The San Francisco 49ers kick off their preseason, but in the meantime, they have more legal issues on their plate. The team faces an age discrimination lawsuit, and now they also face a ticket policy lawsuit. A season ticket holder filed suit against the 49ers and Ticketmaster, claiming violations of the Sherman Antitrust Act, due to online ticketing policies.
I have embedded the lawsuit below for you to read at your leisure. The 49ers moved to entirely electronic tickets for the upcoming season. In the past, season ticket holders would receive a book of physical tickets each season. This year, the team is not printing out physical tickets, instead creating an entirely virtual system. Fans can still print out the PDF of their ticket, but otherwise they will simply use the team's stadium app for tickets.
In addition to turning this into an entirely electronic system, if you want to print out a physical version of your ticket, the team requires that you wait until 72 hours before the game. The team claims "cases of fraud or duplicate ticket sales are significantly reduced by limiting the amount of time people have access to 'live' tickets." I can say that having worked in ticket sales for the Oakland Athletics and Bowie Baysox, there is some measure of truth to this. We did not have a crazy amount of fraud on tickets, but it was certainly issue that could pop up from time to time.
The 49ers still allow fans to sell tickets on the secondary ticket market ahead of the 72-hour window. The purchaser simply cannot print out the ticket until that 72-hour window. The lawsuit contends the 49ers system forces fans to use the NFL's secondary ticket site, NFL Ticket Exchange, which is why Ticketmaster is in the lawsuit. However, I went through other ticket sites and was able to purchase tickets in advance.
I have a hunch this lawsuit will not last long, but it is just one of many ticket-related lawsuits this year. The Golden State Warriors and Ticketmaster are being sued by StubHub because of a new policy the team instituted this year. Stubhub claims the Warriors told season-ticket holders that if they re-sold their tickets through any site other than Ticketmaster's exchange, their ticket privileges would be revoked.
While I think the situation is fine at this point, I would not be surprised if the 49ers policy (and that of other teams) evolved to put more and more pressure on fans to use the NFL Ticket Exchange. The league is looking for every possible way to nickel and dime the fans. The most recent example is removing NFL Preseason Live as a stand-alone $20 option, and forcing people to buy it as part of a $99.99 package that includes NFL Rewind. For fans who had only used Preseason Live in the past, they either don't get it, or spend five times as much for it (reminder on how to watch at least one preseason game free instead of buying that service).
I'd certainly hope teams would not push fans further and further into a corner on this kind of thing, but the league has shown no qualms maximizing any and all revenue streams. It is their business to do as they choose, but it has grown more and more annoying. The NFL is the biggest dog on the block, and they are going to make sure and take full financial advantage of that.