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Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Fan Sues NFL Over High-Priced Super Bowl Tickets

Tickets for Super Bowl XLIV are seen on February 5, 2010 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Michael Heiman/Getty Images)

Tickets for Super Bowl XLIV are seen on February 5, 2010 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Michael Heiman/Getty Images)

Football fan Josh Finkelman paid $4,000 for a pair of tickets to this year’s Super Bowl. Now, he’s suing the National Football League.

Finkelman believes he spent too much money for the tickets and claims the NFL only makes 1 percent of Super Bowl seats available to the general public at face value, and violated New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act.

The NFL contends it provides tickets to teams, which distribute the tickets to fans via lottery. Diane Sammons, one of Finkelman’s lawyers, joins us to discuss the case.




And tickets for the Feb. 2nd Super Bowl on the online marketplace StubHub start at $2,500-plus; 10,000 for prime seats. And Josh Finkelman of New Brunswick, N.J., says enough is enough. He paid 4,000 for the tickets to the Bowl - two of them - to the reseller; got the ticket. And it's at New Jersey's MetLife Stadium. So he's suing the NFL, saying state law requires that the league make more tickets available at face value.

Diane Sammons, of Nagel Rice LLP, is one of Josh's lawyers. And Diane, this is a class action lawsuit for all Super Bowl ticket purchasers. How do you think the NFL is violating New Jersey's Consumer Fraud Act?

DIANE SAMMONS: New Jersey has a law that basically provides that any entertainment event in the state, you have to release 95 percent of all tickets to the public at face value. And obviously, the NFL is not doing that, and is violating the New Jersey law based upon that.

And how we know that is even in their statements that they've issued in response to the lawsuit, they have basically indicated that they keep 24 percent of their tickets - and that, in and of itself, is a violation. But we believe they keep 99 percent of the tickets.

YOUNG: Well, we contacted the NFL, and they say they do keep 25.2 percent of the tickets for media members and sponsors. It'll be interesting to see what a judge says about whether an organization has the right to hold onto tickets for financial partners. But they say that they give 75 percent of the remaining tickets to the teams - the host teams; in this case, New Jersey and New York. The participating teams, which are to be determined, will get 35 percent. The other 28 teams in the league get a combined 33.6 percent.

And the NFL says all of those tickets are sold at face value to fans. And there are some people who believe that the problem is that the teams might be selling the tickets at face value, but the first in line are always the secondary sellers - the ticket outlets who jam the phone lines to get these tickets firsthand. And then they set - turn around and sell them for more. You say what?

SAMMONS: That's not what our research shows. Our research shows that the teams are getting their allocation of tickets, but that allocation of tickets is not going directly to the public, and the general public doesn't have access to those tickets. Instead, what is happening is, they're taking those tickets - the individual teams - and they're packaging them. And they're setting up contracts with, actually, resellers, who then mark up the price. And people are then paying two to three to four times the face value of the ticket.

YOUNG: So you're saying it's not that the secondary sellers are getting in line first. They're actually not even having to stand in line. They're making contracts with the teams.

SAMMONS: Exactly. And typically, these contracts look like they will purchase tickets to the rest of the season. And in exchange for these huge purchases they make of tickets for the rest of the season, they will - included in that package will be Super Bowl tickets. And these contracts are sometimes a year in advance of the actual Super Bowl.

YOUNG: Why not, then, sue the teams if - you know, because the NFL can act as if their hands are clean because they're giving the tickets to the teams.

SAMMONS: Well, no. But the law actually provides in New Jersey that they cannot withhold those tickets. So any effort on their part of withholding the tickets - it'd be one thing if they were telling the individual teams that the individual teams had to sell them at face value. And they're not putting that restriction on the teams.

YOUNG: Well, meanwhile, you're basing this on New Jersey law. Do you think it can go - you know, the Super Bowl isn't in New Jersey every year. Do you think it can extend beyond this one case?

SAMMONS: Well, you're right, that we are basing this on New Jersey law. But our hope is there's enough people that sort of understand how this actually operates, that it will put pressure on the NFL to change their policies moving forward, so that the average fan will be able to get a ticket at a reasonable price; as opposed to having to pay the figures that you noted in the beginning of the interview, which are upwards of five to six times the actual face value of the ticket.

YOUNG: That's Diane Sammons, one of the lawyers for Josh Finkelman, who's suing the NFL. Diane, thank you.

SAMMONS: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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