From The Editor's Desk

Short Sighted Sports Ticket Sales

If you haven’t noticed, things are getting very interesting for sports ticket sales. It seems as if there is a war within itself, where sports executives issue ultimatums to their fans, and when the fans push back, the sports franchise gets beat up in the press and ends up yielding.

What else can you say about Tampa Bay?

The Tampa Bay Lightning are playing the Chicago Blackhawks in the NHL Finals. Yet, the news is off the ice, with various ticket sales restrictions. One of them is eliminating the idea of selling to Chicago Blackhawks fans at all, restricting sales through zip codes. This is an old sports sales dog method that rarely yields the type of return aside from fan boy interest. It also forgets that the majority of Chicago fans aren’t buying on a Saturday night, but if they were, do you really want to turn them away? Let’s see how many zip code restrictions there are when the Chicago Blackhawks come to town during the regular season.

This is the silliness of the rub; it predetermines that everyone who is watching in attendance is a die-hard fan of the home team. And just because someone is in Tampa Bay, and happens to be a Chicago Blackhawks fan, means that they would only be interested in attending Lightning games when Chicago comes to town, and not go after the mini-packs and other long-term deals. By creating blockades of resistance, the Tampa Bay Lightning restrictions may cause media strife, but they also play the short game.

The ticket restrictions not only denote the buyers’ zip code, but also what they want to wear. I thought sports was selling entertainment.

Let’s see how Tampa Bay’s executive staff feels if the team has trouble filling the building in two years. Then, it will be a ‘welcome environment to all fans.’

Tampa Bay’s anti-resale policy for Chicago Blackhawks fans has simply shot up the asking price for tickets. Because even though Tampa Bay’s executive staff tries to punish its season ticket holders by eliminating tickets resold on StubHub, especially those season ticket holders with military obligations, they are merely causing the secondary market to thrive. This is how backward sports sales has become, they haven’t learned the lessons of the Temperance Movement of the early 1900s. From 1920 to 1933, alcohol was made illegal in the United States. But it didn’t stop people from drinking, it just meant that those who sought it out did so in illegal hidden alternatives, and often at exorbitant prices.

So, what did the Tampa Bay Lightning truly gain off of their ticket restrictions via zip code? A bunch of outraged blog posts? A few angry sports radio host commentaries? Some superfan high fives?

No. By Saturday June 6, 2015, the Tampa Bay Lightning had switched their “feel good” NHL Finals run into an embarrassing bit of back-tracking, where the top executives had to apologize to the season ticket holder in the military who, on active duty, was reselling his unused tickets and “violated” Tampa Bay’s new argument toward a revocable license.

So, we’re left with a few alternatives in the entire Tampa Bay issue:

1.) Tickets are a one-way revocable license where the team can cancel them at any time, but if the buyer can’t attend, they will lose their money as well as have limited opportunities to resell.

2.) Only those in the military, or those who cause enough media embarrassment to the Tampa Bay executive staff, will be allowed to resale their tickets.

3.) Maybe the Tampa Bay organization should be enjoying the NHL Finals run, collecting data on every fan who attends, and trying to sell them on future games, rather than worrying about those games whose revenue simply goes back to the league.

4.) By creating zip code and other ticket restrictions, Tampa Bay’s franchise is actually forcing folks to use the secondary market, thereby becoming accustomed to not using the primary team ticket office as a resource to purchase their entry into the games.

Having a building full of Lightning fans wearing the same garb is great, but in reality, it is empty calories. Especially if the building is half-full next season, because a team turned away potential new customers who got to see the team at its highest point during a Championship run.

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