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Red Sox crack down on scalping

Season ticket holders face loss of postseason seats if they're caught

Attention Red Sox season ticket holders: Those precious postseason tickets could be at risk -- and it has nothing to do with the current state of Tim Wakefield's knuckleball.

With demand for Red Sox tickets at a record high and the New York Yankees coming to town for a rematch this weekend, the team's management is launching a crackdown against scalpers. The Red Sox said they have people buying tickets on the street this week -- including at last night's Baltimore game -- and online, and if those tickets can be traced back to season ticket holders, the major source of scalped tickets, those fans could lose their rights to buy tickets for the playoffs and World Series.

"At a minimum," said Charlie Cellucci, the former Boston Police deputy superintendent who the Red Sox have brought in as head of security, who said sellers could also be subject to criminal penalties.

For the playoffs, the Red Sox will also experiment with a so-called scalp-free zone outside Fenway Park, similar to one at Camden Yards in Baltimore where fans can buy or sell tickets at face value. Buyers who purchase a ticket in the scalp-free zone will be required to enter the park immediately to prevent the ticket from winding up back on the streets in the hands of scalpers, said Michael Dee, the team's chief operating officer. The scalp-free zone will be located at Gate B, and will continue next year if fans respond, he said.

"We want to send a loud message in the last week that blatant scalping will not be tolerated through the postseason," Dee said.

The Red Sox said season ticket holders agree when they buy tickets that they won't scalp them. If caught, the Red Sox can revoke the tickets.

For the first time, the Red Sox sold out all 81 home games this season, and 145 games going back to last season. Fenway is the smallest park in the major leagues, with the highest ticket prices. But Fenway's average ticket price of about $43 is dwarfed by the asking price of online ticket brokers.

Boston's Ace Ticket, for instance, is offering four dugout-level tickets -- face value of $250 to $300 each -- for $925 each for next Saturday night's game against the Yankees. Four tickets in a private suite -- which carry a face value of $70 each and are sold mostly to corporations -- are being offered at $825 each. Two World series tickets for game four are priced at $2,315 each.

The New England Patriots, which have had 107 consecutive sellouts since the Kraft family bought the team in 1994, have revoked the rights of season ticket holders because of scalping, said team spokesman Stacy James. He said the Patriots "randomly monitor" both online ticket agencies and sales outside the stadium. But he declined to offer details.

Dee said the Red Sox will "target specific seat holders" in the new crackdown. "We are going to spend money and move forward with purchasing on the street and online, and to the extent that those tickets originated with season ticket holders, there will be repercussions," Dee said. He added: "We do have a file that we have tracked and there are some people who have been warned."

"We can't stand by idly and just let it go on," Dee said.

Last year the team responded to online scalping with an online site of its own. Called Red Sox Replay, the site allows season ticket holders to resell their tickets at face value. Other fans can subscribe to the service for $49.95 a year and buy tickets at face value plus a 24 percent markup. About 5,000 fans have signed up. The problem is that the online ticket agencies have most of the tickets. For instance, Ace Ticket lists more than 170 tickets for the Yankee series this weekend while Red Sox Replay has none.

The Red Sox said they have also tried to limit scalpers by restricting single-game purchasers at the start of the season to eight tickets per game or four tickets per game for the Green Monster and new right-field roof seats. But with attendance expected to top 2.8 million this year, the prices and demand for tickets have done nothing but go up.

Online ticket brokers declined to comment publicly for fear of angering the Red Sox. But one of the largest resellers of tickets suggested the team was targeting online sellers to protect its own online system. It won't work, he said.

"There are thousands of websites selling Red Sox tickets, not just five or six guys," he said. "Thousands and thousands" of tickets are sold online and on the streets, he said, the majority of those tickets coming from season ticket holders.

"If someone has purchased a ticket they should have the right to do whatever they want with it. . . . No one has to buy a seat."

Steve Bailey can be reached at bailey@globe.com or at 617-929-2902. 

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