From the Boston Globe:
The Indianapolis Colts, like the San Diego Chargers before them, made it impossible yesterday for New England Patriots fans to buy tickets online for this Sunday’s AFC Championship game in Indianapolis.
The Colts put nearly 1,000 tickets on sale, but the only people who could buy them were walk-up customers at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis and at Ticketmaster outlets in Indiana and Louisville, Ky. No tickets were sold online or by phone.
Bruce Mohl, the author of the article, notes that the Chargers had a similar ticket policy for their playoff game against the Patriots, reasoning it would improve the homefield advantage. It may have, a-priori. Ex-post it did not.
But it’s not clear why the Colts enacted their policy. Assuming it’s for the same reason, placing such restrictions on 1,000 tickets in a 60,000 seat stadium would seem to have a negligible expected marginal effect on homefield advantage (even if there were a 100% chance that any random remaning ticket ticket would go to a Patriots fan). But any a-prior improvement in homefield advantage has an a-priori effect on revenue. If the marginal cost of taking this action is close to zero, the restrictions can be interpreted as profit-maximizing.
But we know that when there’s a will, there’s often a way. From the Worcester Telegram comes an editorial footnote about the secondary market for tickets, where these restrictions do not matter and where those who are willing and able to pay the most get the tickets.
Of course, fans for whom money is no object can buy seats from so-called “secondary sellers.” Yesterday one online site we found was selling tickets ranging from $222.50 to $2,500 and another priced tickets at $345 to $1,955. In what we can only hope was a typographical error, two other online sites were advertising tickets for seats high up in Section 330, almost at the top of the stadium, for an astounding $4,641 to $4,825.75 each.
And the secondary market makes the effect on homefield advantage even more negligible. This underlies one of the reasons why some sports teams favor scalping laws: it gives them more control over who comes to their games.
Lastly, here’s a video on some legal aspects of the Chargers’ ticket policy, video that includes analysis by Michael McCann of Sports Law Blog (HT to Michael’s post).