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How SeatGeek Drives its EPL Influence

SeatGeek EMEA’s Peter Joyce discusses the ticketing giant’s U.K. growth. It now boasts half of the English Premier League as clients.

Five years after it entered the market in the United Kingdom, SeatGeek is the official ticketing partner for half the English Premier League. This comes in a year where the U.K. sport event company is expected to reach $1.78 billion in revenue.

Peter Joyce, SeatGeek’s EMEA (Europe, Middle East & Africa) managing director, joined the ticketing giant when it acquired Israeli company TopTix in April 2017 for $56 million. Joyce joined TopTix in 2011, and at the time, the company specialized in backend SRO ticketing software. That software allowed TopTix to broker a U.K. distribution deal, winning clients and gaining market traction. Combining with SeatGeek’s leading frontend edge in online ticketing and its U.S.-based marketplace proved to be a real differentiator.

“We then effectively set our goals to really accelerate the growth of SeatGeek in the U.K. and the wider European footprint,” Joyce told Boardroom from his home in Newcastle.

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Joyce joined his favorite football club, Newcastle United, after graduating from university in the early 1990s. That’s where he got his start in sports and ticketing. He spent his early days managing ticketing operations at NUFC. Thereafter, Joyce worked for other ticketing-based software and solutions companies, where he helped gain major football contracts and provided solutions for global football titans like Liverpool, Manchester City, and Chelsea.

With nearly 25 years in the business, Joyce became SeatGeek’s U.K. managing director when it acquired TopTix, which eventually expanded to EMEA. In 2017, SeatGeek had only since-relegated West Bromwich Albion among Premier League clubs, though it had several lower division clubs as ticketing partners.

“The acquisition really enabled us to then push into some of the larger teams and become a little bit more credible with a bit more financial backing behind us,” Joyce said. “We quickly then signed a range of other teams.”

Manchester City came aboard in 2018 for both its men’s and women’s teams. Liverpool, Aston Villa, Leicester City, Wolverhampton Wanderers, and Joyce’s beloved Newcastle United joined soon after. Leeds United and Watford joined as new SeatGeek ticketing partners for 2022, joining top lower division clubs like Stoke City, Bristol City, and Middlesbrough.

What made all these top English soccer teams interested in SeatGeek?

Peter Joyce

First and foremost, Joyce said, it was the technology. From his earliest days at TopTix, the focus was always on the software products. That included the ability to drive innovation and self-service capabilities like enabling websites where fans could move their season ticket seats for a game, upgrade their ticketed seat for a single game, cancel certain seats online, or transfer or resell their tickets.

“That type of functionality didn’t really exist before we were doing it,” Joyce said. “That enabled a whole shift in the self-service capability that was able to be enjoyed by fans.”

On the backend side, elements built into the team-provided software platforms saved those clubs immense amounts of time. Previously, it took weeks for teams to manually renew season tickets or membership packs for as many as 60,000 fans. An auto-renewal element, which would take payment, book the seats, and pre-book the receipts into the software was a game-changer compared to SeatGeek’s competitors in the region.

“We’re just seeing unrivaled growth through that period of time,” Joyce noted, with the U.K. becoming the company’s second-largest geographic region by sales behind the United States.

Naturally, SeatGeek bringing on Premier League clients opened other doors in England. Beyond sports, it has ticketing deals for Lord’s Cricket Ground and the Andrew Lloyd Webber Theatre Group in London’s West End, among other theaters and music venues in the region. Elsewhere, SeatGeek has a deal with the Dutch Football Association that TopTix obtained in 2015. About 15 participating clubs opt in to using its software platform. Joyce sees it as a model other countries and regions can replicate as it eyes expansion.

While Premier League stadiums are back to full capacity this season coming out of the pandemic, SeatGeek was deeply involved in working with the EPL throughout 2020 and 2021. The company helped identify when games would return, when there should be smaller capacities, and when fans could again fill the stadium. When certain stadiums limited fans to 2,000 in a socially distanced fashion, SeatGeek was instrumental in configuring the seating plans and building out software features to streamline that process.

How does Joyce see SeatGeek growing over the next 12-18 months? Something endorsed across company staff is to not only to be available to its clients, but also collaborate, taking ideas and feedback from teams and clients to continue building, developing, and growing its products and client base.

“From the very outset, the goal has been to continue to deliver the best software and the best technology stack that we can for our clients and for review by our prospects as well,” he said. “So it’s really just a doubling down on doing all of the things that made us successful in the beginning. We really believe in our ability to be the best in the region.” 

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