With a commanding lead in the race for the American League’s top playoff seed after a recent 22-game winning streak and the AL Central crown already buttoned up, the Cleveland Indians are banking plenty of fan goodwill at this point. October may be a test of that, as the organization just officially threatened anyone who purchases playoff tickets with invalidation without refund if those tickets are purchased off of any secondary website, save official partner StubHub.
Their exclusive agreement with StubHub was announced in a release earlier this week to the press. “Under this agreement, any fan who resells Indians postseason tickets on a secondary site other than StubHub — and the fan who purchases those tickets — are subject to have their tickets revoked or the tickets’ bar codes canceled,” the Indians said.
In effect, the Indians are hoping to make secondary sales a closed-loop, taking a page right out of Ticketmaster’s model on the primary market. The ballclub is shackling its ticket-holders to one third-party company – presumably one where the official partnership entails a percentage of resales going back to the team in exchange for the exclusivity.
Even before the recent white-hot streak, the Tribe had been doing very brisk business at the gate. A story on Cleveland19.com indicated that the team just passed 2 million in attendance for the first time since 2008. With its final homestand of the season coming up featuring six games against the Twins and White Sox, it’s mathematically impossible that the team could challenge the 3 million sales figures it put up during the early 2000s, but still impressive.
The team’s position on resale exclusivity is an interesting one – there are no laws against ticket resale in Ohio, save for restrictions against in-person sales close to a venue. Online sales like those done through StubHub, Vivid Seats, TicketClub, SeatGeek or any other marketplace, are perfectly legal by law. In effect, the team policy is looking to supersede the rights of ticket buyers in the name of a corporate partnership.
When contacted for comment, StubHub indicated that the decision to threaten cancellation for tickets resold anywhere besides their marketplace was entirely made by the Cleveland organization. The reseller’s partnership with MLB doesn’t appear to be operated in any similar fashion by any other organization that has announced postseason sales policies to this point.
One potential reason for the restrictive policy is the overwhelming presence that Chicago Cubs fans had at Progressive Field during last fall’s World Series. Playing in its first fall classic since 1945, Chicago fans were eager for a chance to see their team claim its first title since 1908, and were very active in acquiring tickets to do so. No team likes to see editorial headlines like “Chicago Cubs fans took away the Cleveland Indians’ home field advantage, and it’s our fault” – which ran in the Plain Dealer the week after the Cubs rallied from a 3-1 series deficit to take the championship in seven games.
A desire to see the secondary market muted on the whole would be at least partially served by restricting the market to one company. Another policy listed on the team’s post-season ticket page indicates that anyone found to be selling more than 50% of any tickets purchased would also face the possibility of having their tickets voided without refund.
The team seems resolute to take no prisoners on the matter: “It’s nonstop,” was Indians’ vice president of sales and service’s response to the team’s policing of the secondary market for a story published by Crain’s Cleveland Business. Previously, Cleveland has taken steps to cancel season tickets that it deemed to be broker-held.
TicketNews has been in contact with Cleveland’s communications office, which has indicated answers to our questions clarifying the motivation and details of this policy were awaiting clearance from the team’s legal department. We will update this story with any response received.