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High schools’ online ticket sales make it difficult for older fans to get seats

Will Smith of Bishop Montgomery launches a three-point shot during a game against Harvard-Westlake.
(Craig Weston)
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COVID-19 restrictions in 2021 gave high schools and the CIF the opening to make a move they’ve long wanted to implement — eliminating cash purchases at sporting events.

They have a deal with GoFan.co for spectators to purchase tickets online, with a $1 service fee for the regular season that rises to $1.50 for some playoff games.

Keeping track of the money is much easier, faster and safer. But what happens to the elderly who still have flip phones and no computer to purchase tickets?

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Phil Ferrel Jr., a Santa Ana Mater Dei supporter, said his 95-year-old father has been attending high school basketball games since the 1950s and has no way of getting a ticket without him or his granddaughter purchasing it for him. Ditto for his elderly aunt.

“They used to wait in line at schools for tickets,” he said.

Southern Section spokesman Thom Simmons said he sees no problems with schools using GoFan. The section requires schools to use GoFan for playoff events.

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“We believe the benefits outweigh the very small number of issues that occur at our and our schools’ events,” he said in an email. “Access, convenience, speed of entrance, ability to control capacities, equitable ticket distribution and safety of those not having to handle large sums of cash make this a service to our member schools and spectators.

“Over 300 of our member schools use this system not only for regular season athletic events but for all their ticketing needs (drama productions, choir shows, music concerts, etc.).”

Before COVID, there were a limited number of schools using GoFan. Now it has been adopted by hundreds of schools in California. Cash purchases are disappearing, replaced by credit cards.

And yet access for the elderly can be a problem since big events that will be sold out are usually publicized on social media when tickets become available, and then tickets are gone quickly. If you aren’t monitoring when the tickets become immediately available, there is little chance of acquiring them.

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“I would imagine it’s not a problem for most schools, but when you get bigger schools and more successful schools with big followings, that’s where the problems are,” Ferrel said. “They go on sale and not two minutes later they’re sold out. Then you look on EBay and it costs hundreds of dollars.”

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There are no easy answers for how to help the elderly who don’t have cellphones and would prefer to pay in cash. Some schools make exceptions to help the few who need help when they show up at events.

Brian Seymour, associate executive director of the CIF, said: “Obviously with anything technology-wise, it grows and grows and things need to be addressed. The schools participating have access to confidential direct links. Schools have the ability to think ahead and plan and withhold tickets when they have senior citizens that may not have access to a credit card or phone.”

It needs to become a bigger priority for schools and the CIF to understand the challenges of senior citizens and come up with solutions for those wanting to attend an event even if they don’t possess the technological literacy to get tickets.

“The days arriving at the 11th hour and putting down $10 to get a ticket are gone,” Seymour said. “As we get further along with online tickets, more schools will grow to understand they have control how to handle situations such as senior citizens who want to support their grandchildren.”

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