Sunday, May 17, 2009

George Will and Ohio State Ticket Scalpers

George Will, one of the great defenders of capitalism, has an article, “Greed’s Saving Graces,” arguing for the self regulatory powers of unregulated markets. He discusses in particular the issue of ticket scalping. Of interest to Ohio State fans, Will uses the case of the Ohio State versus Penn State football game last year. I was one of those people trying to get tickets in the weeks before the game. The game was at Ohio State and was being played on Saturday night, unlike most college football games which are played on Saturday afternoon. As a graduate student I did not have several hundred dollars to pay for a ticket so it was the apartment building lounge for me. For those of you who are not Ohio State or Penn State fans, Terrelle Pryor, Ohio State’s new superstar quarterback blew it in the last few minutes and Ohio State lost 13-6.

I have mixed feelings about ticket scalping. As a believer in free markets I am inclined to oppose any attempt to regulate ticket scalping; ticket scalpers are just the free market at work. The problem, though, is that it is in the interest of both fans and teams to keep the price of tickets depressed below market levels. This helps the pocket book of your average fan as they usually do not have hundreds of dollars to spend on a sporting event. As for the teams, they need to cultivate a fan base and that means creating fans while they are still young. People tend to become fans of teams, particularly of the sort willing to spend hundreds of dollars, because they were taken to games when they were children. If teams do not make it economically feasible for parents to come to games with their children they are committing long term suicide.

Tickets to sporting events are freely entered contracts between parties. As a free economic entity, sports teams have the right to stipulate terms to the contracts they sign with ticket buyers and this can include stipulations against reselling to ticket at above marked prices. Since the enforcement of contracts is a legitimate function of government, the government is perfectly justified in aiding sports teams by going after scalpers.

At the end of the day I recognize that this is not going to be a plausible. It is too difficult to regulate scalpers; the market interests are just too strong. If scalping is ever to be brought down it is going to have to be the society of fans. To bring this back to Ohio State, we Ohio State fans are a community so we should look out for eachother. We know that there are only a 105,000 seats in the Horseshoe; any ticket you buy means some other fan does not get to go. If you pay above marked prices for tickets you are taking a seat away from a fan who does not have that kind of money. Furthermore you are hurting every other fan because you are encouraging scalpers to grab more tickets thus forcing other fans to pay higher prices. Any Ohio State fan that does this is therefore not real fan. Buying scalped tickets is something that Michigan fans stoop to.

No comments: