Ticket shock

By IAN DONNIS  |  March 10, 2008

What’s a hot team to do?
As an organization, the Sox are acutely conscious of the frustration associated with landing tickets to Fenway Park.

Back in 2005, Sox PR impresario Charles Steinberg, now with the Dodgers, told me his biggest concern was whether Sox fans were getting squeezed.

More recently, Sox spokeswoman Goodenow, responding to questions via e-mail, focused on describing how the team strives to ensure “that the maximum number of unique fans receive the ability to purchase tickets and experience baseball at Fenway Park.”

The team, which has added a few thousand seats in recent years, is exploring options for more seats, she says.

Goodenow says the team aggressively enforces ticket-buying limits during online sales. Plus, it offers random drawings for some of its most popular offerings, including games with the Yankees and seats in the Monster and roof-deck sections.

Fighting the scalping of Sox tickets is “an uphill and sometimes impossible battle,” says Goodenow. But the team is “actively identifying and canceling tickets of those who are posting on various Web sites, newspapers, etc.”

(A number of Sox devotees, including baseball historian Stout, asserts that the team — or at least some of its employees — has long sold tickets to scalpers; Goodenow declined to comment. At least the Sox have never been as blatant as the Chicago Cubs, who in 2003 won a class-action lawsuit that accused the team of scalping tickets to its own games through a ticket broker that was under the same ownership as the Cubs. The case, despite the outcome, became a PR mess.)

At minimum, opting out of the StubHub-MLB agreement will allow the Sox to dodge charges of double-dipping, since the teams taking part will profit doubly: once when they sell tickets at face value, and then again, through a revenue-sharing agreement, when some of these tickets are re-sold through StubHub. (Ticketnews.com also reported recently that much of the sales data will be revealed to the participating teams.)

StubHub nonetheless remains a force in the sale of Sox tickets, as seen by its vast selection and the fact that many of the most desired seats at Fenway — such as Monster tickets — are offered on the site even before they are sold to the general public. “There’s a lot of speculation on Red Sox tickets,” acknowledges StubHub spokesman Sean Pate, with people offering some tickets for sale without actually yet having them in their possession.

Also, due to the exclusive MLB-StubHub relationship going into effect this season, says Pate, the Sox will no longer be able to offer their own “Replay” re-sale service, which gives fans who pay $50 to the team the chance to buy or sell seats at virtually face value.

No turning back the clock
Many might yearn for some middle ground between the old days — when the Sox organization was badly managed but getting into Fenway was cheap and easy — and the current period, in which the team is the reigning world champion but landing Fenway tickets at a decent price is a stiff challenge.

In fact, even when the Sox were less popular and crowds lined up outside Fenway for an annual off-season ticket sale, sought-after seats for the best games would vanish with mysterious rapidity. “I think the real explanation back then,” says Stout, “was that they had been set aside for scalpers or for people who were connected.”

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