#TBF23 review: Data-driven digital challenges and opportunities for ticketing

Hundreds of delegates from around 40 countries gathered at Emirates Old Trafford in Manchester this week for TheTicketingBusiness Forum 2023 to discuss a range of timely topics, including the challenges and opportunities of digital transformation.

From technological innovations to spectator experience and accessibility to premium packages, the Forum’s open-mic presentations, keynotes, fireside chats and panel sessions covered various areas of the global ticketing landscape.

Day one of the Forum featured breakdowns of digital journeys by the likes of Scottish Rugby and FC Copenhagen, highlighting the importance of data-driven insights in terms of personalising the fan experience to deliver bottom-line benefits.

Through the RL Commercial entity, borne out of a collaboration featuring the IMG agency, digital engagement plans – including the possibility of a centralised ticketing process – will play a key role in the transformation of rugby league in the UK, delegates heard.  

Importance of data

Repeatedly, the topic returned to the importance of data in the context of refining the ticketing customer journey and the end user’s in-venue experience.

In an insightful session on VIP and premium trends, Alistair Spiers, Head of Sales at Leicester City FC, and Christian Mullarkey, Emirates Old Trafford’s Head of Marketing, echoed the thoughts of many speakers by outlining how their organisations are on a journey to understand their customers – and the people they bring to games – more effectively.

Debating the sweet spot in terms of the variety of hospitality offerings available, a consensus emerged that whilst premium economy is likely to grow, and high-end VIP packages will continue to drive essential revenues, the middle ground offering might be squeezed.


The conference’s host venue, Emirates Old Trafford, was the subject of one of the most interesting sessions as Lancs Cricket CEO Daniel Gidney discussed the organisation’s pioneering use of blockchain ticketing for this summer’s Ashes Test match. 

Gidney said that a determination to stamp out the worst excesses of resale and scalpers led to the initiative that is regarded as the first example of a UK sports club selling an entire event on blockchain.

“Ticket holders will not be able to transfer tickets without us knowing they have done it,” Gidney said. “We do not believe it is right that Lancs Cricket and England can invest their resources in stars such as Jimmy Anderson, yet unofficial resellers and marketplaces profit without adding any value.”


The price of tickets and the elements that determine that value came under the microscope in a session entitled ‘Cakeonomics’ led by industry expert Tim Chambers, Founder of the TJChambers Consultancy. 

Chambers raised the topic of who gets what, citing the expectation that major artists will get 90% of the ticket price, but that fans are now paying up to 140% of that price via ticketing fees and extras. 

Chambers was joined on stage by representatives from primary ticketing, in Ticketek, and event organisation, in Layered Reality Experiences, as well as dynamic pricing specialist Digonex.

Sports Illustrated Tickets’ Chief Executive David Lane introduced his company to many in the audience, outlining its success in the North American secondary market since its 2021 launch and ahead of its expansion into primary and new regions. 

Lane highlighted the strength of the magazine’s iconic status and how ticketing has been seamlessly integrated into the SI website alongside its sister sportsbook brand. Indeed, Lane suggested the growth of legal sports betting in the US has boosted ticket demand across major league fixtures in recent years.

In a separate session, Technology Consultant Christian Terrill underlined the proactive steps that enterprises in the sector need to take to mitigate the growing threat of cybercrime whilst highlighting the importance of putting in place a plan that is future-proofed for evolving challenges.

Downtown recovery

In a fascinating assessment of how the pandemic has impacted New York City’s theatre land, three leaders from Broadway’s Shubert Organization – David Andrews, Kyle Wright and Eric Schwartz – gave the inside track on changing sales trends within their venues. 

One notable discovery was the drop in Friday ticket sales, with the shift to home-working and shorter weeks in the office meaning many would rather visit shows during the days they are downtown.

Another panel session concerning the arts and attractions was led by moderator Sarah Bugg, founder of ReWork Consulting. The panellists represented Royal Opera House, Adelaide Fringe, The Postal Museum and Kilden Performing Arts Centre, and outlined the very different uptake of technology and data utilisation across the sector.

Reimaging Manchester

Andy Spinoza, author of the new book ‘Manchester unspun’, provided a captivating account of the transformation of the UK city through the emergence of the famous Hacienda nightclub in parallel with a thriving music and sporting scene in the 1980s and 1990s. 

As the Forum drew to a close, fandom was the topic of an engaging panel session, where the subject of retaining the engagement of fans in their late teens and early 20s emerged as a key talking point. The panellists, including Chris Parkinson, Head of Ticketing at Burnley FC, and Georgia Bekyra, Senior Manager – Ticketing at Everton FC, suggested that tailoring the price points could be sufficient for engaging fans from youth into adulthood.

In the final session, Jack Rubin, Strategic Advisor, MorningStar Resource Group and former Co-Founder and President of Tessitura, offered a fascinating walk-through of how Tessitura was built into a global not-for-profit software company that powers ticketing, memberships, marketing and e-commerce for arts and cultural organisations worldwide.