Need Two Tickets

1193080546It’s a great time to be a Patriots fan. The team has a perfect record and Tom Brady will have thrown for enough yards to circle the Earth twice by the end of the season. Want to see the action up-close? That might be a problem. There’s a fight brewing between season ticket holders and the team that could alienate some of New England’s biggest fans.

The kerfuffle started on Friday with Superior Court Judge Allan van Gestel’s ruling that the Patriots could collect the personal information of season ticket holders who resold their tickets from Ticket holders were irate.

“I should be able to do whatever I want with them, I bought the tickets,” said one longtime season-ticket holder who did not want his name used for fear of retaliation. “If they went after StubHub and they won, the next avenue is to go after the 12,000 or 13,000 people. Let me tell you, I think they would lose season-ticket holders.

“I used to go when you could shoot a gun off in the stadium and not hurt anybody,” he added. “I couldn’t give tickets away.”

But the Patriots expect fans to do exactly that, by having fans use its team-sanctioned reselling site TicketExchange. The Ticketmaster site limits the reselling price to face value, so fans can only break even.

However, ticket holders knew what they were getting into. The guidelines on the Patriots website are pretty clear:

[T]he Patriots organization expressly reserves the right to (1) change season ticket policies and prices at any time and for any reason; (2) apply changes differently to different persons or entities, including without limitation persons who are engaged in reselling tickets (whether licensed to do so or not). . . and (4) refuse to sell future season tickets to any individual or entity, including, but not limited to, individuals or entities that . . . resell tickets to third parties (whether licensed to do so or not).

The team has been characteristically mum on what it plans to do with StubHub’s information. Perhaps they won’t have to do anything. Season ticket holders are angry about the ruling, but now that the team has fired a shot across the bow, will they risk losing their tickets?

Dan Kennedy has framed the judge’s decision as a privacy issue (six items down), and there are other forces at work. The Commonwealth is debating whether to eliminate price restrictions on tickets, as New York State has done, that would essentially legalize scalping, albeit in a regulated marketplace.

It’s unclear what the Patriots endgame is in all this. They’re not talking and neither is StubHub. Franchises have begun to understand that there is immense value in controlling the flow of tickets to their games after the tickets are originally sold, and with demand at an all-time high for the Pats and Red Sox it is almost impossible to not use a third-party vendor. The fight is for control of that mechanism and will bear watching.