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Ticket rage

Sep 2, 2009, 6:27 PM EDT

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The Washington Post obviously is very anxious to create a buzz about their multi-part series about issues within the Redskins ticket office. When I awoke this morning there I had an email in my box giving the outline of the initial installment of the series and a link to the story.

In the first few paragraphs we were led to believe that the throng of Steeler fans that were in full throat at last year’s Monday night game happened due to the fact that the Redskins sold general admission tickets directly to brokers. Later in the story, we find out that 443 tickets to that game were sold to brokers. That’s not good, but it certainly doesn’t account for Steeler Nation disrupting the Redskins’ offensive play calling. Many, many more tickets than that were sold to Steeler fans. I think that there were 443 of them tailgating in the spaces immediately adjacent to mine in the Green Lot.

But, hey, good bit of investigation there, WaPo, for uncovering that broker deal. Oh, wait, you didn’t uncover it? The Redskins themselves did? And they stopped it? And the disciplined the employees involved? All by themselves?

Like I said, what happened clearly was wrong. Apparently, anxious to sell some club seats, some in the ticket office packaged up some premium seats with some lower-bowl general admission seats. The former are available to anyone who calls up the ticket office and want them, the latter are supposed to go to people on the season ticket waiting list (or to upper deck ticket holders as an upgrade with the vacated nosebleeds to people on the list).

The Redskins uncovered all of this last spring and disciplined the associates involved in an unspecified manner.

This is wrong on many levels but it also was a violation of team policy. Judging from Twitter and some message boards there is some inclination out there to go after Dan Snyder with torches and pitchforks. There is no reason to think that Snyder had anything to do with this. Are you going to go after Snyder if the beer guy short changes you?

Tomorrow’s story in the Post will deal with something with which Snyder probably is more familiar. In order to get the premium seats you have to sign a contract. You can’t buy them for just a year. The contracts are for from six to 10 years. Since 2005, according to the Post, the Redskins have filed 137 lawsuits in an attempt to prevent premium ticket holders (club seats and suites) from breaking their contracts.

The angle, of course, is that the mean old Redskins are picking on individuals and struggling companies by forcing them to honor contracts that they signed. Certainly one would think that the Redskins could grant some leeway in these tough economic times. And it’s possible that they do. According to a statement that they sent out this afternoon in anticipation of the Post’s coming story, they first attempt to negotiate a compromise with the party wanting to break the deal. For every lawsuit filed they say “dozens” of successful negotiations have resulted in companies and individuals being able to get out of their agreements.

I hope that the Post story on Thursday offers up some key bits of information about these lawsuits. Among the things I would need to know before either condemning the Redskins or taking up for them are:

  • What do other NFL teams do in such situations? I’m sure that the Redskins aren’t the only team with such issues. What do Jerry Jones and Robert Kraft do when someone wants out of a premium seat deal?
  • This would require a legal opinion but I’d like to find out if what happens to future cases if you give someone a pass. In the story there is an account of one club ticket holder who wanted to get out a few years early and was sued by the team. If the team had just let this guy go, would that establish a precedent that would make it difficult for them to go after, say, a corporation with five years and a million dollars left on a deal for a suite?
  • Was that one club seat holder offered a compromise? What were the terms of the compromise offered?

I guess when someone wants to break a contract with the Washington Post corporation they are perfectly free to do so.

I also suppose that I’m going to be called a Snyder apologist by some. Sorry, but there is plenty to dislike about Snyder without piling on with stuff like this. I’d rather have all of the facts before I make a judgement.

Update: TV station USA 9 reports that on his radio show, LaVar Arrington has said that Snyder “had to know” about the ticket sales because he is a “tyrant”. Now let’s see, Arrington is an unbiased source since he has no ax to grind with Snyder, right?

  1. tdbowles - Sep 2, 2009 at 10:40 PM

    honestly Rich, I think your take is dead on. as a season ticket holder, i wish they had not packaged the regular tix with the premium ones and given us a chance to move down from 449 and others a chance to get their season tix outright. the fact that La Canfora contributed to the article immediately puts me on alert about if there was an agenda or not. as for Lavar: i am very happy that 106.7 exists b/c it pushes 980 to do a better job, but LAvar’s show is not the voice of the fan as they claim, but the voice of the fan who wants to slam the redskins in just about every way possible.

  2. Rodskin - Sep 3, 2009 at 1:30 AM

    this is all for nothing. its not like there will suddenly be any lower bowl tickets available for home games at face value. so whats the point? speaking of ax to grind, didnt snyder stop giving tickets to the post because they were selling them to there staff a few years back?

  3. jbanks97 - Sep 3, 2009 at 7:50 AM

    You Wrote:
    What do other NFL teams do in such situations? I’m sure that the Redskins aren’t the only team with such issues. What do Jerry Jones and Robert Kraft do when someone wants out of a premium seat deal?

    (From the article)
    But spokesmen for the following National Football League teams said they do not sue their fans over season ticket contracts: Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, Green Bay Packers, Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars, New York Giants and Jets, Seattle Seahawks and Tennessee Titans.

    I will call you a Snyder apologist and ask you how, regardless of the legality of the actions, forcing your own fans into bankrupcy is a good business practice?

