Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Sportz Court: The Yankees Striking Out On Threats Against StubHub?

By Conor Flahive

The battle between the New York Yankees and online ticket broker StubHub has heated up since the Yankees announced in December that the team was opting out of the MLB’s ticket re-sale agreement with StubHub.

Hal Steinbrenner, the team’s managing partner, announced earlier this month that ticket holders will instead be able sell their seats to other fans on the Yankees Ticket Exchange, a technology powered by StubHub’s resale competitor Ticketmaster. Without naming StubHub, Steinbrenner added, “it is unfortunate that unscrupulous resellers utilize deceptive practices and tactics.” After StubHub fired back, announcing its intentions to open a Yankees pickup location across the street from the stadium, the Yankees pushed a step further. Lonn Trost, the team’s chief operationg officer, said the team was looking into whether StubHub’s proposed location at 68 E. 161st St. would violate New York State’s ticket resale laws.

At first glance, the Yankees may have an argument. NYACA § 25.01 prohibits the resale of tickets within 1,500 feet of any place of entertainment seating more than 5,000. However, the law allows ticket resale companies to designate an area within the property line of such place of entertainment for the lawful resale of tickets. Thus, while the Yankees can make it difficult for StubHub to sell Yankees tickets, it does not appear to be illegal for StubHub to do so.

What is at the bottom of all of this? Publicly, the Yankees are saying that StubHub is using deceptive business practices to deflate the value of Yankees tickets. However, the Yankees’ real problem with the MLB’s StubHub partnership is that while a team will sell tickets on their website for say, $50 per ticket, the same page has a link to StubHub where fans can get those same tickets for only a fraction of the price.

Ironically, after a fan sued the Yankees and StubHub for alleged deceptive business practices in 2013, U.S. District Judge John F. Keenan dismissed the suit, stating that if a consumer is forced to pay a price that is different than face value for a Yankees ticket, “it is due to the economic forces of supply and demand, not StubHub’s deceptive business practices.”

Considering that attendance was way down last season, maybe the real problem is that the Yankees’ ticket prices are too high!

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