Seeking to enforce their policy prohibiting ticket resales, the New England Patriots have obtained the names of 13,000 people who sold or bought the team's tickets using the online site StubHub Inc.
The Patriots obtained the list last week as part of a legal dispute with StubHub, an online marketplace for individual buyers and sellers of tickets, over who can resell Patriots tickets and how. The team, which has taken an unusually strong stance against scalping, has indicated in court that it may revoke the tickets of people who resold on StubHub.
StubHub, which is owned by eBay Inc., yesterday began notifying the 13,000 customers that their names, addresses, and phone numbers had been turned over to the Patriots following a ruling by Superior Court Judge Allan van Gestel.
"We take the privacy of our customers very seriously, so we made every effort to appeal this ruling. Unfortunately, our appeals were not successful," StubHub said in an e-mail to the customers.
The Patriots and StubHub declined to comment yesterday.
In his ruling, van Gestel allowed the Patriots wide latitude in using the names of StubHub customers.
"The Patriots have said that they intend to use the identities of the purchasers and sellers not only for this case, but also for its own other allegedly legitimate uses, such as canceling season tickets of 'violators' or reporting to authorities those customers that they deem to be in violation of the Massachusetts antiscalping law," van Gestel wrote.
The Patriots sued StubHub last November, alleging the company was encouraging fans to resell their tickets on the website in violation of the team's policy prohibiting resales and the state's antiscalping law. StubHub countersued, alleging the Patriots were attempting to monopolize the resale of the team's tickets.
The Massachusetts antiscalping law bars people in the business of reselling tickets from charging more than $2 above face value, plus certain service charges and business expenses.
Tickets for the upcoming game against the Washington Redskins at Gillette Stadium are currently selling on StubHub for far in excess of $2 above face value. Field level sideline tickets that the Patriots originally sold for $125 are now going for $650 on StubHub. Standing room tickets, which sold initially for $49, are going for $120 to $150.
Patriots tickets are highly sought after and hard to come by with more than 50,000 people on the season ticket waiting list.
Van Gestel originally ordered StubHub to turn over the names to the Patriots on July 31. StubHub appealed that decision but lost. Van Gestel then ordered StubHub to provide the Patriots with the names of anyone who bought or sold tickets or took part in a ticket auction on the website between November 2002 and January 2007. A StubHub official said only a small portion of the customers were sellers.
A protective order bars the Patriots from making the list of names public.
The Patriots allow season ticket holders to resell their tickets at face value on the team's website, but prohibit all other resales. The team in the past has occasionally revoked the season tickets of fans it has caught reselling tickets above face value. It decided to sue StubHub after fans who had their tickets revoked sold the invalid tickets on StubHub. The fans who purchased the invalid tickets on StubHub created a disturbance at Gillette Stadium when they were denied admittance.
Beacon Hill lawmakers are moving to eliminate the $2 cap on ticket resale prices, but one lawmaker said the Patriots have indicated they intend to continue enforcing the team's prohibition on resales even if the law is changed.
The House this month passed a bill that would eliminate the cap on ticket resale prices, allowing licensed ticket brokers and fans to sell tickets for any price. One provision in the bill would bar a team that gets into the business of reselling tickets above face value from restricting where its season ticket holders can resell tickets. The provision is designed to prevent sports teams from monopolizing resale of tickets.
But a team that does not get into the business of reselling above face value would be allowed to restrict what its customers do with their tickets, according to the provision in the bill.
Senator Michael Morrissey, a Quincy Democrat who is the point person in the Senate on ticket issues, said the Patriots have indicated to him they would not facilitate the resale of tickets above face value and would continue to enforce the team's no-resale policy.
"That's what their position is," Morrissey said. "I find it a bit refreshing."
In most other states, fans are allowed to resell tickets for any price and professional sports teams have jumped into the business to earn money by facilitating the resales.
The Phoenix Suns basketball team and the San Francisco Giants baseball team are two teams that operate marketplaces where season ticket holders can resell tickets at any price, with the teams taking a percentage of each sale. Major League Baseball this summer signed a deal with StubHub making the San Francisco company the league's official marketplace for ticket resales.
Bruce Mohl can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.