Comment: It’s time to fix the NBA London tickets problem for good

Adam Silver (Photo: Keith Allison)

Another year goes by and as always, another large proportion of NBA London fans are left out in the cold.

The event of the year for most UK-based NBA fans, the Global Games trip to London brings stars from the biggest league in the world of basketball to British shores.

But unfortunately, only a select few will get a chance to see them in the flesh.

This writer, like many of you reading this article, tried his luck at bagging tickets to NBA London 2019 – and failed.

Tickets to the only regular season game to be played in the UK this season sold out in an eye-watering 11 minutes – less time than one quarter of NBA basketball.

The demand is there, but the supply is sorely lacking.

But whilst that is forgiveable – only 20,000 people can fit in the O2 Arena – what’s not acceptable is the serious issues surrounding re-sale of NBA London tickets, and the inevitable price hikes that come with them.

This year, ticket prices on the much-maligned AXS platform (the company who host ticket sales for the event online) were listed at as cheap as £53.25, rising all the way up to £413.08, including fees.

A quick trip to an unnamed ticket re-sale site sees seats in the cheapest section of the arena listed at more than £240, at the time of writing.

Almost five times the face value of the ticket. FIVE TIMES.

To put that into context, if you were to watch the Knicks take on the Wizards in Washington in November, you can pay as little as $13.82 per ticket (£10.60) to watch from the ‘cheap seats’.

John Wall and Bradley Beal

You could watch the likes of John Wall and Bradley Beal for a fraction of the price in the US

That’s a 2,250% mark-up (give or take) on the same ticket you’ll be able to buy in the US. What’s more, you’ll get a genuine NBA experience, albeit without the convenience of being able to head to work the next day.

That’s not to say NBA London isn’t a great experience, but it’s certainly not the same as attending a game in North America. There’s a noticeable difference between the two – whether it’s better or worse is down to the fan.

What is bad however, is UK fans needing to pay through the nose for tickets which are on the re-sale market.

How do the NBA fix the issue? There are a couple of ways.

Bring more basketball to the UK

The core problem which drives prices up through re-sale is the lack of supply for the clear demand.

The NBA has previously featured more than one regular season game on British shores, just look back 2011, when Toronto and New Jersey played out a double-header over two nights in London.

Holding just one game has its logistical and financial benefits for the NBA – teams aren’t forced into a new time zone for too long, and the costs associated to teams are lower with a shorter spell abroad.

But by bringing another game or two to Britain or elsewhere in Europe, more fans would get the opportunity to catch a game and buy tickets direct from AXS.

On top of that, more tickets means a lower price on re-sale websites due to a lack of exclusivity surrounding the event.

It’s a simple method, but one which could appease fans.

Although the NBA seems hesitant to flood the UK with live games, given the issues that surrounded the pre-season clash between Oklahoma and Philadelphia in Manchester back in 2013.

But there were stark differences to that game, it was in a city which doesn’t have the same draw as London, it was a pre-season clash and the hype surrounding it was not at the level of NBA London each January.

Add to that the increased NBA coverage through Sky Sports now, and you’d imagine a second or third game on British shores would sell-out without issue.

NBA London 2019 tickets have sold out (Photo: Ian Paterson)

NBA London 2019 sold out in just 11 minutes (Photo: Ian Paterson)

Fix the ticket sale method

The second way to avoid the issue of fans being hamstrung in re-sale is to go down the Amazon Tickets/Ed Sheeran route.

This route is a simple one, anyone who buys tickets to the event in question needs to provide ID matching the name on the ticket to gain entry into the arena – and if they cannot attend, tickets are bought back at the same price as they paid.

If the tickets are a gift, you simply list the gifted person’s name on the ticket and make sure they bring ID.

This effectively kills any re-sale markets regarding NBA London tickets, and ensures that fans not only get the best chance possible to see their NBA heroes in the flesh, but also for the right price.

It’s a method which Ed Sheeran championed with his latest tour and it worked like a charm – fans got to attend his shows by paying a fair price, and whilst staff did have to check IDs matched the tickets, it was a small price to pay for a guaranteed price tag.

It might require a fair bit of work heading into next season, but it’s a solution which would benefit all involved.

Here’s hoping that these words don’t fall on deaf ears, but given the ‘success’ in sales – it would be no surprise if that were the case regarding NBA London tickets.

Let’s face it, it’s not the NBA’s fault that re-sellers are marking up tickets – the league itself doesn’t profit from ticket re-sales. The only people lining their pockets at that point are the websites themselves and the touts selling them.

Simply put, the NBA is not to blame for this problem, but they can do a hell of a lot more to stop it happening.


Luke Hatfield is the creator and editor of BouncyOrangeBall, with an extensive knowledge of the NBA and basketball in general.

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