Businessman takes fight over Pats tickets online
'Kangaroo court' revocation after guest's arrest cited
A Connecticut businessman took his quixotic crusade against the New England Patriots to the Internet yesterday, launching a website to build support among season ticket holders for arbitration in ticket revocation disputes and the ability to transfer tickets to a friend or family member.
Craig Yarde, president of Yarde Metals in Bristol, Conn., lost his company's six season tickets two years ago when a male guest of the firm was arrested and convicted of disorderly conduct for using a women's bathroom at Gillette Stadium. Yarde Metals had held the tickets, located on the 40-yard line, for 23 years.
Yarde said he has spent about $30,000 trying to get the tickets back. He sued the Patriots in Suffolk Superior Court, lost, and is now mounting an appeal. He has staged publicity stunts outside the stadium. And even though he concedes his quest is a lost cause, he has launched a website to mobilize season ticket holders on two potentially hot-button issues.
"When you're as successful as the Patriots are, they can do what they want," Yarde said in a telephone interview. "But I don't think they're treating their best customers with respect. It's a fairness issue here."
But Patriots officials say Yarde is hardly representative of their satisfied season ticket holders. Patriots officials say they are putting a winning team on the field and creating a fan-friendly environment at the Foxborough stadium by strictly enforcing rules that are spelled out on the back of tickets, on the team's website, and in a fan guide mailed to all season ticket holders.
Among other things, the rules prohibit loitering in the aisles, reselling tickets to third parties, and "rowdy, profane, abusive, inconsiderate, drunken, or other inappropriate behavior." Patriots officials say enforcement of the rules has made it possible for all fans, including families, to enjoy the games.
"It's working," said Richard Karelitz, general counsel for the Patriots, who pointed out that no one was arrested during Sunday's 35-28 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals. "People understand there's a code of conduct."
Karelitz said the team is reviewing its policy prohibiting season-ticket transfers to friends or family members. He said the team received a lot of pro and con feedback from season ticket holders as well as many of the 50,000 people on the waiting list after the Globe published a story on the transfer issue in October. Policies vary among National Football League teams, with some prohibiting transfers, others allowing them, and some allowing transfers only if the customer pays a one-time fee.
"We are considering it all," Karelitz said. "There's no decision, but we're trying to understand all the different and conflicting points of view,"
Yarde's website, www.psth.org, urges Patriots season ticket holders to join a posting on Yahoo to help persuade the Patriots to change what Yarde calls the team's "harsh policies."
Yarde said the Patriots enforce their rules haphazardly. He said an acquaintance had his firm's season tickets revoked at the same game in 2002 for the same infraction (a male guest using the women's restroom), but managed to get his tickets reinstated. He said there needs to be an arbitration process so fans can make their case.
"They're kind of a kangaroo court," Yarde said.
Yarde said his firm should not lose all of its tickets because of an incident involving one guest. He also minimized the incident, suggesting the Patriots were partly responsible for not having enough men's restrooms. He also indicated Gillette Stadium would never be a truly family-friendly environment because of drinking that goes on before and during games.
Patriots officials say they revoke season tickets reluctantly and only to make sure fans know the team takes its policies seriously. Karelitz said a committee, whose members he declined to identify, considers each incident. He said the ticket holder is given the opportunity to present his or her side in writing.
But Karelitz said arrests and convictions are treated far more seriously than other incidents. "When a person is arrested by the Foxborough police, that's as bad as it gets," he said.
In the Suffolk Superior Court decision upholding the Patriots decision to revoke Yarde Metals' tickets, the judge said the team had total control over tickets. Nevertheless, in a footnote the judge said the penalty "seems to the court Draconian."
Bruce Mohl can be reached at email@example.com.