How many times do we have to say it? Online secondary ticket markets can be good for teams and fans. Fans can buy tickets earlier, knowing if they have a conflict, there is an easy way to recoup at least some of their price. Teams can therefore sell more tickets to fans earlier, shifting a bit of risk onto fans now more willing to take it, and the teams are likely to see a few more seats filled with fans eating $8 hot dogs.
In late October, the NFL decided it was going to select a single secondary ticket market to become the sole official source of ticket resales for the league. Many teams already have their own deal with companies like TicketMaster, StubHub, and TicketsNow, so adopting a league-wide deal will require working out some team-level kinks.
Which brings us to the sad case of the New England Patriots, which sued StubHub to obtain the names of 13,000 customers who bought or sold tickets through the site. On October 19, 2007 the Boston Globe reported:
The Patriots obtained the list last week as part of a legal dispute with StubHub, an online marketplace for individual buyers and sellers of tickets, over who can resell Patriots tickets and how. The team, which has taken an unusually strong stance against scalping, has indicated in court that it may revoke the tickets of people who resold on StubHub.
In granting the team’s request, Superior Court Judge Allan van Gestel gave the Patriots “wide latitude in using the names of StubHub customers”:
“The Patriots have said that they intend to use the identities of the purchasers and sellers not only for this case, but also for its own other allegedly legitimate uses, such as canceling season tickets of ‘violators’ or reporting to authorities those customers that they deem to be in violation of the Massachusetts antiscalping law,” van Gestel wrote.
…The Patriots allow season ticket holders to resell their tickets at face value on the team’s website, but prohibit all other resales.
Current Massachusetts state law limits resales to $2 over face value, a limit which appears not to be respected on online markets. A proposed bill under consideration in the Massachusetts state legislature would eliminate the $2 cap, allowing licensed ticket brokers and fans to sell tickets for any price.
One provision in the bill would bar a team that gets into the business of reselling tickets above face value from restricting where its season ticket holders can resell tickets. The provision is designed to prevent sports teams from monopolizing resale of tickets.
But a team that does not get into the business of reselling above face value would be allowed to restrict what its customers do with their tickets, according to the provision in the bill.
Senator Michael Morrissey, a Quincy Democrat who is the point person in the Senate on ticket issues, said the Patriots have indicated to him they would not facilitate the resale of tickets above face value and would continue to enforce the team’s no-resale policy.
“That’s what their position is,” Morrissey said. “I find it a bit refreshing.”
The Globe article doesn’t indicate what Morrissey finds so refreshing, but frankly, I’m not opposed to the Patriots abusing fan goodwill in this way. Let them experiment with patron-alienating tactics and see what works best. With a 50,000 person waiting list for season tickets, I guess the Patriots feel like they have goodwill to burn.
The NFL’s selection of a league-wide “official resale site” can promote fan welfare by focusing buyers and sellers in a single market, which will improve liquidity of the secondary market and promote price discovery. These advantages don’t mean that the league should prohibit or discourage resale through other means, however. Some ticket holders will have reasons to trade elsewhere, and the possibility of trading elsewhere will help keep the fees and services of the official site competitive. Fans will benefit from both having the centralized site and alternatives.
Maybe I’m crazy, but I think in the long run teams should benefit most from rules that allow fans to benefit.
[Somehow I got through this post without mentioning the Miley Cyrus/Hannah Montana ticket resale flap or the fan lawsuit against the Miley Cyrus Fan Club. But, all things considered, these things should be mentioned. Good, now I’ve done it.
The main unaddressed issue above is the role played by ticket brokers, and especially use of automated programs (called “bots”) to rapidly acquire online tickets when they are sold. Not now. Maybe later.]