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Broker sues after Colts cancel season-ticket renewal

April 4, 2016

A Pennsylvania ticket broker is suing the Indianapolis Colts over their revocation of his season tickets—a legal skirmish other brokers say appears to be fallout from efforts by the team to gain greater control over the secondary market and thin the ranks of resellers.

In the suit filed March 21 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division, Yehuda Frager claims the Colts declined to let him renew the same 94 tickets he bought in 2015 for the upcoming season. Frager said he paid more than $75,000 for the tickets.

Frager’s lawyer, Chicago attorney Matthew Topic, said season tickets are the property of the season-ticket holder, and that the team has no legal right to withhold them.

“This is a dispute the Colts should be able to work out with my client,” Topic told IBJ. “I would hope the Colts could come to an amicable resolution with my client.”

Sources close to the team said the Colts are taking a hard line with out-of-town ticket brokers and an amicable resolution is unlikely.

Colts officials declined to comment on the dispute or their ticket-sales policies.

Some local brokers said they heard Frager’s tickets were redistributed to another broker and that this might be the team’s first step in trying to more tightly control the secondary market by allowing fewer—and possibly just one—ticket broker to handle secondary sales.

“The Colts are in the process of revoking tickets from resellers, especially those out of town,” said Renny Harrison, owner of Carmel-based Fanfare Tickets. “They’re in the process of consolidating accounts.”

It’s not uncommon for sports teams and leagues to try to exert control over the secondary market. Every major U.S. sports league—including the NFL—has a league-sanctioned ticket exchange. The NFL’s ticket exchange is run by Ticketmaster.

Many teams also have an exchange. The Colts set up theirs in 2008.

“Teams want to control the floor,” Harrison said. “They don’t want to see a glut of tickets selling for $5 or $10.”

He questioned the logic of the Colts’ move.

“Just putting the tickets in the hands of two or three guys doesn’t mean they’ve become more valuable,” he said. “That’s determined by the play on the field.”

Sports marketers said putting a limit on how low a preferred ticket broker can sell tickets might help the team sell more through the box office.

In the long run, the Colts’ changes are bad for fans, said Mike Peduto, president of locally based Circle City Tickets.

“Ticket brokers add liquidity to the market,” said Peduto, whose firm started in 1985.

“We’re a marketplace people can trust, and it’s an efficiency issue for a lot of Colts fans to use us,” he added. “I think any move to cut out ticket resellers could really be bad for public relations for the team.”

Harrison said he’s even heard that some Colts fans who often sell their tickets have had their tickets revoked by the team.

“The one thing I would have an issue with would be the Colts soliciting everyone to resell their tickets through their platform or the league’s platform, then they’re taking that data and using it against you,” Harrison said.

“There’s some threshold that gets your tickets taken away based on data they get through their own exchange. And they never tell you what the threshold is.

“The Colts exchange is a good, safe platform, but I’m guessing I’m never going to sell another ticket on it again.”

Harrison said Frager’s lawsuit has “potential,” but he called it a “long shot” that Frager will win.

Daniel B. Fitzgerald, a Connecticut-based attorney specializing in sports law, said unhappy ticket brokers cut out by the Colts have little hope of getting tickets back.

“A ticket to a sporting event constitutes a revocable license,” he said.

A revocable license provides the license holder with a limited spectrum of rights such as the right to attend the game, sit in the assigned seat, and use the stadium facilities made available to the public, he said.

“Those rights can essentially be revoked by the team at any time and for any reason,” Fitzgerald said.

The terms of the license—usually found on the back of the ticket—are intentionally broad, “providing the team with the power to take any action it deems necessary to promote the intended atmosphere,” Fitzgerald said. 

“Are the terms overly broad and unfair? Possibly,” he said. “But by purchasing a ticket, the fan agrees to adhere to these terms.”

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