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No, Ticketmaster won't force you to have a Covid vaccine

By Mark Savage
BBC music reporter

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  • Coronavirus pandemic
image copyrightGetty Images
image captionCrowd-surfing is likely to be a long way off, even if gigs do resume in 2021

Ticketmaster has denied reports that fans will be required to prove they've had a vaccine or a negative Covid-19 test before attending concerts.

The story arose from a report in Billboard magazine, which said the company wanted to use smartphones to verify fans were free of the disease.

While Ticketmaster is exploring such an idea, it said there will be "absolutely no requirement" for mandated vaccines.

"We are not forcing anyone to do anything," it said in a statement.

The story followed the announcement by drug company Pfizer that it had developed a coronavirus vaccine which, in preliminary tests, was 90% effective.

The clinical trials gave hope to the live event industry, which has effectively been shut down since March, that large-scale shows could resume in 2021.

Billboard's story said Ticketmaster's plan - which was conceived in the US - would involve their own ticket app, third party health information firms and vaccine distribution providers.

Here's how it would work:

  • After purchasing a ticket, fans would need to verify they had been vaccinated (offering one year of protection) or had tested negative for coronavirus 24 to 72 hours before a concert or sporting event.
  • Test results would be delivered to a health pass company, such as CLEAR or IBM, at fans' request, who would pass the information to Ticketmaster.
  • If they are negative or vaccinated, Ticketmaster would issue digital tickets via their app.
  • If a fan tested positive or did not verify vaccination they would not be allowed access to the event.
  • Ticketmaster would never have access to medical records, and would only receive verification of whether a fan is cleared to attend an event on a given date.

While the original article highlighted that the plan was one of several options being considered, other news outlets reported it as concrete fact.

The majority of fans welcomed the move, if it would mean the resumption of live music. "Inject me now," wrote one. "Honestly I would do anything to go to a concert right now," added another.

But the scheme was criticised by people who believed concertgoers would be required to have vaccinations.

Among them were 90s pop group Right Said Fred, who wrote on Twitter: "Here it is, vaccines will be mandatory in all but name."

'No power'

However, Ticketmaster clarified in a statement to the BBC that it could not enforce any requirements on ticketholders.

"Ticketmaster does not have the power to set policies around safety/entry requirements, which would include vaccines and/or testing protocols," it said.

"That is up to the discretion of the event organiser. Ticketmaster continues to work with event organisers on all Covid safety measures and it will be up to each event organiser to set future requirements, based on their preferences and local health guidelines."

It said the plan discussed in Billboard was one of many "potential ideas" it was exploring to enable the return of live music.

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionStormzy has already been announced as the headliner of the 2021 Reading & Leeds festival, as organisers hope concerts will be able to resume

One scheme that has already been put into motion is Ticketmaster's SmartEvent platform, which aims to make live events safer.

The technology includes a social distancing seating tool, which uses algorithms to work out safe venue capacities; as well as enabling staggered entry times, to stop transmission of the virus in large queues, and contact tracing once the event has ended.

"Ticketmaster's goal is to provide enough flexibility and options that venues and fans have multiple paths to return to events," said the company's president, Mark Yovich.

It is not the only company to be looking into measures that would allow concerts to resume safely.

Festival Republic, which organises events like Reading & Leeds, Latitude and the BBC's Proms In The Park, has launched a "Full Capacity Plan" for reopening clubs, bars and concert venues.

The company's CEO, Melvin Benn, said he expected rapid-turnaround Covid-19 tests to allow festivals to resume next summer.

Acts like Stormzy, Post Malone and Liam Gallagher have already been announced for the line-up of the 2021 Reading & Leeds festival.

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