Tottenham Hotspur has been accused by its own supporters of encouraging ticket touts by embarking on a three-year deal with a resale website flogging match seats for up to £1,000.
StubHub was announced as “the club’s Official Ticket Resale Marketplace partner” last month in a lucrative three year deal, the financial details of which the club is keeping secret citing ‘commercial confidentiality’.
As the new Premier League season kicks off this weekend, the north London club has angered fans already struggling to cope with the second highest season ticket in the country at £1,895. Only their local rivals Arsenal charge fans more at £1,955 for its costliest season ticket.
StubHub, a subsidiary of eBay Inc. and a secondary ticketing outlet for mainly US-based sporting events, is one of a number of ticket resale websites that is accused of ‘legalised touting’. The most expensive seat for Tottenham’s first home game of the season against Swansea City next Sunday was this week being offered in the lower tier for £1,000. Another pair of tickets in the upper tier was available for £977.50. The majority of the 100-plus tickets on sale cost between £60 and £120, up to three times face value.
StubHub charges a 12 per cent commission to the seller and given the 15 per cent transaction cost to the buyer means that to recoup face value the seller of a £45 ticket would need to ask £51.15, and the buyer would therefore have to pay £58.82.
StubHub replaces the previous ticket exchange at Spurs, which enabled seats to be re-sold with around a 25 per cent deduction on face value to the season ticket holder who could then choose to use the money to reduce the price of the following year’s season ticket. With the credit option gone, the only way the buyer can get more than 85 per cent back is if the market holds up and they charge buyers over the odds from the start.
Writer and Spurs’ Supporters Trust member Martin Cloake accused Spurs of forgetting its 2006 Out the Tout campaign by now introducing arrangements that incentivise people to exploit their fellow fans and push the prices of expensive tickets even higher.
He added: “There are a number of reasons to object to the club’s deal with StubHub. Some are ethical, some more practical. The principle that you don’t sell tickets to other fans for over face value is as basic as never changing your team and it’s a core part of the social solidarity that holds supporters together.”
Mr Cloake said Spurs once shared the view that selling tickets far above face value is not right, as evidenced by its Out the Tout campaign launched in 2006. “For most fans, the only difference between the ‘secondary ticket agencies’ and the gents who mingle with the crowds outside the grounds offering to buy or sell tickets is that the former have offices and business cards, while the latter tend not to. The end result of what both do is to push up the price of tickets for fans.
“If you give a spare ticket to a member of your family or a friend for nothing, you can be banned from the ground. If you sell your ticket for face value outside the ground, you can be arrested and banned. But if you sell your ticket for five times face value on StubHub, you do so with the club’s blessing.”
Mr Cloake said that one of the most distasteful aspects of the deal is that the club attempts to distance itself from excessive pricing. In an answer to a recent Q&A session arranged between the club and itself on its website, the club said: “While we understand that some fans might be frustrated to find prices higher than they hoped, it is the season ticket member’s prerogative to list their seats at whatever price they choose.”
Mr Cloake added: “This is the National Rifle Association defence – ‘we just supply the guns, if people choose to shoot each other with them, it’s nothing to do with us’.”
Spurs blogger Ollie Bishop said: “The deal with StubHub casts serious doubt over the club’s motivation on eradicating touts. The facility allows fans to extort vast sums of money out of fellow fans and to make matters worse the club is also likely to get a slice of the deal.
“The practicalities of the deal still remain vague. Perhaps there is still a chance that the club may heed some of the fans’ concerns. But I don’t hold out too much hope for a club that is all too ready to treat its fans like consumers.”
A spokesman for Tottenham Hotspur said the majority of seats sold for the club’s first two home games had gone for face value, some for less than face value. He added: “Only season ticket holders can sell their seats and the agreement includes the clause that this can only happen once a game has sold out. Tickets listed by season ticket holders at greatly inflated prices have not sold.
“We shall continue to review and continue to encourage fans to sell at reasonable prices and the market will self-regulate on this anyway with tickets that are at unreasonable prices left unsold. We have had a strong stance against touting over a number of seasons (not just a few years ago) and will continue to do so in the future – this is in no way affected by having the deal with Stubhub in place, nor should the Stubhub ticket facility be confused with this practice.”