My issue with Fightpass

Fightpass was designed as a way for Matchroom to sell additional products to willing customer back in July 2014. At the time, subscribers would receive a free t-shirt, priority ticket access, the promise of a bank of historic videos and online streaming of up to ten small hall shows per year (the content provided by other Promoters). £30 a year was and still is the cost, which considering you get ten shows per annum at a cost of £2.50 a month seems reasonable to those who can't get enough of their boxing. Throw in a t-shirt and priority access and it seems very reasonable.

However, by mid 2015 the live streamed shows had all but dried up. The three small hall Promoters (Steve Goodwin, Steve Wood and David Coldwell) were clearly receiving some financial recompense but it didn't seem like any were bothered about the shows stopping their broadcast. After all, small hall shows thrive on ticket sales as all boxing does, and it must be hard to sell tickets to a show when a fan can instead pay the same amount for a years worth of subscription plus nine other show and the additional benefits. For the part of Matchroom, Eddie Hearn stated the numbers watching didn't justify the broadcast, so the online streaming streamed no more. Still, you've got at shirt out of it right?

July 2014 when this was launched had a very different boxing landscape to today. There were champions, but there weren't the dozen plus we now have. There was a blossoming Anthony Joshua, but not the media machine world champion Joshua of today. Boxing wasn't at a total high two years ago, not to the levels of 2016. So much credit for that must go to Matchroom and Hearn, the architects of successful modern boxing shows and the reason that so many sports observers are now becoming boxing fans.

Despite the change in strategy with no more online content (and the bank of historic videos being empty) the price never dropped. £30 is still the annual cost, which fair enough has not risen with inflation. However even the ballsy-est of Promoters would struggle to justify a price hike when the product delivered and promised has shrunk so significantly.

Today, the Fightpass subscriber has priority access to tickets. There may be fringe benefits (as someone who is not a member I could not confirm) but the main sales pitch of the service is getting access to a limited number tickets one day before your peers. However there are a significant number of flys tainting this ointment for the boxing fan:

1. Touts. Yes they have existed as long as events have been popular and now find their success online rather than on corners of stadia. For touts, a £30 per year subscription is a small investment. If you own 100 subscriptions under various guises, that's a cost of £3,000 a year.

Look on Stubhub today (the official ticketing partner of Matchroom by chance) - the same day tickets were made available by the other priority method of O2 ( no different in concept to Fightpass for ticket availability) for Kell Brook vs Golovkin. The cheapest available ticket is £120 which has a face value of £40. Three times the cost made back in profit in a day. Start heading to ringside and you are paying £1,750 for a £500 ticket. £1,250 profit for doing nothing other than buying and immediately selling. Of course people don't have to buy them, but for those with the disposable income and desire to watch it they will pay. If there was no market there would be no seller.

Hearn acknowledged this issue in an IFL interview not long back, saying people just shouldn't pay the extortionate rates. But people will and people do. That person with one ticket in the Fightpass raffle at £30 a year are about to get blown out the water by the tout with 100. This is just one event which will sell out. Say on average you have 5 big events per year that are a touts chance to cash in (3 Joshua and two others) then a tout has plenty of chances to make back that three grand invested from memberships. Hearn knows it is an issue and yet lets it happen.  Have no doubt whatsoever.  If he wanted, he could make every ticket available at the same time on general release - take away the £30 investment element and level the playing fields.  The touts would still have 100 accounts to try with, the general punter would have a greater chance of success.

2. Number of subscribers vs tickets available. As alluded to above, just because you have paid your thirty pounds does not guarantee you a ticket when the going gets tough. Fightpass has more subscribers than they allocate tickets for. Today on Twitter they confirmed to a fan that thousands of tickets will be available, but you can be sure it won't be enough. Yes, they close the doors of entry in the buildup to the ticket sales of big events, but the horse has firmly bolted by this point. Again, when that tout has 100 different aliases all hooked up to devices to scrape the ticketing website, the chances of your bang average fan actually reaching the point of purchase become slimmer and slimmer.

So say there are thousands of tickets on sale to subscribers and it still isn't enough. That means they are expecting high demand, so let us say there are 10,000 subscribers. Could be more, could be less. Going with 10,000 at £30 a year, Matchroom have a revenue stream of £300,000 for doing nothing! Maybe a server for their ticketing system (although that is notoriously unreliable) but other than that, they are just selling tickets which would have been sold anyway! It's business genius, of that there is no doubt. It's a free £300,000! But who suffers? The fan. The touts make their investment in the subscription, front the money for the tickets then rinse whatever willing idiot is going to pay three times the face value. For a standard run of the mill fan who doesn't know of the nefarious ticketing tactics, they pay their £30 believing they are front of the queue. Not surprisingly many turn to Twitter when it dawns on them that their potato gun has been destroyed by a tout tank.

So what is the alternative? Chances are this system is too profitable to ditch now. After all if I were able to find a trouble free £300,000 income stream I wouldn't be ditching it. Action has to come from the fans, refusal to pay the inflated prices. Fans would find out if they waited to nearer fight date, even touts have the need to offload left over stock at cheaper prices.

The real kicker here is the Stubhub link. Yes, there are alternative resale websites, but none of those are directly linked to Matchroom. Hearn goes to great lengths to distance themselves from the resale market, stressing their link is with the face value primary market. It makes no difference. He knows touts abuse his system. Until it become enforced legally and something is done to stop it, then it will always happen.  Alternatively, just flatten the market.  Accept you don't make that £300,000 and let everyone try at the same time.  As a PR move it may have a greater benefit than the annual income.

Fightpass started as a nice addition to the armoury of a boxing fan. As the sport has grown, so too has the demand for high value tickets and the involvement of touts at the expense of the fan. Hearn is responsible for the good and the bad in both. Where there is high demand there is high profit. That is true for Matchroom as it is for the tout. The only one not benefitting is the fan, and more fool those who pay for the privilege.