Sunday, August 28, 2011

Football, preseason ticket prices

I made the mistake of watching The Sports Reporters on ESPN this morning and their discussion of preseason football.  These are always the same: the starters don’t play, the games are of poor quality, and yet the fans are still paying a full ticket price for the game.  And this is trotted out as an argument in favor of getting rid of these games.  But a moments thought should tell you that the ticket price argument is really, really silly.

That fans are being forced to pay regular season ticket prices for inferior preseason games is true only in the accounting sense, but is otherwise nonsense.  It isn’t a surprise or unexpected that the preseason games are as they are, so the season ticket holder—and that’s who we are talking about—is getting what he pays for.  The fan is paying a single price for a season of football.  Just like a golfer pays a single green fee for 18 holes of golf, of which there maybe non-descript par threes and spectacular par fives.

Non-Club season ticket prices for the Chicago Bears average $112.  So the season ticket holder is paying $1,120 for eight regular season games and two exhibition games.  If the fan places $0 value on the exhibition games he isn’t getting ripped off since he knows what he is going to get from those contests.  What he is doing is paying $140 for the eight regular season games.  What it says on the ticket is irrelevant.

A more interesting line of inquiry is why teams price this way.  The first preseason game for Tampa was blacked out because it wasn’t sold out, much to the annoyance of its fans.  If preseason games were priced to clear, with a corresponding increase in prices for regular season games you would think everyone would be better off.

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