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Yesterday I waded into the yearly scramble that is the sale of Maple Leafs tickets and won! It was the internet "Leafs Insider" (basically, you turned over all of your contact information for a short promotional code) internet presale. I managed to wrangle tickets (in the nosebleeds so I did not have to sign over the rights to my first born) to the November 11th game against Montreal, November 25th against Boston, and the March 10th game against the sens.

The sad thing was checking out tickets brokers and seeing that they already had tickets! This should come as no surprise considering what other major sports franchise in North America are doing. The interesting thing would be to see whether it's a case of these brokers buying up season tickets or if they have some agreement with the club.

The Leafs, much like many franchises with large followings (Montreal Canadiens, Liverpool FC, FC Barcelona), have a huge waiting list for season tickets. The fustrating part is that season tickets are sold privately or passed along without going through the proper channels or are owned by ticket brokerages. The club does have a ticket exchange for season ticket holders to sell unwanted tickets but you have to be a fellow season ticket holder to buy them!

However, a few years ago FC Barcelona took a more dramatic approach to revamping their season ticket broker. An acquaintance recounted how Barcelona cleaned up its season ticket rolls. The moves were pretty drastic:

  • Season ticket holders had to prove that they were the rightful owners (ie. the tickets were sold to Joe Blow and he was using them) to stop the practice of the private selling of season tickets.
  • Anyone using these tickets (ie. bought privately, still used deceased granparents') forfeited their ticket and it was put back into the pool of available tickets.
  • Season ticker holders could sell individual games via their bank machine and receive the proceeds (less a fee of course) through a direct deposit.
  • Club members could purchase tickets through the same machine.

The main effect was to reduce the waiting list dramatically. As a result of the ability to sell extra tickets through an ATM the tickets became more accessible to other club members. Despite not taking season tickets from brokers (or touts) they did a great job of cleaning up a corrupt system.

Big football clubs in Europe also use priority ticketing schemes to determine sales. Each fan buys a fan card (another source of revenue? how has MLSE let this chance slide?) and you get credits for buying tickets. So if you want to go see the season finale against the Habs, a fan that has been to 10 games gets priority over one who has not seen a single game. The tickets are sold in a staggered fashion (10 credits gives you the first 24 hours to buy a ticket, then those with 5-9 credits gets a chance, until the leftovers go on general sale). Credits are also given for going to away games and tickets do not go on sale all at once (The Leafs say they release tickets periodically and on game days but the amounts are miniscule).

Of course, these sorts of changes would be beneficial to the true Leafs fans and not the corporate fans or ticket brokers so it is not likely that it will ever happen. Until then, the general sale starts Saturday. Gentlemen, start your explorers!