Badminton’s All England Championships said a flexible approach will be key to the success of its future events after its 2020 edition was heavily impacted by Covid-19 just days ahead of lockdown.

Speaking at TheTicketingBusiness Forum 2020, Victoria Barlow, head of ticketing and membership at Badminton England, explained how the biggest international badminton event in the world – which took place from March 11-15 in 2020 – shifted its focus to provide a safe event in under a month. Watch the full session here:

Over the previous two years, the All England Championships worked to improve its ticketing journey and fan experience, as well as simplify its pricing strategy, culminating in record crowds of 32,353 in 2019.

As the world’s second most participated sport, the organisation hoped to capitalise on such interest and grow its ticketed international audience. Over the two-year period, it saw the percentage of international fans at its main event increase from 16 per cent to 21 per cent by engaging its partners, as well as international federations across the world.

However, as Covid-19 began to affect events in the UK in March, things began to look uncertain for the event. In February, the All England tournament had shifted 20,897 tickets and was £27,000 above its ticketing target. The event came just a couple of weeks before the first UK lockdown.

Barlow said the 2020 event is “going to live in my memory for years” after redirecting its focus from driving ticket sales to working with its ticketing partner The Ticket Factory to attempt to reconfigure the venue to provide adequate space for every fan and make them feel safe at a live event.

“We still had a 68 per cent attendance from those that clicked through, which was brilliant. But we actually saw that where people would usually stay their long days, Covid-19 actually really scared people. We just wanted to make sure that we were able to give those that did commit to the event the best experience possible.”

The pandemic forced the sport’s governing body to look at new ways to engage and energise its fans – especially as there will be no in-arena crowds for a while. These include introducing a ‘Match of the Day’ style show at the end of each day of the event, which allowed those that could not come to the event to engage and stay connected.

Looking ahead to 2021, Barlow floated the idea of a Pay Per View offering and potential ticket donation schemes, though she remains uncertain about the appetite for such initiatives within the badminton community.

“What does the future look like?” she asked. “It’s still very unknown and we’re fighting challenging times. But first and foremost the safety of our fans and staff is the priority.

“We don’t know if the March event will happen in 2021, but we’re looking at maybe pushing it back a bit, though the calendar is very busy.

“We’re having to be very agile and diverse in what we can do and we’re not doing what we’ve always done. We’re pushing the boundaries of what we can deliver. We’re still planning to go ahead but debating when that can be and what that will look like.”

Save the date: TheTicketingBusiness Forum 2021 takes place between 21-23 June, 2021…

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