Navigating through the NBA Global Games’ ticket lottery

BRISTOL, England — Being from England, as well as a Pacers fan, I’d been waiting for Indiana to be selected to play a game over in London and had predicted that it may happen this season.

Paul George has taken big steps forward but the Pacers aren’t a “premier” team in a league led by the Warriors and the Cavaliers. The teams playing over in England over the past few seasons haven’t exactly been full of stars. Paul George might just be the biggest, and so he could help pull in a sell-out crowd. Unfortunately, what might be a sell-out on paper may not actually end up with a full arena.

Pre-sale tickets went on sale Wednesday for the Pacers' game in London.

Pre-sale tickets went on sale Wednesday for the Pacers’ game in London.

NBA Global Game tickets go on general sale on Friday, Oct. 28, a fact that was only advertised a week in advance through the O2 Arena’s mailing list and NBA UK social media accounts.

This has given Nuggets, Pacers, and NBA fans in general very little time to prepare. Anyone who was signed up through the O2 Arena’s mailing list was lucky enough to gain early access to purchase tickets 24 hours early, I thought I would stop there and buy tickets then, but it was then announced via NBA UK social media on the Tuesday the 25th, that O2, a cell phone network provider in the UK, customers would gain further early access on two days before the general sale.

Luckily for me, my girlfriend is an O2 customer.

On the morning of the 26th, the day the Pacers began their season, I was able to get hold of two tickets for the game — but not without problems.

The ticket provider, AXS, has a very difficult and slow user interface. To buy tickets through the AXS site, you need to select the price range you want and then wait for the system to assign you a specific seat. If you aren’t a fan of that seat, then you don’t scroll down to the next option or specify something more appropriate but you instead go to the back of the queue and start over. This has led to a number of European fans missing out on tickets; just take a look at the comments on the NBA UK Facebook page!

Aside from going to the back of the queue four times and accessing the website through both my phone and laptop to get a spot I wanted, the site also sometimes told me there were no seats available at all. I panicked at this point but a refresh or two later and suddenly there were more available again.

No doubt the game will be a great day for fans such as me but it will also leave a lot of fans disappointed at not being able to get hold of tickets. Unfortunately, as always, we can assign some of this blame to the ticket-touts in the UK. At the time of writing, before tickets have hit general sale, StubHub.co.uk has 650 tickets available for resale ranging from £82 ($100) to £777 ($950). When purchasing directly, the cheapest seats were for sale at £35 ($43), and floor seats at £500 ($612).

Tickets also had a £10.50 service charge!

All that was left 30 minutes after the general sale on Friday.

All that was left 30 minutes after the general sale on Friday.

You may notice I wrote that last sentence in past tense – tickets directly through AXS are now apparently sold out. It’s yet to be seen if this is sold out only to the initial pre-sale and if the venue have kept a certain volume aside for each day of sales but it’s left a number of people very frustrated at how the process works. Fans that have followed the Pacers or Nuggets for years have no priority and NBA UK followers also have no priority but customers of O2 do. NBA UK’s Twitter and Facebook pages have both taken down promotional ticket sale banners before general sale has hit.

It seems like it’s going to be very difficult to get new fans into the game when the tickets are so difficult to obtain.

Will any tickets make general sale? Will parents be willing to part with £82 per ticket at resale to take their child to see an NBA game and spark their imaginations? What is sure is that if the NBA want to build something special in the UK, they will need to work closer with the arena to ensure tickets are that bit more accessible by fans of the teams involved, and the groups the NBA hope to inspire going forwards. 20,000 seats isn’t a lot and sell very quickly.

The NFL has three games in London and over 80,000 seats available for each game, so fans have much more opportunity to get to the games.

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