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Hundreds of Super Bowl Ticket Holders Left Without Seats

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In the weeks leading up to the Super Bowl, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones admitted he wanted to set a record for highest Super Bowl attendance. His plans included adding more seats to their Cowboys stadium and setting up outdoors tents and large viewing screens so they could sell the event to NFL fans at $200 a pop for standing room only “seats.” It was actually more like spending $200 to stand outside a stadium, drink $10 beers,  and say you were at the Super Bowl, even if you actually couldn’t enter the building or see the field.

I have no problem with Jerry Jones wanting to set a Super Bowl attendance record, and no problem with him selling tickets to watch the game on a large screen for $200. It’s an event and people can make their decisions on how they want to spend their money. The problem comes when greed gets in the way of delivering on promises. Jerry Jones and the NFL sold tickets for seats which didn’t exist. Well, they actually did exist, but they were added at the last minute for the Super Bowl and fire marshals didn’t have time to completely inspect the seats, rendering them useless for the big game. This caused the NFL to turn away over 400 paying fans.

Seriously? When, Mr. Jones, did you know your team was hosting the Super Bowl? When did you decide upon how many tickets to sell? And you couldn’t organize the simple act of arranging a fire marshal inspection for the seats you added to your stadium?

NFL Offers Triple Refunds for Displaced Fans

So how does that work? Is it the ticket holder, or the person who purchased the ticket? I imagine they have a list of everyone who made the purchase, as I imagine almost all tickets were sold online. But you have to think that a large portion of those Super Bowl tickets were bought on the secondary market for more than face value. What about those who spent more than three times face value to get those tickets? They end up losing money on the deal. Talk about adding insult to injury.

Did the NFL offer enough?

Personally, I don’t think the NFL is offering these fans enough restitution for something they should have prevented. The Super Bowl is, for most people, a once in a lifetime event. The average American can’t afford to drop several thousand dollars on tickets and transportation on an annual basis. Add to the equation the fact that many of these displaced ticket holders are lifelong fans of their team and it compounds the effect. How would you feel if you waited years for the opportunity to watch the Super Bowl in person and you bought a legitimate ticket, spent hundreds, or even thousands of dollars on transportation, lodging, and food, only to find out the NFL oversold the event and your ticket was no longer good?

The only other industry I am aware of that consistently oversells seats to an event is the airline industry, and they have a well known method for providing restitution – they first ask for volunteers for a later flight, usually accompanied with a voucher for a meal, overnight stay, or free airline ticket. If they don’t get volunteers, they bump someone to a later flight, and again usually offer a free ticket voucher. The NFL should do the same.

My thoughts on what the NFL should do. Offering 3x the paid ticket price is a start. But Jerry Jones and the NFL should do more than offer 3x the ticket price. They should cover the ticket price and offer the displaced ticket holders a comparable ticket to next year’s Super Bowl.

I’m not the only person who thinks the NFL hasn’t done enough. One of my favorite sportswriters shares his thoughts:

@SI_JonHeyman : displaced ticketholders should be given 5X cost plus freebie tickets, transport and hotel to next year’s super bowl. #cheapskateleague

What do you think? Should the NFL offer more than triple restitution, or is that fair enough?

Update: The NFL promised to give free tickets to next year’s Super Bowl and a refund of triple the cost of the $800 face value of the ticket to the 400 fans denied seats as part of the compensation (source: CNN).

Update 2 (2/9/2011): The NFL followed up Tuesday, announcing the 400 fans could choose from a ticket to any future Super Bowl, including next year’s, along with airfare and hotel, or the original $2,400 payout (source: CNN).

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Published or updated August 22, 2011.
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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Money Beagle

Mr. Jones should have set aside a few tickets to encourage the fire marshal to get there faster and do the inspection!

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2 NatalieMac

I don’t know – somehow even free tickets to next year’s event doesn’t seem adequate. For example, say I’m a gigantic life-long Packers fan and I had tickets to this year’s game and then couldn’t get in. Next year, the Packers might not even play in the Super Bowl – do I care half as much about being at the Super Bowl when my lifelong favorite team isn’t even there? In some ways, it’s a missed opportunity that just can’t be reconciled with any amount of refunded ticket money or future free tickets.

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3 Ryan

NatalieMac, I couldn’t agree more – it’s not the dollar value fans are looking for. But the same thing can be equated to an overbooked flight – especially if the airline’s fault caused you to miss an important family or business event. No amount of money could make up for that lost opportunity. It’s a touch situation for the NFL, but even worse for the fans.

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4 Donny Gamble

That is why they should have gotten their early so they would have had seats

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5 Ryan

I think it was the whole section of people who didn’t get the seats, I don’t believe it was an open seating section like bleachers that didn’t have numbers on them. Either way, I don’t think anyone can place the blame on the fans – when you have an official ticket, you expect a seat.

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6 Dan

Mr. Jones should have allowed some of those ticket holders into his skybox. And shared his Don Perignon with them.

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7 Steve

Thanks for the mention! And I’m with Dan – a public relations disaster could easily have been avoided if those people had been wined and dined, maybe allowed on the field after the game…. I don’t know, but Natalie’s completely correct that it would take HUGE compensation if you were a real fan of either team. If I’m a huge Jets fan (and I am), and they make the Super Bowl next year, it will be the first time in 43 years. If I missed it, chances seem good like I’m going to be in assisted living the next time they make it.

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