Got Any Spares? Stubhub Have.

Although I usually take little notice of the electronic hoardings that surround the pitch at Spurs, it’s been impossible to avoid the recent spate of ads for Stubhub. However, it’s only recently that I discovered what it is. Rather than being the tagline for a new co-ordinated anti-smoking campaign, Stubhub is a secondary ticketing service about to embark on a partnership with Tottenham Hotspur to create a market for unwanted tickets for sold-out matches. Whether that market will work in the interests of fans is highly questionable.

For several years now the Ticket Exchange Scheme has enabled season-ticket holders unable to attend a sold-out match to resell their ticket through the club at full price for that fixture less 25%. Although the commission is steep, it seems a reasonable compromise, given that we invest so much so far in advance and kick-offs are changed at the whim of TV. Before Sky, I could safely guarantee in advance to keep Saturdays and Wednesdays free – Spurs midweek matches were always on a Wednesday – whereas now it’s impossible to plan ahead. Many seem wary of the exchange, judging by the number of tickets that appear on twitter in the days before a game, but at least the tickets were available via the club, as they say on the official site, “resulting in genuine fans having greater access to tickets.”

From the start of next season, this will change. The Ticket Exchange will be no more and reselling spares must be done through Stubhub. Listing is free and it still applies only to sold-out fixtures but there are two significant changes. Season-ticket holders can now set whatever price they want. The market is king – several hundred pounds for the north London derby is a conservative estimate.

Also, nowhere does it state on the site that this offer is open to members only, as was the case with the Exchange. It very carefully enthuses about the benefits to ‘Spurs supporters’ seeking tickets but avoids the word ‘member’. On the basis of the club’s own information, anyone could buy them.

This looks like touting in the 21st century, institutionalised scalping on a corporate scale. Tickets will be on sale at inflated prices and will be available only to those who can pay. Stan Flashman reincarnated in the boardrooms of multi-nationals. It may prove to be an inducement to season-ticket holders to sell their seats for the many games that will be sold out if we have any sort of success and an incentive for members to chuck away their cards, never to return.

Also, it appears impossible for the club to control who has those tickets once they appear on the site. There’s nothing at present to stop those seats, which will be printed on paper tickets, being resold by touts, who can truly put a value on the laws of supply and demand. They could easily go to away fans, although Stubhub clients Sunderland make an exception for the Tyne and Wear derby.

The membership scheme is essentially a premium for the privilege of having some priority over White Hart Lane tickets, an advantage that will disappear once the ticket goes to Stubhub. Never mind free Spurs TV, membership is worth less than it is is now.

It is possible for members to retain some priority if Stubhub have access to the Spurs database. On the face of it, this flouts protection under the Data Protection Act but interestingly the current One Hotspur terms and conditions contain the following (the italics are mine):

“The Club will keep your name, address, email address, phone numbers and other personal details including credit/debit card information and use this information to fulfil your order(s) for Season Tickets plus Membership and for customer service purposes. We will disclose your information to our service providers and agents for these purposes.”

So by buying a season-ticket, it could mean you have already agreed to your details being shared. I should stress that the position of members and anything re the terms and conditions has not been confirmed by the club and the Tottenham Hotspur Supporters Trust is urgently seeking clarification regarding these and other matters to do with the Stubhub partnership. Joint chair of the Trust Darren Alexander said today:

“Requesting a meeting on this specific matter was one of the first things we did and we’ve chased it up on several occasions. We are aware it is a major concern to a lot of fans and we will not hold back from asking pertinent questions.”

The meeting takes place before the Southampton game and the Trust undertake to report back within 48 hours. Yet the club have not taken the chance to use the word ‘member’ instead of supporter and this contract has been planned for some time. It’s not used on the Sunderland website either. Therefore the speculation is fair and I would be happy to post clarification on the blog as and when it appears.

In the last year there has been considerable concern about the activities of the growing number of secondary markets for tickets, mainly in respect of concert tickets. A Channel 4 documentary showed that far from being an open ‘fan to fan’ marketplace, some agencies and promoters were indecently close, with promoters syphoning off substantial numbers of prime seats direct to the secondary ticket agencies who sold them on for a fat profit. Those seats were never available to the general public at the box office.

I don’t recall Stubhub being mentioned at the time. They are a large company successful in America owned by ebay who will use them for all ticket listings in the future. They have contracts with other Premier League teams so football is obviously a targeted growth market for them. It’s not clear on the Spurs site how much commission they take but on other sites it is 25%.

It’s also unclear how Spurs make their money on this. It may be a flat fee over the year or, as seems more likely, a percentage of the commission. Either way, they will receive substantial income which is presumably higher than either the cost of reselling or of simply leaving the seat empty because they would have otherwise not have changed the system  As I say, a percentage may not be the arrangement they have. However if it is, it means that the higher the price and the further away it is from the original seat price, the more they make.

