The Boston Red Sox is the only Major League Baseball team that has not signed on to promote StubHub Inc. as its official online ticket reseller. Instead, the club has inked a one-year deal with Ace Ticket to serve as the official "offline" ticket resale agency for season ticket holders.
The move comes several months after MLB signed an agreement to allow StubHub to handle all of the league's online ticket resales and prohibited clubs that do not participate from cashing in on the resale of tickets. Previously, the Sox operated the "Replay" system on redsox.com that allowed season ticket holders to directly resell their tickets for games they were unable to attend.
Red Sox officials said they negotiated with StubHub, Ace, and several other ticket resellers but ultimately decided to partner with the Brookline ticket agency. Ace already has sponsorships with New England Sports Network and WEEI, which broadcast the Red Sox games on television and radio, respectively.
"We picked the one that was best for us and best for the fans," Red Sox chief operating officer Mike Dee said in an in terview.
Dee declined to provide financial details on the deal with Ace, but said the team would not make any money from the resale of tickets. Instead, the Red Sox will receive funds from a sponsorship that will put Ace's name on a billboard on Fenway Park's right-field fence and a sign on the main scoreboard during three innings each game.
Many of the teams that are working with StubHub have negotiated sponsorship signs to promote the ticket reseller in their ballparks. Some clubs, including the Chicago Cubs, already list StubHub under the ticket navigation bar on their websites.
Unlike StubHub, Ace provides ticket buyers a 200 percent refund for invalid tickets and offers free pickup and delivery of tickets, according to Ace Ticket founder Jim Holzman. StubHub could not be reached for comment.
"We know exactly where tickets come from and make sure we do all we can to offer customers legitimate tickets," Holzman said. "The secondary market is rampant with websites of anonymous people, and you really don't know who you're buying from."
For all ticket holders, MLB is not placing any restrictions on the resale of tickets, and will allow fans to resell them anywhere, with no limits on how much or how little they charge. Though such sales are technically illegal in Massachusetts, the state's antiscalping laws are rarely enforced.
Red Sox' snub of StubHub means that season ticket holders no longer have an "official" way to resell tickets online. MLB Advanced Media, which oversees the league's interactive enterprise, will decide within 30 days whether to place StubHub banner ads on the Red Sox' website, according to spokesman Matthew Gould. MLB runs all the team websites through a centralized operation.
"We have reached the conclusion that it is incumbent upon us to identify and endorse a secure and reputable secondary market option for our customers. This decision is reflective of an irreversible marketplace shift and came only after careful thought and deliberation," Sam Kennedy, the Red Sox' chief sales and marketing officer, wrote in a March 7 letter that was mailed to season ticket holders.
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Under the Red Sox' old Replay system, subject to the Massachusetts antiscalping law, resale prices were limited to $2 above face value plus some business and service charges, including a 24 percent fee for handling the resale. There is currently proposed legislation in the Massachusetts State House that would change the antiscalping law.
"You're not supposed to be selling tickets above face value," said State Senator Michael W. Morrissey, a Quincy Democrat and cochairman of the Legislature's Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee, which is looking at the proposal to end the state's ban on ticket scalping. "But the struggle we're having right now is if we put too many controls and constraints on the resale of tickets, we're just going to chase people to New Hampshire and Rhode Island where they continue to do business without any safeguards."
Don Hinchey, a spokesman for Bonham Group, a Denver sports- and entertainment-marketing firm, said the Red Sox' decision to partner with Ace, rather than StubHub, likely came down to economics.
"My sense is the Red Sox looked at how much money they could generate from linking up with StubHub and the umbrella agreement with MLB and compared that with revenue figures from the deal they made with Ace," Hinchey said. "And there's some goodwill you can sow by linking up with a local vendor in your own backyard like Ace rather than someone from the outside."
Jenn Abelson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.