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Hell to scalpers

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Ok, ok, I know I’m over a week late to this particular party but there’s a good reason – I’ve been giving it some thought! *gasp*

Ticket scalping was a major source of angst last week when media organisations reported that tickets to the Super Rugby final had sold out in less than a minute. It then took even less time, following that, for people who clearly never had any intention of going to the game to start trying to sell their tickets on Trade Me for ridiculous prices.

There appear to be two schools of thought on this. Scalpers are either scum of the earth who must be stopped at all costs, or entrepreneurs for whom the only laws that should apply are those of supply and demand, and Adam Smith’s invisible hand.

I definitely lean towards the former, it’s just the “at all costs” part where I get a little bit hesitant.

If tickets to every sporting event were sold at “market value” they would be priced such that they sold steadily for the week they were on sale and the last seat was taken just before kick-off.  Maybe $200-$400 for a Hurricanes Highlanders Super Rugby final in Wellington? But if tickets were that expensive people would (rightly) complain of price gouging and the sport’s governing body pricing tickets out of the reach of ordinary fans.  So they charge less than what they could make out of them in an effort to make them available to almost everyone.

Then the scalpers come along, and like morally bankrupt blood sucking leeches, they take advantage…

So what do you do about it? That’s the hard part. There seem to be two main weapons in the arsenal at the moment. One being stop Trade Me from selling them – which is fine with me but it’s not going to eradicate the problem – they will just find other ways to do it. The other is to cancel the tickets and that’s where you really lose me – it’s just re-victimising the real fans who are prepared to pay because they are desperate to go. I can’t agree with that. There must be a better solution.

One of the questions I have been mulling is should tickets be sold on a first come first served basis the way we do it here or should we adopt the balloting method? I’m leaning towards balloting. Both are lotteries of sorts. Everyone queuing or sitting by their computer at the exact time tickets go on sale – you are still relying on an element of luck, although it does reward the real diehards who are prepared to camp out overnight in order to be first in line.

On the other hand if you make everyone register for a ballot it opens up new possibilities for stopping scalpers. For example, once you caught someone buying tickets for the purpose of scalping, you could ban them for life from registering for future ballots. This may be an effective deterrent. If you wanted to, you could also have some kind of system built into a ballot that rewards diehard fans who have supported their team at every previous home game with extra entries into the ballot over and above bandwagon jumpers who only get one. I’m not sure if I support that, but it is an option.

My main problem with making value judgements about who is and isn’t deserving of a ticket is that sometimes there are good reasons why true fans can’t get to every game that don’t make them any less worthy of going to a final. I think about my own situation when I went into the ballot for the 2009 Champions League Final in Rome. Would I have deserved to be there any less than a Roma season ticket holder if our team had made the final? I would argue no. Any rationing system will create injustices.

Another possibility that is used overseas is attaching the ticket to photo identification of some kind. When you buy your ticket you need to show or enter your passport or drivers licence number, which is subsequently printed on your ticket. You then need to have that ID on you, along with your matching ticket, when you enter the ground.

This would potentially create bureaucracy and queues at the gate but maybe with modern technology it could be streamlined somewhat. If it could be made to work efficiently and everybody knew this was the case before the tickets were sold it would be highly likely to eliminate scalping.

The bottom line for me is we should be making a genuine effort to stamp out scalping because it is unjust and immoral. If we aren’t prepared to act in any of the ways above then perhaps the other alternative is for sporting bodies to cut out the middle man by applying true hands off laissez faire economics and sell the damn tickets for as much as they can get for them right from the start?

What would you prefer?

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Enzo Giordani

A grassroots sports photography enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent football club on earth - A.S. Roma.

5 replies

  1. I’ve been to gigs I really wanted to go to and gotten tickets from scalpers, I’ve not sold tickets in any way that could be called scalping. When you get the chance to see a game/concert out of the blue because there was no way you could go and then you can. Today the ticket is on the phone pretty much or soon/should be and the profession of scalping will go the way of the Candle snuffer.

  2. Reblogged this on Expat Dad SG and commented:
    Sharing Sunday: A good piece looking at the resale of tickets for sporting events. It was a big topic over here in the run up to the Super Rugby final and I’m sure will come up later in the year at the Rugby World Cup.

  3. The way forward is for supporters to be awarded loyalty points whenever they purchase tickets for any home or away fixture. The club then announce that supporters with more than X points can purchase one or two tickets. Any not sold can then be offered to anyone holding Y points. The technology is in place just get the club to use it! Worked very for my local team Reading V Arsenal selling over 35000 tickets for Wembley

  4. Thanks for your comment John! My concern with the loyalty points system is it will create injustices. Someone might have been a Reading fan their whole life, emigrated to New Zealand and then decided to fly back to the UK to see their beloved team play at Wembley. They are arguably more of a fan than someone who lives down the road and has been to every game. Does the system award points for this? What about someone who has been a season ticket holder for a decade but this year fell Ill, has battled a serious illness and is only well enough to go to the final? The team they have been following their whole life is playing at Wembley and now they can’t go because they couldn’t go to regular season games through no fault of their own? I’m sure there are other examples. I’m not saying it’s a bad system – no system is perfect but it could potentially be quite unfair.

  5. I believe that some festivals have done this… insist that individual photos are printed on the tickets? This does make them non-transferable, but it would encourage returns to go through official systems. The tickets destroyed, then re-issued for face value. To make money, there could be a percentage lost on the refund of the ticket?

    any touts would have many tickets with either their own or random images on them which couldn’t be sold or used.

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