Polish football fans could be able to sit together when the Ekstraklasa reopens to spectators later this month under plans due to be discussed next week.

Roboticket, which services four top-tier sides including Lech Poznan and Lechia Gdansk, will formally present its strategy for maintaining social distancing within stadiums through ticket sales to football association officials at the start of next week before online sales can resume.

Roboticket’s system will be used to maintain distance between fans, but there is also a proposal that those who book together could be able to sit together should they come from the same household. While just 25 per cent of seats can be filled at stadiums, under rules announced by the Polish football association last week, Roboticket believes its technology can be deployed to allow family members the same rights at a football match that they may have at a restaurant.

The technology provider, which also has sport club clients in Germany, the UK, Brazil and Denmark, said the authorities have provisionally agreed to the proposal, although this has yet to be formally agreed.

“We assumed that fans that are buying tickets in one transaction can sit together as far as they declare they share a household or a family,” said Michał Pyda, Roboticket’s business development director.

“This is one of the standard options we offer in the system: to let a family and friends buy tickets to sit shoulder-by-shoulder. The distancing is going to be automatically imposed on seats chosen by a different user in a different ticket transaction. That type of detail needed to be discussed with the authorities, and it has got an initial approval already.

“This makes us really happy; that the sale will be reduced but not unnecessarily restricted.”

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Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and national football chiefs last week outlined plans to allow clubs in the top three divisions to open their stadiums at 25-per-cent capacity from June 19.

Morawiecki said safety would be assured at stadiums through the provision of masks, disinfectant liquids and the maintenance of distance between fans.

Since then Roboticket has worked closely with its Polish partners, who also include top-tier football clubs Pogon Szczecin and Rakow Czestochowa, to develop a ‘resurrection’ model to allow for fans to return while also respecting the rules imposed by government and the football authorities.

Pyda said that while the challenge is “unprecedented”, it has ultimately proved to simply being a case of reworking Roboticket’s broad range of services to meet the clients’ requirements.

He explained: “For example, the ‘orphan seats’ algorithm in our stadium visualisation engine really comes in handy right now.

“Normally, the mechanism helps improve the seat allocation density and prevent seat gaps. Today we made it to work completely on the opposite side to create gaps in order to maintain the social distance automatically. So, clubs don’t have to do any manual jobs like stadium sharding or building mosaic view seats.

“It’s not merely one feature that can help clubs. There are many others such as fans segmentation, sale to targeted groups, and conditional discount.”

Pyda believes sales should be able to resume in the coming days should the model be approved by the authorities. With other sporting events certain to open up to fans in the coming months, the experience garnered in Poland – how to sell the maximum number of tickets while respecting social distancing rules – could well be useful.

“Roboticket is technically ready to help clubs to face the regulations,” said Pyda, whose company offers an all-in-one FAN+ ticketing ecosystem which unifies ticket sales throughout the channels like box-office, online store, and mobile app.

“We are not a typical ticketing portal with many different events but we closely work with customers to bring complete and dedicated solutions, sometimes in response to situations like today. We are working with our customers to help them to set up the system according to the new rules.

“The biggest challenge of the COVID-19 outbreak has been to mentally accept the situation. We were shocked when all the entertainment business got frozen almost day-by-day. We were about to finish system implementation with Palmeiras in Sao Paulo; the year 2020 looked very promising, and then this happened.”

Image: Lech Poznan