Scalpers and other professional sports event ticket resellers claim they hold a vital role in the ecosystem, providing an additional outlet for tickets and spreading out the risk in years when the fan base isn’t as enthusiastic as it could be.
Professional sports teams, on the other hand, have long fought to push these brokers out of the market in order to gain control over ticket pricing, simultaneously for fear that scalpers will find a way to discount ticket prices and that they’ll take advantage of customers.
Kings Change Ticket Resale Policy
Last month, the Los Angeles Kings of the National Hockey League announced a few changes to its ticket resale policy. Brokers must now pay more than fans for season tickets, they’ll be limited to a certain number of ticket purchases and, perhaps most alarmingly, they’ll only be allowed to resell these tickets through a ticket service owned by Anschutz Entertainment Group (also owner of the Kings).
The Los Angeles Kings situation isn’t the first with an attempt to control scalpers, but it may be the first to do so this tightly. In 2008, the National Football League launched a similar electronic platform called Ticket Exchange with the help of Ticketmaster. Unlike the Kings’ platform, the NFL left individual teams responsible for encouraging and enforcing the use of the service. The mandatory nature of the Kings’ platform may lead the team down the same road as other sports organizations that are being challenged in court for anti-competitive practices due to ticket sales.
Similar Examples Throughout Professional Sports
For example, ticket broker S4K has sued Madison Square Garden for its new policy of selling no more than eight season tickets to a returning customer and no more than four to a new one. The Indianapolis Colts are in a similar situation with a ticket broker who isn’t being allowed to renew the 95 season tickets he purchased in 2015. Although it looks bleak for sports organizations, there may be hope yet. A case in November against the National Basketball Association’s Golden State Warriors for threatening to cancel tickets if they were sold by anyone besides Ticketmaster was dismissed in federal court.
“The natural monopoly every manufacturer has in the production and sale of its own product cannot be the basis for antitrust liability,” U.S. District Judge Maxine Chesney stated in her ruling against plaintiff StubHub.