On top of tickets sold directly through the teams, there is a secondary market of tickets sold through other sources. There are more than 60 such secondary markets through which sports tickets are sold every year, including Stubhub, eBay and TicketNetwork.com. To identify the five teams with the highest ticket prices, 24/7 Wall St. examined a two-year average of secondary-market ticket prices for each team complied by SeatGeek, a search engine for event tickets.
It stands to reason that popular teams with strong fan bases can charge their fans more. But are secondary-market tickets even more reflective of demand? After examining the data and speaking with an expert on the subject, 24/7 Wall St. found that is indeed the case.
“What we’ve seen is that ticket prices on secondary market are a great proxy of fan interest and fan sentiment,” says SeatGeek’s director of communications, Will Flaherty. “When Jeremy Lin played for the Knicks, we saw over 200% ticket price increases on the secondary market.” Of course, regular season tickets could not have increased at this rate. The secondary-market tickets were more reflective of fan demand.
While teams do offer tickets through their own box offices, Flaherty says these can often be more expensive than going through a middleman, “If you want a very good seat … often times those tickets are not available at the box office, and if they are, they’re prohibitively expensive,” Flaherty says. “And so in many cases you can not only get access to those types of tickets [through secondary sources], but you can actually get them for lower prices.” Because some ticket holders are trying to resell premium seats, he explains, seats often cost less than what the team is selling them for. “For example, your average outfield bleacher ticket for a mid-week Yankees home game will cost around $20 from Yankees.com after taxes and fees, while secondary market sites have tickets in the identical section starting at $10.”
Several key factors influence high ticket prices in professional sports. These include the long-term popularity of the team, the historical size of its fan base, the availability of seating, the number of games played each year and the short-term success a franchise is experiencing.
Most of the teams on our list have one of the following two factors going for them. In many cases, the franchise has been extremely successful in recent years, regularly making it to the playoffs, winning championships, drawing star talent and driving up the fan base. Some teams also rely on their history and large market to bring in fans. And some teams fulfill both of these criteria.
SeatGeek compiled a list of average secondary-market ticket prices over a two-year period, which is the longest period available for the NFL. In order to measure the success and popularity of these teams, 24/7 Wall St. examined attendance and win-loss records for each team for the past decade. In the case of the NFL, we considered attendance data from 2008 to the present. We also looked at the financial well-being of these franchises based on data published by Forbes, which includes team revenue, operating income and estimated value.
This article is an excerpt from The 20 Most Expensive Tickets in Sports, which originally appeared on 24/7 Wall St. on June 5, 2012.
#5: Green Bay Packers
Avg. ticket price: $213.43
W-L past 10 years: 61.9% (5th highest)
Championships past 10 years: 1
Avg. home attendance: 70,512
The Green Bay Packers’ unique story as a nonprofit, publicly owned corporation began in 1923. Today, 360,000 stockholders serve as stewards of this very healthy team. Secondary-sale Packers tickets demand an average of a little over $213 each, the fifth-highest figure in the NFL. The Packers are also one of the most successful teams on the field. They have appeared in five Super Bowls in their franchise’s history, winning four. Green Bay’s success continued in the past decade with the team winning 99 games — a number bested by only three teams — and the Super Bowl in 2010. Their home stadium, Lambeau Field, is located in one of the most sparsely populated metropolitan regions to host a professional team.
#4: Dallas Cowboys
Avg. ticket price: $214.71
W-L past 10 years: 53.8% (11th highest)
Championships past 10 years: 0
Avg. home attendance: 85,512
The Dallas Cowboys were once dubbed “America’s team” and the name stuck. Despite notching no Super Bowl victories in the past decade and making the playoffs just four times in that time, Cowboys secondary tickets are the fourth-most expensive in the NFL, averaging just short of $215 each. The franchise is valued at $1.85 billion, tied with the New York Yankees for the most valuable team in North America. This valuation is due in part to the Cowboys’ move from Texas Stadium to Cowboys Stadium, which increased capacity by nearly 15,000 seats.
#3: Chicago Bears
Avg. ticket price: $219.82
W-L past 10 years: 51.3% (13th highest)
Championships past 10 years: 0
Avg. home attendance: 62,145
A top-10 franchise in terms of value, the Chicago Bears have had only middling success in recent years. Chicago has tallied just 82 victories in the past 10 seasons, 13th of 32 NFL franchises. The Bears have had no Super Bowl wins in the past decade, though they appeared in one back in 2006, losing to Peyton Manning and the Colts. Still, Soldier Field patrons pay an average of almost $220 on the secondary market for the right to watch their Bears take the field, part of the reason the team’s revenue has increased every year for the past ten seasons.
#2: New York Giants
Avg. ticket price: $238.45
W-L past 10 years: 55.0% (8th best)
Championships past 10 years: 2
Avg. home attendance: 79,475
The New York Giants, though they play their home games in New Jersey, averaged the second-most fans per game of any NFL team in 2011 at 79,475. Those fans buying tickets on the secondary market paid a little over $238 a ticket, second most in all of sports. The Giants have also been one of the most successful teams on the field. In the past decade, the G-Men have won two Super Bowls — in 2007 and 2011 — and made six playoff appearances. The team’s revenue rose every year in that period and jumped $52 million between 2010 and 2011. In 2010, the Giants moved into the brand new MetLife Stadium, which has a permanent capacity of 82,566, the highest permanent capacity of any NFL stadium.
#1: New England Patriots
Avg. ticket price: $241.86
W-L past 10 years: 76.9% (highest)
Championships past 0 years: 3
Avg. home attendance: 68,756
The New England Patriots have been a fixture in the postseason during the past decade, missing the playoffs only twice and winning three Super Bowls. Given that success, it is no surprise the average price of a Pats ticket on the secondary market is the highest in sports, at just short of $242. There has been no change in attendance at Gillette Stadium over the past four years because during that time the Patriots sold every seat for every game. The franchise’s finances have mirrored the success on the field, and at $1.4 billion, it is the third-highest valued team in NFL. That figure is even more impressive when considering that Robert Kraft bought the team in 1994 for only $172 million.
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