Falcons will go to mobile-only ticketing

When Falcons fans return to games, there will be a change in the way many of them enter Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

The Falcons will adopt mobile-only ticketing, meaning fans exclusively will enter the gates by holding their smartphone close to a scanner that will read a constantly refreshing barcode.

The Falcons eliminated paper tickets when the stadium opened in 2017, and since then the team had offered the option of scanning mobile devices or season-ticket member cards to gain entry to games. The cards now are being eliminated, to the displeasure of some fans.

“It’s a continuing evolution, no different from when we went from (paper) tickets to cards,” said Don Rovak, the Falcons’ vice president of sales and service. “When we moved into Mercedes-Benz Stadium, we didn’t think the time was right at that point just to go all-mobile.”

In an email sent to season-ticket holders this week, the Falcons said the change will provide “a safer game day experience by limiting unnecessary contacts,” will personalize the fan experience and will reduce ticket fraud.

Some fans have expressed unhappiness on social media and elsewhere about the elimination of the season-ticket game-day cards.

A 12-year season-ticket holder, who asked not to be named, said it was “misleading” for the Falcons to cite safety as a reason for eliminating the plastic cards. The cards, like mobile devices, were a contactless method of admission at the gates, the season-ticket holder said, adding in an email that the sports industry “has more important and factual concerns to address around fan safety.”

Rovak said the Falcons’ change will eliminate the contact that occurs when season-ticket holders give their cards to other fans. But he said the coronavirus pandemic didn’t solely drive the change, which he said will allow the Falcons to know who the end-users of tickets are and to communicate with them.

“It wasn’t the decision of, ‘Oh, we really didn’t want to do this, but now given the environment it’s the right move,’” Rovak said. “Instead, it was more (a case of being) consistent with everything we’re trying to deliver from a fan-experience side and from a health-and-safety side.”

The Falcons’ move continues a widespread trend in pro sports toward mobile-only ticketing. Nine NFL teams mandated that as their only option last year, Rovak said. Atlanta United made the change at the start of its 2020 season.

Rovak acknowledged the Falcons have heard from some fans who don’t want to deal with the technology of mobile ticketing, but said he believes they’ll become comfortable with it.

Among the questions fans may have is what to do if their phone’s battery dies before they get to the gate. Go to the main box office at Gate 1 for help, the Falcons said. What about any season-ticket holders who don’t have a smartphone? Contact your ticket representative, the team said. Can screenshots of tickets be used for admission? No, because of the dynamic barcodes. Will fans still be able to sell or transfer their tickets? Yes, electronically.

The Falcons’ regular-season opener is scheduled for Sept. 13 against Seattle at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. But with most sports still shut down by COVID-19, it remains to be seen whether the NFL season will start as scheduled and, if it does, whether there will be fans in attendance.