My article earlier this week about the grumblings amongst fans in and out of the ground pointed to the alienation between fans and teams. This doesn’t create the poor atmosphere in the Lane directly but increasingly we feel distant and disgruntled, feelings that have to emerge in some way. The Stubhub scheme can only add to the problems. In football true loyalty is priceless. The club would do well to remember that.

30 thoughts on “Got Any Spares? Stubhub Have.

  1. Good piece. I wrote to the club asking them to explain how this deal differs from ticket touting, and how it fits in with the supposed benefits of club membership. I received a very prompt reply telling me all questions would be answered on a Q&A on the club website in the close season. I’ve responded that that isn’t particularly satisfactory. If the club doesn’t know how to answer the inevitable questions it raises serious doubts about the quality of decision-making at the club. If it does know the answers, why can’t it give them? Let’s hope the scheduled Trust meeting a) doesn’t get cancelled at the last minute again and b) yields more productive dialogue.

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  2. “The club would do well to remember that.”

    The ‘club’ (I take it you mean ENIC), doesn’t give a monkey’s.
    In short, selling the secondary tickets through Stubhub to whoever wants to pay the most will make them more money than selling them to PAID UP members who can go and screw themselves.

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    • My conclusion applies to many things the club do. They don’t give a monkey’s. But should, and it won’t stop me saying it.
      Re your conclusion, you have no doubt spotted my caution in going too far, these pesky libel laws, but I’ve mentioned what has happened in the gig ticket sector….

      Regards,

      Alan

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      • Too right you should say it. I bet they were hoping they could just sneak this in under the radar. ENIC is the current owner, not the club though, that just doesn’t sit well.

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  3. Not sure how it will work in the end over there in the UK but it’s widely used here in the States. Though events don’t have to be sold out here for it to be used. And as you indicate, it is a free-for-all. Some people snatch up tickets for the sole purpose of price gauging on Stubhub here so you’re right in that top matches will be obnoxiously priced. I’m sure Tottenham is getting some sort of premium from Stubhub as I assume they’re trying to expand beyond North America.

    On one of your other points — If I had to guess (since they’re Americans), they probably aren’t even thinking of the idea of mixing fans. That’s not really an issue here as fans from both teams are often intertwined so that could be an interesting issue for you over there. I doubt they’ll track who’s a supporter of what on the site unless it’s done way differently than in the US.

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    • Thanks eric. That’s quite an interesting insight. To update on my correspondence, I was first told that all my questions and many more besides would be answered in a Q&A to be posted on the club website in the close season. When I replied that this did really seem to be a bit of a stonewall, I was told I’d been passed to the relevant person. The customer care team did assure me that the club fully intends to go ahead with meeting the Trust though. I’ll keep people updated with what I can. The decision goes to the top of the club and they tend to keep a very tight reign on what’s said, so I can understand the caution. At the moment I am finding it hard to see a proper defence for this deal that isn’t essentially “we wanted to make more money from our fans” – which may also explain the reticence.

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  4. Absolute shambles! Again the fans who want a fair chance of going to a high profile game, will be even further out priced. Pisses me off when I see this type of greed, especially by our own club.

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  5. Great article. When I have my business hat on, ENIC have to do what they need to do to keep the club in the green and competitive. Spurs are not alone in offering this service and is another revenue stream for the club. Unfortunately this is modern football.

    I think as a Spurs fan it will be hard to continue parting with the money when it’s put in your face so clearly that Spurs need all these commercial activities and to sweat their greatest asset – the loyal fanbase – harder and harder just to maintain their current position.

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    • I agree. I have never advocated massive spending by the club because I respect Levy’s financial prudence, although I disagree re certain investment/purchases but that is another, long story. However, this desire to maximise revenue streams has to be set in context. You mentioned one, the impact on the loyal fanbase. The other is the vast increase in income from the TV deal, which will put whatever profit the club makes from the Stubhub deal into the shadows.

      Regards, Alan

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  6. The StubHub system has been available here in the states for many years and as one of the earlier commenters noted it can be used even if games are not sold out. As it is my understanding that the games are sold out through season ticket holders, the individual will be responsible for the entire transaction,aka setting price, and distributing the tickets to the buyers. Certainly much less work for the club on the back end, and we should assume they are receiving some compensation greater than the 25% commission that yearly sales pulls in. It works well here, but prices are definitely inflated for “big” games, Yankees/Red Sox in September of a pennant race for example, so assume that the North London Derby will be similar. If the rumors of 20,000 on the season ticket waiting list is in fact true , one should have no problem selling extra tickets. The positives for season ticket holders is the ability to recoup some of your yearly outlay, unfortunately there is no gatekeeper, tickets will be in the hands of the highest bidder essentially. The fact there are few tickets available to the general public does decrease the risk of an influx of ticket brokers who frequently buy a ton of tickets(concerts,general admission events) with the sole purpose of cleaning up on StubHub. In theory the seller/season ticket holder sees more money as the buyer is typically charged a fee of 10% overthe list price and 10-15% taken from the seller. Obviously the “segregation” of home and away support is a non issue in the states, but certainly represents a challenge for Premier League games. This seems to be yet another move away from the idea of the team as a hometown club, it is most definitely a business and a big one, the idea of fan connection to a team is long gone here, and sliding quickly away in England.

