There is a ticketing bookkeeper in Opelika, Alabama, who for 17 years would count each dollar collected at a high school sporting event. Then she would count it again. And for good measure, she would do it a third time.
While a charming story about small-town America, it is not one to espouse the virtues of the old-school ways of doing things. Bless the bookkeeper’s heart; her time—and that of any other school employee, for that matter—could have been better spent in a more constructive fashion than counting hundreds of dollar bills over and over.
Such examples are why the demand for services like GoFan, a digital ticketing platform, has exploded. A “Ticketmaster” for scholastic sports, GoFan is utilized by 2,000 schools aiming to streamline the local game experience.
GoFan mimics the same experience as a big-time college or professional game, including allowing fans in some areas the option to bundle parking with game tickets when purchasing their order online. The company’s small surcharge—about $1, says new GoFan CEO B.J. Pilling—on tickets allows it to provide the service to schools for free.
With fewer attendees bringing cash to games, schools have for years been pining for a technological payment option that is also efficient enough to let fans through the gate as fast as possible.
Recent events have given schools a greater initiative to make the leap.
The COVID Effect
Convenience aside, GoFan has been thrust into a different capacity in 2020. Many states and local jurisdictions are only allowing a limited audience to games. Pilling says the number ranges from 30% to 50%, or some districts are allowing two spectators per athlete. By using GoFan, schools can ensure family members of athletes can catch the games in person.
“The limited capacity has ratcheted up demand,” Pilling says. “Schools want to make sure mom and dad are part of the 30% [in the stands].” GoFan provides codes and private links for schools to distribute. The first-dibs element is similar to VIPs gaining early access to concert or theater tickets, notes Pilling. The purchasing process assists in social distancing efforts, limiting person-to-person interaction and contact tracing should anyone on-site contract COVID-19.
Football is the most visible example for GoFan’s use, but high schools and middle schools are implementing it for nonrevenue sports as well, says Pilling. Scholastic sports were already headed in this direction, but the coronavirus is responsible for the big push this year. “We estimate the pandemic accelerated the technology-adoption process by three to five years,” says Pilling.
Transparency and Security
Inefficiency aside, having one person like the bookkeeper in Alabama count cash stashed inside a box seems almost inconceivable in this day and age. The risk for miscounting, let alone theft, is enormous and could cost school communities thousands of dollars. (For the record, there is no indication any miscounting or criminal activity occurred as part of our case study in Opelika, a town of roughly 26,000 people just outside of Auburn.)
You don’t have to be an Auburn Tigers fan to know how popular football is in the Southeast. But that intense love is not saved simply for colleges. It only made sense schools would adopt a similar system to what big-time athletics already does. Amateur youth tournaments are also following the trend.
Without the cashless or paperless option, a school employee in a major suburb would have to go to the bank each Friday afternoon and collect $6,000 to $7,000 worth of dollar bills, which would then need to be distributed to multiple cash registers. That money would need to be properly accounted for during the game and audited multiple times afterward. A platform like GoFan “provides an additional security layer,” says Pilling. “You just don’t need to see $20,000 in an exposed cash box anymore.”
“We have a payment process for full transparency,” he adds. “It’s as seamless as buying on Ticketmaster.”