After being implemented successfully in other sports, subscription passes are becoming a more frequent football offering, with NFL and college ticketing joining the trend.
Mostly through the form of digital subscriptions, passes are increasingly sold as an alternative to traditional ticket offerings. This has been especially true around professional baseball, where many teams around Major League Baseball and even some in the minors have rolled out passes that essentially allow fans access to a certain number of games for a flat fee. The prevalence of subscription passes has grown around baseball—with the Minnesota Twins furthering the trend this season with the introduction of Twins Pass —and it now appears that passes could make waves around football for the 2019 season.
The Baltimore Ravens are providing one of the most prominent examples in the NFL, with their Southwest Airlines-sponsored Ravens Southwest Boarding Pass. For $312 per pass—up to six passes can be purchased per person—fans are guaranteed an upper-level seat to all eight regular-season home games at M&T Bank Stadium. Tickets are non-transferrable and cannot be resold. As with most football passes, fans will learn of their seat location through a text message that is delivered a few hours before kickoff. In this case, the pass option is being offered by a team that has already embraced digital ticketing, as the Ravens moved away from traditional paper admission last season.
Examples around college football come from two major Division I programs, including the University of Minnesota and Arizona State University. As was announced recently, Minnesota will offer Gopher Pass—a mobile pass that for $199.96 guarantees fans admission to all seven home games. In addition, Gopher Pass features an option that allows subscribers to link their accounts with other users, meaning that those fans will receive assigned locations together. Another option allows fans to buy guest tickets and then transfer them.
ASU, meanwhile, has unveiled its Sun Devil Mobile Pass, an offering that grants fans admission to all seven home games for $175. A Sit with Friends option allows purchasers to link their tickets to those of another user, while it does contain a transfer option for those who purchase guest passes. Additionally, any unused tickets can be returned and applied as a credit toward a guest pass or a seat upgrade.
Passes provide a few advantages that have found favor in the baseball world, and football might be ripe for similar results. Traditional season tickets and membership plans have been supplemented with more flexible and affordable ticketing options. The result is that fans who do not desire to be assigned to a fixed seat throughout the season have an offering that is more conducive to their needs, along with the convenience that comes with mobile ticketing. In other words, those who want to avoid the cost and commitment that comes with personal seat licenses could instead seek a pass, committing themselves to a lower annual fee while still getting admission to all regular season games.
While it easy to compare baseball and football passes, there are some reasons to expect the emphasis on offerings to change with each sport. An increasing emphasis on general admission social spaces in ballpark design means that more baseball facilities can comfortably accommodate an SRO-only pass, whereas that trend is not as widespread in football, where upper-level tickets could be a more common offering. It will also rely on more teams implementing aggressive mobile ticketing offerings, thereby supporting the technology behind passes and get fans used to using their smartphones for admission.
Still, with passes having already been increasingly emphasized in one sport, they could offer something to football. For NFL and college football fans that want to avoid the cost and structure that comes with traditional ticketing plans, there is now an alternative that emphasizes flexibility while coming in at a lower price point.
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