For the first time this season, Buffalo Bills fans will be allowed to watch their team in person. New York’s government has authorized just over 6,000 attendance for playoff games taking place in the Western New York city. The rights of those fans to use, gift, or resell those tickets, however, is being ignored despite being specifically enumerated in state law.
“If you are not among the group of fans to receive a ticket to the Buffalo Bills’ wild-card playoff game, you aren’t getting in,” reads the opening sentence from a Buffalo News story on the restrictions, which include fully non-transferrable tickets that will likely utilize Ticketmaster’s controversial “SafeTix” anti-resale platform to block the ability of fans to sell or even transfer their tickets to anyone else. Fans will also be required to take a COVID test prior to the contest, with a positive result leading to the forfeiture of tickets with no chance for a retest to rule out the possibility of a false-positive result.
“The NY ticketing law recognizes the importance of free and open transferability,” says Gary Adler of the National Association of Ticket Brokers. “[Transferability] needs to be protected because consumers benefit from such a system. The Bills’ policy appears to violate the NY law unless there is a Covid-specific emergency law that overrides it.”
“Of course, you have to take into consideration public health concerns and the desire to encourage steps to reopen live events,” Adler continues. “However, I am not sure how the Bills’ policy serves those interests because steps can be taken to ensure the person attending the event meets the criteria the season ticket holder must satisfy. We must make sure that health considerations are not used as a trojan horse for attempts to thwart the ability of consumers to buy and sell tickets in an open market.
New York has one of the most consumer-friendly regulatory environments related to ticket resale in the United States, thanks to hard-fought rights coded into law in the last decade. The law specifically makes the use of non-transferrable tickets illegal by venue owners and vendors like Ticketmaster, a fact which has saved New York consumers from the most egregious offenses related to resale restrictions that have been attempted in many states and abroad. But with COVID and public health concerns as their trojan horse, the Buffalo Bills have successfully enacted a total forfeiture of consumer rights to their purchased tickets anyways, for at least this game.
“On behalf of The Coalition for Ticket Fairness we are aware of the Buffalo Bills restriction on ticket transfer which conflicts with the NYS Arts & Entertainment law protecting transfer and resale,” reads a post from CTF executive Jason Berger on Facebook. “We have been in touch with the Governors office and they understand our concern. Since this restriction was placed because of concern for health and safety and under executive order for a trial to see if events could be safely held, There is no transfer or resale. The Governors office explained this is a temporary measure and we are hoping an investment to get live events back in the state in some capacity.”
Approximately 6,200 tickets are expected to be made available to season ticket members, available in “pods” of two or four tickets according to the announcement on the Bills’ website. Club-level season ticket holders will get first chance with a “select” set of tickets available beginning Thursday, while non-club members will have their chance on Friday, January 1. But those who don’t get their bid in through the team will have no chance to purchase through any legal secondary ticketing system due to the team’s decision to ignore state law, likely forcing at least some into risky forays through the inevitable black market that will spring up when vetted, regulated marketplaces are shut down.
A $63 add-on cost to each ticket for the required COVID testing through a specific team partner, Bioreference Laboratories, is also included in the price.
Buffalo is the only NFL franchise without the ability to wantonly restrict or eliminate consumer ticket transfer rights, specifically due to New York’s protections in place. The other two “New York” teams – the Jets and Giants – both play in New Jersey.
The AFC East Champions with a 12-3 record following Monday’s victory over New England, the Bills will host at least one playoff game, either in the Wild Card or Divisional round – possibly both. Kansas City has the AFC’s top seed, but the Bills could theoretically host the conference final should the Chiefs be defeated in an earlier round.
Headline photo via BuffaloBills.com