Before the start of the NFL season, Eric Gillin, editor of Esquire.com, compared this year’s New England Patriots to Communist China. At the time, he focused mainly on positives, including the team’s enormous potential and the “for the greater good” mentality of its players, as the basis for the comparison. So it was only appropriate when Chairman Belichick and the Patriots, adding an ironic twist to the analogy, were caught spying on their opponents. But now, with the team squashing the capitalistic impulses of fans everywhere, it’s getting downright scary.
As reported last week, “The New England Patriots have won a bid to get the names of all the fans who bought or sold — or tried to buy or sell — tickets to home games through online ticket reseller StubHub.”
The Patriots cited team rules against reselling tickets, except through their own TeamExchange Website, and Massachusetts anti-scalping laws in a lawsuit filed against the San Francisco-based online ticket reseller last November. They argued that they had the right to know who was violating their policies, in order to take action against them, including revoking season tickets. StubHub countered by saying the Patriots’ demands infringed upon the company’s confidentiality agreement with its customers. In the end, a Superior Court judge ordered StubHub to turn over the names, addresses, and phone numbers of over 13,000 customers.
But all the talk of rules is sort of a joke. The Patriots have stood by their cheating coach and HGH-using safety Rodney Harrison. They’ve embraced “once-in-a-blue-moon” pot-smoker Randy Moss. It’s clear that breaking the rules is fine by the Patriots when it’s not their rules. No, this is about money — the Patriots want more of it, and StubHub is so good at getting it that eBay paid $310 million to buy the company in January.
Still, it will be interesting to watch the booming online ticket resale market. While some states have repealed anti-scalping laws, the Patriots aren’t the only team with their own exchange site. It’s conceivable that other teams looking to cash in could take similar action against StubHub in the future. Or they could go the way of the Washington Nationals, who allow fans to receive bar-coded “tickets” via text message, making it impossible for outside vendors to compete with the team’s online exchange.
In the mean time, InformationWeek reports an increase in Patriots tickets offered on Craigslist. It looks like the Patriots’ Republic of New England has work to do yet.