Stubhub: Consumers welcome, supporters optional

Spurs fans in the stands
Last month the club confirmed the details of its partnership with Stubhub, an eBay-owned, secondary-market ticket broker. Total Tottenham’s Steve Maloney has examined the nature of this deal and its implications.

Since 2006/2007 season ticket holders who are unable to attend home matches have been able to re-sell their tickets to the club for around 80% of the price. The club then makes the seat available for members to purchase at face value. It’s a system Arsenal and Liverpool also use and there is no record of it being the source of any unhappiness or dissatisfaction from Tottenham supporters.

From 2013/2014 however, these tickets will be re-sold in a different way; via Stubhub. Firstly, season ticket holders will re-list the tickets themselves, on the website of “the world’s largest ticket marketplace”, and will be able to set their own price for their tickets. Also, these tickets will be available to anybody and buyers will pay a 15% fee on top of the ticket price which will go to StubHub, not the club. This scheme is only available for matches which are sold out but, according  to the club’s FAQ supplied to the Tottenham Hotspur Supporters’ Trust (point 4), that means every single home Premier League match.

So what does this mean for Tottenham fans? Well if you’re a season ticket holder you can ask for, and in the case of matches against the top 4/5 teams are virtually guaranteed, a higher price for your re-sold ticket. The hope is season ticket holders will charge face value should they choose to re-sell, but it’s an initiative that encourages self-interest and for fan to profit from fan. If you’re a member it is now harder for you to get those re-sold tickets because your membership offers you no advantage. You’ll still have a chance of getting a ticket before they go on general sale but after that it’s about how much you’re prepared to pay. And for non-members? Well if you want a ticket it is likely it will be easier to get one but only if you’re prepared to pay more. It is telling that this initiative does nothing to encourage the attendance of people the club is already guaranteed money from (through season tickets and membership fees) but makes it easier for those it isn’t.

It’s easy to generalize but think about whom this new scheme encourages to come to games and whom this initiative encourages to stay at home. There is now greater incentive for season ticket holders, those more likely to have been long-term fans and to have a deeper emotional investment in the club and contribute to the atmosphere, to miss games. Given that these tickets will then be sold to the highest bidder, who is likely to be a more affluent non-member and who is unlikely to have the same emotional investment, it is very difficult to believe the atmosphere will benefit and far easier to see how it will suffer. This is a long-term and football-wide problem of course but this feels like a further step in the wrong direction. Also note the use of ‘anybody’ in my second paragraph. The club has promised to eject any trouble makers but there is nothing obvious in place to stop opposition supporters purchasing these tickets. Either they will be smart enough to hide their allegiance or will be thrown out should trouble start but the damage will have been done: it’s another seat that won’t be filled by a passionate Tottenham fan.

A further point of depression is that the introduction of Stubhub completely undermines the clubs previous stance on ticket touting. Spurs’ ‘Out the Tout’ campaign (‘For the good of genuine supporters…’) was publicised as a fight to put and keep tickets in the hands of Tottenham supporters at reasonable prices and to combat the fundamental immorality of tickets being re-sold for profit. Sadly, it’s now clear that it was nothing of the sort. The club’s motivation behind this deal is so clear it couldn’t help but articulate it in its own FAQ “This is a commercial arrangement. Football clubs always need new income streams”. Its assertion that ‘the club will not receive any revenue from any tickets sold through’ is remarkably and disingenuously patronising and is undermined both by its own words and by the advertising boards around the ground. It wasn’t the money coming out of our pockets they had a problem with; they just wanted a piece of the action.

This isn’t a watershed moment. The days of loyal fans funding top division clubs are long gone (if they ever truly existed.) and ticket prices spiralled out of control well over a decade ago. But this is another sign of the club prioritising those who can pay the most over those who care the most. It’s further evidence that football clubs now see supporters as interchangeable faceless consumers rather than a living, breathing entity who might not fund the club on their own but who define and sustain it and without whose loyalty, passion and dedication it simply would not exist.

Steve is a Spurs fan of 20 years and a former season ticket holder in the west stand. Follow Steve on Twitter: @SteveJMaloney

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3 comments on “Stubhub: Consumers welcome, supporters optional
  1. Vinny says:

    Cracking blog mate, particularly pertinent point re. emotional investment and atmosphere.

  2. Thomas Pock says:

    I have to respectfully disagree with some of what you said there. Yes, visiting fans can buy tickets in the Spurs supporters section, but if you’re a die-hard fan making very little money, you can’t afford a season ticket. This allows you to splurge on one game rather than paying for 19+. I don’t feel going to every home game ALWAYS equates to being the most passionate fan.

  3. Steve says:

    Thanks for commenting and I take your point. But ‘likely’ and ‘unlikely’ are employed liberally in that paragraph because we can only talk about a crowd of over 30,000 across 19 league matches in trends and demographics and what are the most plausible consequences of certain changes. Is every single fan with a season ticket holder more vocal and passionate than every non-member? Of course not, as you rightly assert. Is a crowd populated with significantly fewer season ticket holders and more non-members likely to generate less atmosphere? I think it’s a safe assumption to say it will.