    Some things to think about: some professional teams have tried to stop StubHub sales in the US, Yankees and NE Patriots as an example. As significant number of tickets sold on StubHub have been fake or counterfeit and fans have been denied access to games.

    I have personally used the service many times with no issues and it has allowed me to see events I otherwise would have had no chance to attend.
    On a personal note I really love the blog, I consider it consistently of the finest available. Thanks

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    • Edward, a fascinating post and thanks for the kind words about the blog. Really helps to know that people out there are reading and enjoying it.

      One difference with what you have described – the individual ST holder is not responsible for getting the ticket to the buyer. The club will print the ticket which will be available at the ground on the day.

      Regards, Alan

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    • Yes. While I’m happy to perpetuate the image that this article is the result of in-depth investigative journalism, in reality all the info about the scheme has been taken from the official site. Search for Stubhub.

      Regards, Alan

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  7. To be honest, I’m not sure how I feel about this. We sit in a group of 5 in Paxton and every once in a while, one of us will use the current club scheme. Most of the people who take up in the seats we speak to are ‘tourists’ as in. ‘gee I wanted to go to a soccer game’ rather than Spurs members so in that sense, I’m not entirely clear how the club benefits from this now and under Stubhub. I’ll reserve judgment on this topic until I know more but at face value (pardon the pun), this doesn’t look great for encouraging the next generation of loyal supporters.
    Despite my love for the club, I believe genuinely that football as a sport/business is leaving me behind and that my years of support through thin and thinner really count for nothing. As the cost and hassle of going to football ever escalates, I’m beginning to wonder whether the last game at the old WHL might be the point at which I accept, very reluctantly, that going to see Spurs is no longer a central part of my life.

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    • Pete, I will keep going but your last para, sad and weary, I can completely understand and is the cumulative effect of years of alienation. But the club don’t care if a tourist takes your seat. Things might be different if we build the new ground and are outside the top 6. Suspect priorites will be reassessed.

      Regards, Alan

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      • We keep going and I’ve no definite plans to quit. I’ve been a season ticket holder for 25 years but at some point, my brain is going to have to listen to my wallet. Football is a business for ENIC so I don’t ‘blame’ Levy as such. There seem plenty of people in London with money to burn but sadly I’m not one of them!
        I used to go to lots of concerts but hardly go to any now as they become ever more expensive and diehard fans are
        replaced by people who seem more interested in their mobiles than watching the band. Eventually I expect to see the day when we all bid for tickets at a event and the seats are then allocated according to the money bid.

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        • Peter, I understand your perspective entirely. I’ve been asking myself similar questions for a while, and also wondering if I’m just conning myself that the entity I support now is really the same thing I fell in love with all those years ago. What really rankles is the double-talk. It’s all very well giving it the One Hotspur, we’re all one big family, we want our fans to get behind us and support us as they always have bit and generally tap in to the traditional reasons for fan loyalty, while at the same time shamelessly exploiting that.

          I sometimes think it would be better if the club just said “We know you’re all mugs, we know we can exploit your outdated sense of loyalty and commitment to make money for a few individuals in key positions, and so we will – football’s a business so learn to live with it.” Is it better to be shafted honestly than dishonestly? I guess it’s a matter of personal taste.

          Also, though, important as you say to make sure facts are right. So far, this deal doesn’t look good, but we need to get the full picture. A bit more transparency from Spurs would help, but to be honest it’s not a concept the present owners have ever really got to grips with. And I think that’s because they are so detached from ordinary supporters they genuinely don’t understand, rather than because they are bad people.

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    • Edward, thanks again for this. The Trust have read your comments and have also been in touch with their Everton counterparts, who have the same scheme.

      I’ll report back on any developments.

      Regards, Al

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  8. Erhhh, for us out in the colonies, what about the game in a few hours time??? Our first of possible 6 sudden death, cup finals! A win, as always with us, would signal some serious intent! COYS!

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    • Final pre-match preparations well advanced and on schedule – coffee, walk dog, breakfast, run out of house ten minutes, late, pick up daughter… I’ll give them a cheer for you, Ashley.

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      • Tx, Alan — AVB MOTM? Some of Hudd’s passes were sublime, Holtby adds so much energy/desire, when JD got the ball on his left I shouted come on JD, shift it to your right and score…great, great subs! Kept our season alive, and kickstarted the last 6 six cup final run! COYS!

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  9. Pingback: Stubhub - There's a new kind of tout in town - Total Tottenham

  10. Pingback: Stop Stubhub: A Fan’s Petition | TOTTENHAM ON MY MIND

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