It’s not uncommon to see a high-demand sporting event these days “sold out,” only to find hundreds if not thousands of tickets available on secondary market online sites — usually for an inflated price, of course.
Many of those are offered up by fans — a lot of them season-ticket holders — that can’t go to that particular game and/or are hoping to recoup some of the cost of their investment.
But what about fans who buy season tickets without going to a single game, instead re-selling them all? Well, just as technology makes it easy to buy and sell, it also makes it easy for teams to track these secondary market users and label them as ticket brokers. And it can result in those fans losing their tickets.
The NFL’s Denver Broncos did exactly that this offseason, declining to renew season tickets for holders who did not attend any games in 2016. It sparked some grumbling among fans who said there were legitimate medical reasons they didn’t go to any games last year, but it also opened up spots on the team’s 75,000-deep season ticket waiting list.
The “weeding out,” process of suspected ticket brokers, as described to the Denver Post by Broncos spokesman Pat Smyth, is designed to put, “more tickets in the hands of Denver Broncos fans.”
It might seem like a somewhat bold move, but it underscores the push-pull teams can feel in the battle against secondary market sellers.
For teams with a lot of games in high demand, ticket re-sellers might drive up prices for fans who otherwise could have bought them from the team for face value. Teams still get revenue from the initial sale, but high-priced secondary market tickets might preclude families from attending or wind up in the hands of fans of opposing teams.
For teams that have a lot of games that don’t sell out, the secondary market can deflate prices and keep the team from selling more of its original inventory.
Some of that is simple supply-and-demand economics. But as the Broncos have demonstrated, the buying and selling has become so prevalent that teams feel compelled to act.
Locally, I reached out to representatives from the Vikings, Wild, Twins and Timberwolves to see if they have any policies similar to the Broncos. While none said they specifically do the same thing as what happened in Denver, all said it’s an issue they monitor.
“Yes, like many teams with high demand for tickets, this is an issue which we have been watching,” said John Maher, the Wild’s VP of brand content and communications. “Whatever we do, we’ll do with a fan-focused approach. With sellouts every home game, and a waiting list for future Wild season tickets, we do want to make sure that our tickets are getting into the hands of Wild fans and not ticket brokers.”
A Vikings spokesman said the team — which like the Wild has high ticket demand — is aware that teams like the Broncos have revoked season tickets from secondary market sellers but that it’s not something the Vikings have discussed trying.
The Timberwolves, who have been among the bottom teams in NBA attendance in recent years, said they keep an eye on secondary market sales but don’t have a similar plan in place.
The Twins are a good example of an organization that has experienced fluctuating demand — from the near-constant sellouts at Target Field when it opened to dwindling attendance in recent years as the team has struggled.
“Most teams have policies surrounding the sale of tickets to ‘brokers,’” Twins President Dave St. Peter said. “The Twins are no different and over time have worked to curtail sales in that arena.”
I suspect teams as a general rule don’t have a problem with season ticket holders reselling some of their tickets. But even if they don’t like fans reselling all of their tickets, should they be able to dictate what happens to those tickets once they’re sold?
The Broncos say yes — a decision that’s certainly easier when you have such a long list of other fans lining up to buy tickets. It will be interesting to see going forward how many other teams join them with an aggressive approach to the secondary market and how much pushback they get.