  4. Rich Tandler - Sep 3, 2009 at 8:53 AM

    You tell me what the other 18, unaccounted for teams do and I might have an answer. I’d also like to see what the Washington Post does when corporations and individuals default on contracts.

  5. ex-ticket holder - Sep 3, 2009 at 10:43 AM

    the point is that while legally they certainly have a right to sue for broken contracts, it is an amazingly callous thing thing for a business to do–especially a business that is so intertwined with local identity, tradition, history, etc. the fact that they are then reselling these tickets makes their legal actions seem greedier as they double dip.

  6. JH - Sep 3, 2009 at 10:58 AM

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. Great post, Rich.

  7. Hoff - Sep 3, 2009 at 12:01 PM

    @ex-ticket holder
    That’s what makes his comparision to the Washington Post so appropriate IMO. Like the Redskins, the Post is tied to local identity with tradition and history so important. So if a company, say, wants to advertise with the Post and then breaks that contract, would you say the Post is in the wrong if they sue that company for failure to uphold the contract? And if the Post then sells that advertising to another company, would that be a greedy double dip?

    Seriously, people. Enough with the double standard.

  8. Rich Juliano - Sep 3, 2009 at 3:09 PM

    Wapo is so bias. I have been a season ticket holder since 77 and in business much of my life. I had several ventures with former Redskins where we signed a lease and the business failed. We tried to renegotiate and the landlords refused. You signed a lease you have to pay. No mercy. We closed the business down they got a judgement against us and we paid and honored our commitment which really hurt but we paid what we owed.
    I had great seats in RFK in the upper deck in section 513 row 19 When we moved to FedEx those same seats were about 10 stories higher. I wrote a letter to the Redskins and asked to have my seats upgraded. I never had to buy or pay anything. How ever many years it has been now, I am on my seventh move around the stadium each time getting better and my third move down in the lower bowl. My seats have been getting better and better no strings attached.

    It’s been my experience that if you are well off a lot of people will be jealous and say cruel and unwarranted things about you.

    Mr Snyder takes all of the heat for a stadium location that was built by JKCooke and driven to MD. by the mayor of the District.
    Just my two cents.

    Oh by the way, those landlords re leased the buildings and did not offer any back to us.
    That is business folks.

  9. YR - Sep 3, 2009 at 7:35 PM

    Wow, way to shill for Snyder, Rich. I hope your check is in the mail.

    Look, I understand that the contract that the fans signed was legally binding and that the team has every right to enforce said contract. However, this is a case where Snyder is right in the short-term and yet wrong in the long-term. Sure, he may recover a few pennies here and there from the judgements. However, how difficult does that make selling those club seats next year? Two, three, four, ten years in the future?

    In the back of every potential customer who’s presented with the Redskins’ iron-clad indentured servitude, ‘er premium seating contract will be the nagging idea that the team is likely to sue them if things go badly for them 5 or 6 years down the road.

    Short sighted tactics like “ticket-gate”, charging for admission to training camp, obstructed view seats, preventing fans from walking from non-team owned parking sites etc. only serve to reinforce the image of Snyder as a callous and incompetent owner bent on sticking it to the fans.

    I’m still a fan of the team but they’ve lost me as a customer. As long as Dan Snyder owns the Redskins, they’ll never get another penny of my money.

  10. Rich Tandler - Sep 3, 2009 at 8:22 PM

    I shill for nobody, YR. Nor do I start foaming at the mouth every time the name Dan Snyder is mentioned.

  11. Boss Hog - Sep 3, 2009 at 8:47 PM

    Rich, I love the Skins, love your blog, and find myself defending Snyder more often than attacking him. He’s made his share of mistakes, sure, but I’ve never doubted his commitment to the Redskins franchise or his blood lust for a Super Bowl. I’d far, far rather have Snyder as owner than a thoughtful, community-oriented chap who doesn’t care enough about winning and isn’t willing to spend what it takes.

    That said — I think you’re wrong here. Sure, the Redskins probably aren’t alone in suing their fans for multiyear ticket contracts. But as the article pointed out, there are also PLENTY of teams (in the NFL and other sports) that draw the line at suing their own fans. Do these teams, including the huge-market New York Giants, all struggle to make a profit because their free-riding fans are breaching contracts at will? Obviously not.

    Meanwhile, the Redskins literally suing the Little Old Lady Next Door for her multiyear contract. I’m not saying that the article isn’t a bit slanted against the Skins, or that Snyder is some kind of rapacious super-villain, but seriously — this is not a necessary business practice. The Redskins, I understand, are a profit-maximizing corporation, but the fact is that they’re also a social institution of significant importance to the community. And they know this, too — why else do they make such a big deal about community interaction, charity work, etc etc?

    These multiyear, 6-figure contracts are practically built to ruin fans’ finances. If the Redskins could admit that to themselves, they’d figure out how to compromise with the ticket owners who’ve been burned (like other teams do) and then re-sell the tickets on the open market (as they’re already doing anyway). That way they’d avoid these publicity-killing articles that already feed into the team’s image as a ravenous corporate monster, and, as a bonus, they’d be doing the right thing.

    Do you see where I’m coming from?

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