The first season for the Vegas Golden Knights has been a smash success by just about any metric you can use. The team has been outstanding – with 107 points, the team has the Pacific Division title in hand and trails only Nashville in the overall Western Conference standings. Sales have been brisk too, with the team averaging 18,042 fans per game – 104% of capacity at T-Mobile Arena according to ESPN (trailing only Chicago, Minnesota and Washington in percentage of capacity league-wide.) A big piece of that audience has been attending contests using tickets acquired on the secondary market, which makes the team’s recent decision to penalize season ticket holders for doing so all the more brazen.
With the team having secured its playoff spot, the team announced that it would be requiring season ticket members to sign what it is calling the “Knights Vow.” This vow prohibits season ticket members from reselling their playoff tickets on the secondary market. These fans can forego the vow, but will have to pay significantly more for the tickets in the first place. In an example put forward by team president Kerry Bubolz for ESPN, a season ticket holder who purchases a ticket that would have gone for $100 on the regular season would pay $125 in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Someone who doesn’t opt into the restriction will pay $175 for the ticket. This 75% markup over regular season price to do what is legal in Nevada (resell a ticket) comes on top of the already difficult to transfer Flash Seats ticket model, as well as the team’s attempt to restrict all resale to one marketplace – StubHub.
“We’re a destination city. During the regular season, it was a big part of our event experience. But the Stanley Cup playoffs, that’s a different time,” Bubolz told ESPN of the fact that the team reaped a major financial boon from visiting fans passing through town buying tickets during the regular season. “We want to do what we can to support the hockey side of our organization.”
“At the end of the day, we’ll make less money with this strategy, but it’s all about what’s the best thing for our home-ice advantage,” he added.
While that’s a politically safe way to push the narrative, it is likely that the opposite is true. The reason for the StubHub partnership, in terms of the value to a team entering one, is because the team itself gets a cut of tickets sold on the marketplace, as well as the ability to harvest data on both the original purchaser and the secondary purchaser via resale. We learned as much in the confirmation by StubHub that Major League Baseball teams both get a cut of the margin through their exclusivity with the resale market, as well as the fact that teams often directly resell their own tickets through the marketplaces to sell at above face-value prices by avoiding their own box offices and published face values.
In essence, the team is taking a triple-dip of every ticket sold through its authorized resale market. The team makes a per-ticket fee on any initial sale to its season ticket holders. Then, it captures a huge fee to allow resale at all. And finally, it takes a cut from the secondary marketplace fees charged to both the person selling a ticket, and the person buying it on the other end.
Thankfully there is a lot of fan enthusiasm from such a banner first year. Otherwise people might realize how badly they are being gouged by the management of their own new favorite team.