments of the aforementioned Facebook post.

“You almost have to be trying to own a phone that doesn’t have NFC,” wrote one fan.

For those still having issues with the NFC feature, McGillis added that the UA would be more than happy to help figure it out before the Sept. 2 opener against Western Carolina in Little Rock. Fans can call the Razorback Ticket Center (479-575-5151) for assistance over the phone or even to set up an appointment to come in and have someone walk them through the process.

It will take some adjustment for the older generation and won’t be quite as convenient to give the tickets to someone else as it was in the days of screenshots, but it’s an extra layer of protection the UA feels will make the process of going to games smoother for everyone in the long run.

Sadly, especially for this writer, who has always been a sentimental collector, the days of physical tickets are long gone and probably never coming back. If that means the days of getting scammed by a scalper are gone too, however, then that’s a tradeoff we should be willing to make — even if it means finally upgrading from that flip phone or iPhone 3, much like Sam Pittman did with the Arkansas football roster via the transfer portal.

Reactions from Arkansas Football Fans

The below are some Facebook comments from fans in response to this story:

“Sorry but paper tickets were easier to purchase before a game. I trust them more than a fake ticket being sent to my phone.. I’m old” – Mike Yarbrough

“I guess people don’t attend Major League baseball games etc… Almost no one uses paper tickets anymore.. But man, I sure do miss the horse and buggy.” – Tim Payne

“Makes sense. Incentive to use digital tickets and since they’re printing fewer tickets it’s going to cost them more to print the ones they do. Probably nowhere near 10x but some. I miss paper tickets, but digital tickets are so much more convenient.” – Bryan Hawkins


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