Falcons solve seat-license conundrum by selling tickets with no guaranteed seats

Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank, like many NFL owners, decided to require fans to buy personal seat licenses to be eligible to buy tickets for his new stadium when it was opened back in 2017. (He also got about $700 million in public money to help pay his construction bills, but that still left him about $900 million short.) Blank then had trouble getting Falcons fans to keep up with their PSL payments, as also often happens in the NFL, after fans realized that paying twice for the same tickets just to get to see crappy Falcons games was not such a great deal. The obvious solution would be to start offering some tickets for sale without asking fans to buy ticket-purchasing rights first, but how, since team officials had previously gotten fans to cough up for PSLs by saying they were the only way to get seats?

The answer, as revealed yesterday, is to get rid of the seats:

The Falcons plan to convert about 750 seats in Mercedes-Benz Stadium to a “super fan” section that won’t require personal seat licenses.

The seats, located in a lower-level corner, will be the only ones in the stadium to be offered as season tickets without a PSL fee. The section will be sold as general admission, meaning buyers won’t be assigned a specific seat.

A spokesperson for the Falcons’ parent company, AMB Sports & Entertainment, said the area will be “geared toward super avid fans” and “is expected to add to the energy level inside the stadium.”

I have no idea how the team will select for “super avid fans,” but no matter. The idea here is clearly to back away from PSLs while pretending you’re not, by making the section general admission and the ticket price thus technically not for “seats” but for “admission.” In fact, there’s another bonus for the team, though definitely not for fans: Falcons execs plan to sell 900 season plans for the section at $1,000 a pop, though there are only 753 seats; if more than that many people show up, the overflow will have to watch from standing room at an in-stadium restaurant. What super avid fan wouldn’t jump at a deal like that?

On top of this, about 140 PSL holders in the affected section will have to be relocated to other parts of the stadium, which will surely go over well after those fans paid $3,500 each to purchase what was supposed to be the rights to buy tickets to those specific seats in perpetuity. (The PSL contracts allow for to team to do this, but also allow for fans to be hopping mad.) This seems destined to be just one more data point in the sad tale of how PSLs are a way of scamming people for their inability to accurately predict the future value of an asset, and … oh, hey, this post almost ended without me mentioning Megatron’s Butthole, that was a close one!

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9 comments on “Falcons solve seat-license conundrum by selling tickets with no guaranteed seats

  1. Meanwhile in LA, the Rams are refusing to allow fans to sell or transfer their PSL’s, even in cases of covid-related financial hardship.

  2. Could make for another Phil Mushnick article mocking Roger Goodell hawking PSLs as a “good investment”.

  3. I assume there is language in most/all PSL contracts that not only gives the holder the “right” to buy tickets but also makes that an obligation in perpetuity?

    IE: you can’t hold the PSL but not buy tickets if/when you really get fed up with the team or it’s money grubbing contract violating owner?

    If there isn’t, then I would recommend that the Falcons (and other) PSL holders consider their purchase price a sunk cost – at least until the team is good again and the PSL can be unloaded – and stop doubling down on funding an incompetently run team.

    But fan is short for fanatic, of course, so rationalizing ticket or other purchases is simply not possible.

    The thing that really surprises me is that people seem to expect others to feel sorry for them when they have been scammed by a sports franchise owner. Sure, they probably are breaking your contract (one that you appear still to be contractually obligated to fulfill). Why are you surprised? This is what sports owners do.

    1. “IE: you can’t hold the PSL but not buy tickets if/when you really get fed up with the team or it’s money grubbing contract violating owner?”

      Right. It gives you the right to buy tickets, but if you stop buying tickets, you lose the right. That’s why lots of Falcons fans (and 49ers fans, etc.) walked away from their PSLs rather than keep paying the annual ticket fees.

  4. Who is the least money grubbing, least scamming, least whining, least woe-is-me owner in the sports right now?

    1. 12 hours in and this poll seems to be locked in a scoreless draw.

      Maybe they’re all on the awful continuum?

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