Polish top-tier football club Lech Poznan shifted 17,000 tickets to its game on Sunday, marking the biggest crowd to attend a sporting event in Europe since March.

Due to restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic, Poznań Stadium operated at just under 50 per cent of its usual capacity of 42,837 for the match against Warta Poznan. Polish regulation currently states that “every second seat in the audience was made available to the public, alternately in rows, except that no more than 50 percent of the number of seats provided for the audience”.

The Ekstraklasa club worked with its ticketing partner Roboticket on adapting its system to accommodate social distancing measures in the stadium. It enabled the club to build a match-to-match strategy for ticket sales.

The ticketing system set up by Roboticket included removing any manual processes involved when assigning general public seats and presenting the whole stadium as available for sale. It offers user segmentation and targeted closed sale phases for season ticket holders and allows supporters to sit together if they live together.

Following each transaction, the ticketing system automatically creates a buffer surrounding each group. For fans purchasing tickets in the main and opposite stands, seats can be selected by fans, while seats are allocated automatically in the stands behind the goals using a ‘best fit’ algorithm in ‘multi-row’ mode in order to optimise the capacity and increase revenue.

Roboticket chief executive Michal Pyda told TheTicketingBusiness: “Our COVID settings are a fully customised part of the ticketing solution, so our clients can adjust their approach and strategy at any time without stopping sales – this includes during high demand onsale periods.

“Lech Poznan were expecting large crowds for their first match post lockdown, so we were challenged with a need to find better seating optimisation. As time passed, it became apparent that while this was efficient, we could do more with seated allocations and that’s why we updated our algorithm with a multi-row option.

“If you seat people together in a shape that is closer to a circle then the loss of seats created by the buffer around them will be minimised. We have continued to work on this algorithm to allow further adjustment to suit the needs of our UK client, Cardiff City.”

Pyda added that clubs are now able to decide which area they wish to sell as auto-allocating in a single row, auto-allocating in multi-row or manual allocation by the fan. “This flexibility is appreciated by our clients so they can really adapt the sale strategy to their situation at any point in time,” he said.

The ticketing technology firm currently provides services for six clubs in Polish football’s top-flight, and in each of those, Roboticket acts as consultants in regards to the COVID-19 setup. Pyda said: “We see our technology is of huge benefit to our clients, especially in today’s circumstances when traditional ticketing platforms are less able to deliver the same level of technological advancement in a short period of time.”

The firm’s automated COVID buffer has created “a lot of attention” from professional sports clubs across Europe and beyond, Pyda notes. However, he adds that it is just a single feature that helps to sell tickets today.

“We prefer to treat the COVID function as an example of our in-house (and in-office) based developers agility rather than building a sales strategy around this feature,” he said. “Together with the social distance bubble, we offer full ticket personalisation, custom ticket forms (ticket surveys), mobile tickets and more to address the issues we face today – all this in addition to our platform which has been on the market for a number of years prior to the pandemic.”