On Tuesday, Dan Snyder’s team announced on both his brand-new XXX ESPN network and on the Washington Redskins official Web site that this year’s Fan Appreciation Day will be held on Aug. 5 at FedExField.
The radio spots herald the “Free stadium admission!” The announcement posted on redskins.com trumpets the same slogan but with an asterisk.
Heed the asterisk.
At the business end of that mark, in fine print at the bottom of the invitation, readers learn that “car parking” to Fan Appreciation Day will cost $25. And that’s not going to get you valet service. There is no hint of the hefty parking charge in the radio spots.
Snyder’s antagonists would point out that nothing says more about his appreciation of Skins fans than paid parking. This is, after all, the same guy who in his seven years of ownership has devised such faux-fan-friendly innovations as Dream Seats and training-camp fees.
But, as Snyder apologists could rightly point out, there’s not much more you can ask of a human being than consistency.
Yet, it’s his consistency that will cause fans to be plenty suspicious about another of the Redskins’ recent commercial moves: On Monday, with no fanfare, a small link to StubHub appeared on the team’s official Web site. For the unfamiliar, StubHub is the California-based burgeoning giant in the ticket-brokerage realm. The company, which was founded in 2000, bills itself as a “secondary market seller.” But to the lay sports fan, StubHub is simply the nation’s top clearinghouse for scalpers, a place where any ticket holder can put tickets to any event up for sale and ask any price for them.
The StubHub link on redskins.com leads to a page dedicated to vending only Redskins tickets.
Beneath a Redskins logo, shoppers can choose between hundreds of single-game tickets at prices from $21 apiece (for an obstructed-view seat to a pre-season game with the Jets) to $1,000 apiece (for Dallas’ visit on Nov. 5). What’s more, even entire season-ticket packages can be had for between $799 per ticket (in Section 448) and $60,000 for a block of six in a lower-level suite. Prices for these tickets, most of which are several times face value, are set by the seller, not the team.
The logo isn’t the only indication that all the high-dollar reselling is taking place with Snyder’s blessing.
“The Redskins are currently stocked with talent all over the field as a result of the aggressive attitude of their owner, Daniel Snyder,” reads the copy under the heading “About Washington Redskins Tickets.” “The team has a tradition of success that reflects the very nature of Washington, D.C., which means that Washington Redskins tickets will continue to be a hot commodity for years to come. FedExField is situated near the heart of all that Washington, D.C. has to offer, so you can make your Redskins tickets a part of any trip that will serve the whims of anyone and everyone in your party.”
StubHub spokesperson Sean Pate wouldn’t give specifics of the deal but says the arrangement, which includes cooperative promotional components, will be worth “several million dollars to the team.” StubHub charges sellers 15 percent of the selling price as its fee.
The Redskins/StubHub linkage could be dismissed as a sign of the times. By now, most scalping transactions take place not in their traditional home—on the sidewalks outside arenas—but over the Internet. After years of trying to fight scalpers, a lot of teams are now waving the white flag and aligning themselves with services such as StubHub. Franchises including the Washington Wizards and Washington Capitals are among those to have announced agreements with StubHub in the last year. (“Cutting In the Middle Man,” Nov. 4, 2005)
“We did this because we wanted a reliable, respectable marketplace where fans can go to buy and sell tickets,” says Karl Swanson, Snyder’s spokesman. “The same reason the…Wizards and Capitals did it. We’re late to all this.”
Yet the Redskins, unlike the other major sports franchises in town, have in recent years been portrayed as being vehemently anti-scalping. In early 2005, the Redskins took away most of the Washington Post’s season tickets to FedExField at a time when the paper and the team were feuding about the sports page’s coverage. The Skins’ official reason for yanking those seats was that it had nothing to do with the Post’s reportage. Instead, the team asserted, the ticket recall was due to the discovery that some portion of the Post’s ticket block was regularly being resold at prices above face value, in clear violation of the anti-scalping rules printed on the back of every ticket.
Then, last August, Rick Snider of the Washington Times reported that the Redskins had revoked the ticket privileges of a D.C. family for selling them on eBay.
But despite those reports, Swanson now says, the Redskins have never tried to stop ticket holders from small-scale scalping. And the alignment with StubHub shows the team’s anti-scalping stance isn’t as aggressive as the aforementioned incidents indicate.
“I can’t tell you what was reported,” he says, “but I can tell you that we all along said we weren’t concerned about individuals who were selling game tickets on a one-to-one basis. We’re concerned about folks who put blocks of tickets for sale—that’s it. Nobody has ever lost tickets without being warned in advance that their tickets will be taken if they’re being resold.”
And while the team’s 2006 tickets will still have what sure seems like an anti-scalping disclaimer, Swanson says there’s no plan to enforce it to the letter.
“The back of the tickets will now say something like, ‘Sale of this ticket above its face value at a location other than StubHub may result in the loss of tickets,’” he says. “But we won’t be monitoring StubHub to look to see who’s selling tickets, just like we’ve never looked at the classified ads of the Washington Post or City Paper or anywhere to see who’s selling. We normally find out about tickets being sold from ticket holders who call and complain that there are different people sitting in the seats next to them every game. We know there are people who sell their tickets from the Dallas game to pay for the rest of the season. That’s not going to change.”
Swanson says the team even directed some folks to sell their whole season ticket packages on StubHub “because of illness or something in the family” or other hardships.
Aside from the millions in revenue that the Skins will pull in, the deal could bring some public-relations benefit to the team’s owner. After perusing Web page after Web page of Skins tickets selling for several times what Snyder charges, it’s harder to call the guy a gouger.
Even when he’s charging $25 to park on Fan Appreciation Day.
“How can you say we gouge?” Swanson asks, as if he’s never heard such a charge. “Our most expensive ticket is $99! The most expensive Wizard ticket is [$1,500]! Look at the most expensive Capitals ticket! Look at the most expensive Nationals ticket, and that’s times 80 games, not eight! Do the math! We’re cheap! We’re the best sports-entertainment value in town!”—Dave McKenna