INTRO TEXT The state’s antiscalping law is in tatters. No one enforces it, resellers ignore it, and now the Boston Red Sox are giving up on it.
The Red Sox recently sent a letter to season ticket holders acknowledging that the team could not control the resale of its tickets and announcing a sponsorship deal with Boston’s biggest reseller, Ace Ticket.
“This decision is reflective of an irreversible marketplace shift,” said Sam Kennedy, the team’s chief sales and marketing officer, in the letter. “Ace Ticket will be able to provide season ticket holders with the opportunity to sell tickets for games they are unable to attend while also providing a seamless experience for those purchasing tickets.”
Officially, the Red Sox haven’t taken a position on what should be done with the state’s antiscalping law, which bars resales for more than $2 above a ticket’s face value plus certain service charges. The House approved a bill last year that eliminates the cap, but the measure has been stalled in the Senate. State Sen. Michael Morrissey of Quincy said in a recent interview he couldn’t decide whether to remove the cap or continue to limit resales.
The Red Sox deal with Ace effectively means the team has concluded the marketplace has outrun the law. The Red Sox used to bar all ticket resales except those on the team’s now-defunct Replay system, which restricted prices to face value. Kennedy said in an interview that the team’s new policy allows resales as long as they are not excessive, fraudulent, or part of a “sweepstakes” not authorized by the Red Sox.
Kennedy says the team will do everything in its power to make sure the tickets it sells get into the hands of real fans who will use them and not resell them. He also says that he hopes fans who do resell their tickets will do so at face value, although that’s not part of the Ace business model.
The shift on ticket resales at Fenway leaves the New England Patriots as the only professional sports team to take a stand against scalping. The Patriots are currently suing StubHub Inc., the ticket resale website owned by eBay.
The Red Sox signed the corporate sponsorship arrangement with Ace after opting out of a league-wide deal between Major League Baseball and StubHub. Every other team agreed to the deal, which designates StubHub as the league’s official online ticket reseller. Terms of the deal have not been disclosed, but industry officials say StubHub paid as much as $20 million to the league and agreed to split the fees earned on each ticket sale with the league and the team involved.
Sources say the Red Sox felt the StubHub deal shortchanged the team because Sox tickets are the hottest sellers on the resale market. The sources say the one-year arrangement with Ace gives the Red Sox some breathing room to find a resale option that offers more benefit to the team and to see what happens with the Massachusetts law. Under the Ace deal, the Red Sox receive no ticket fees from Ace.
Getting around the StubHub arrangement with Major League Baseball won’t be easy because the league controls all the online operations of the teams, and any ticket resale business without an online component is probably doomed to failure.
Kennedy says the team’s position on ticket resales could change, particularly if the state law changes. “We absolutely reserve the right to change our minds in the future,” he says. “That’s why we reached a short-term agreement with Ace. We wanted to leave our options open.”