In the not too distant past, sports teams and fans enjoyed a symbiotic relationship. Teams offered season tickets for sale, and fans purchased them....

In the not too distant past, sports teams and fans enjoyed a symbiotic relationship. Teams offered season tickets for sale, and fans purchased them. Teams would place print ads, run radio commercials and call past ticket holders for renewals. With the advent of the secondary market fans realized there were other ways to purchase tickets—not only full seasons, but individual games at much lower prices. As the fans increasingly take advantage of the online ticket marketplaces, teams are now faced with designing new marketing strategies to attract their fans to purchase season tickets; a sound plan by any team and its sales staff, except when fans start to take notice.

TicketNews discovered one team’s marketing plan to attract new season holders; sell tickets, accept payment and then strip the purchaser of those newly purchased tickets. “I purchased them right from the team’s website,” a broker told TicketNews. The broker, who chooses to remain anonymous as not to lose business with this or other teams, purchased NFL tickets on the team’s website, entered his credit card information and selected the monthly payment option. Upon completion, he received an e-mail confirmation. Two payments later, and just hours before the release of the 2015-2016 NFL schedules, he received a call from one of the team’s sales representatives: “I am calling to inform you that we will be revoking your season tickets and refunding payments to your credit card for the payments made.” Shocked upon receiving the news, the broker asked the rep for an explanation: “Business reasons,” the rep replied. After pleading with the rep for a more detailed explanation, the rep stated he was going to hang up—which is exactly what he did.

The frustrated broker decided to fight back. He hired an attorney and drafted a demand letter to the team, citing such violations as Breach of Contract, Bad Faith Breach of Contract, Unfair Trade Practices and Statutory Theft (due to their holding the fan’s money that was already collected). The attorney sent the letter to the team’s owner and corporate office. After one week of no reply, a second demand letter was sent to the team, making them aware that the lawsuit would be filed within hours if no response was received. Shortly before the suit was filed, the team made contact.

The team quickly offered to return the original revoked tickets, which they still had unsold after what had been almost three months since the broker purchased the tickets. The broker also demanded additional seats lower to the field, to which the team reluctantly agreed. Upon asking the sales rep again for the reason why the tickets were revoked in the first place, the rep simply replied: “I don’t know,
I’m just here to make this right.”

A senior executive from a secondary ticket market predicts changes as a result of brokers fighting back. “With the increased pressure from brokers to be treated fairly, and StubHub’s pressure on government officials’ to take action against the behemoth Ticketmaster, hopefully restrictions imposed by teams against brokers will decrease. No team or league wants to be accused of price fixing.”

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By Michael Baldwin