Some Toronto sports fans are upset this week, having seen their tickets to upcoming games cancelled by team officials, only to later see them listed for sale by the team – at vastly inflated prices. The situation has arisen for many teams north of the border, where provincial officials re-instituted restrictions on fan attendance impacting several organizations in the past week. In Ontario, officials reduced venue capacity to 50%, forcing teams to scramble to figure out what to do on short notice for games where more than 10,000 seats have been sold already.
For the Toronto Raptors, the decision was made to cancel the seats held by all non season ticket members, including those who purchased partial season ticket memberships and all single-game seats. For some, that meant an email from Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment (MLSE), which operates both the Maple Leaf (NHL) and Raptors teams, was followed by a second email pitching the sale of newly opened seats – their own.
“I thought, ‘Oh, that’s weird,” says Ian Newbould, who was emailed a ticketing offer from MLSE days after his tickets at Scotiabank Arena were being refunded due to the restrictions. “So I went to the site and there were my tickets, there were my seats.”
Andrew Niemira also described the shock of seeing his own seats for sale after his half-season membership wasn’t good enough to get to keep them. He saw his seats for Saturday’s game against Golden State listed for $340 – more than three times the average of $108 per game the cancelled season ticket package cost. Vibhor Garg reported similar findings, when his cancelled tickets were being sold for $65 each, more than double the cost initially paid for his membership, on average.
“Why would they cancel my ticket and then try to sell new tickets for almost double the price?” Said Garg, who is currently on the waiting list for season tickets.
MLSE officials indicated that they were trying to make the best of a bad situation, and that quick decisions had to be made in the short period between the announcement of the restrictions and the next game on the team’s calendar.
“We understand the frustration of the fans and we must continue to ask for their patience as we work on this,” says Tom McDonald, a vice president of ticket sales and service at MLSE. “I can understand how [fans] might think that we are charging more but, in fact, it is that they received a discount for buying tickets in a package.”
McDonald stressed that the number of tickets available for purchase after the cancellations was very small. Following the cancellation of all partial membership and single-game tickets, full season ticket members were split into two groups and can attend games on an alternating basis, with the small number of remaining seats sold at single-game prices. The logistics involved in prioritizing those who had seen prior orders cancelled (and offering them at the same price of the cancelled tickets) was simply too much, he argued, with the time available.
Those impacted by the cancellations feel differently. Niemira told The Star that he was questioning whether or not he’d purchase a similar package from the team in the future.
“People who already had the tickets should get them back,” he said.