Posted on Mon, Jun. 26, 2006

[size=18px]Scalping in Birdland?[/size]

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Redskins faced similar issue in '05

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LINCOLN Financial Field's scalping policy, as stated on its Web site, prohibits "the resale of an event ticket at a price higher than face value, regardless of the price paid for the ticket and regardless where the resale occurs."

But when the Eagles' Web site - separate from the Linc's - announced June 14 that single-game tickets for next season had sold out within an hour, the story ended on this hopeful note: "Still looking for tickets? Go to where fans can buy or sell tickets... "

Indeed, thousands of tickets are advertised there, but at prices that violate the 25 percent markup limit under Pennsylvania's anti-scalping law.

Cowboys-Eagles tickets, for example, average around $400 apiece on RazorGator, with some running as high as $900. The face value of the tickets runs from $65 to $80 for seats in the stands and as high as $350 for the enclosed Club seating area.

The lack of access to tickets except from scalpers has left more than a few Eagles fans mighty ticked off.

"When this happened, we got a flood of calls from people who said the ticket sales [from the Eagles Web site] were closed in a matter of seconds, literally seconds," said WIP-AM sports-talk host Angelo Cataldi.

"Now regular Joes can't go see a game unless they pay four or five times the value, and the team is actually suggesting that they go to scalpers," said Tony, a longtime Eagles fan who declined to give his last name to the Daily News.

He and others who vented their fury on talk shows and Internet sites wonder if the Eagles shoveled tickets this year to RazorGator in return for a piece of the scalpers' action.

The Eagles insist they did no such thing. "This is crazy," said Eagles president Joe Banner.

"The same number of single-game tickets were available this year as last year, and it's more than when we were at the Vet," Banner said. "What was different this year was that, in response to fan complaints, we made them available through the Internet as well as Ticketmaster, so they went that much more quickly."

While no evidence has emerged of an improper relationship between the Eagles and RazorGator, the quick sellout of tickets and the Birds' promotion of the site clearly have touched a nerve.

The controversy in part reflects fans' schizophrenic attitude toward ticket-scalping: We hate getting gouged for seats, but at times will pay a fortune to anybody willing to part with a ticket for the big game.

And while ticket resales at more than a 25 percent markup are illegal in Pennsylvania, they are widely practiced - and authorities say an out-of-state Web site like RazorGator is probably beyond the reach of state law.

Banner sees nothing mysterious or unusual in the Eagles' relationship with RazorGator, a national ticket-resale exchange based in Beverly Hills, Calif. It's simply an advertiser in the Eagles' stadium, in the team's publications and on its Web site, Banner said.

And while the Eagles give RazorGator and other business partners a small number of tickets for their own use, the Eagles don't give them tickets for resale and get nothing from RazorGator's marketing of tickets, Banner said.

"The cynicism and distrust in that question is offensive," Banner said, "and I wonder why it's not asked of anyone else."

Banner noted that several teams have marketing arrangements with sites like RazorGator and StubHub, and that expensive tickets for concerts and sporting events everywhere appear on Web sites for sale.

Still, the distrust persists. WIP host Glen Macnow said he got 25 to 30 calls on his Saturday show from fans who wonder how so many tickets ended up on RazorGator so quickly.

"What's difficult to believe is that hundreds and hundreds of Eagles fans independently would decide to sell their tickets for the Cowboys game, the biggest of the year, and by coincidence sell them through RazorGator," Macnow said.

But even if RazorGator is nothing more to the Eagles than an advertising partner, many see hypocrisy in the Eagles promoting the resale of its tickets.

"My biggest complaint about this is that they've gotten in bed with a scalper," Cataldi said.

Asked if promoting RazorGator is inconsistent with Lincoln Financial Field's anti-scalping policy, Banner said, "I think we're playing with semantics here. We accept advertising from a variety of places - including, in this case, a Web site."

The deals available on RazorGator and other Web sites would be illegal if the resales occurred in Pennsylvania, but a transaction through an out-of-state Web site is a murkier issue, according to Pennsylvania Deputy Attorney General Barry Creany.

Some fans regard scalping as a time-honored tradition and a useful service for those who want to splurge on a game now and then.

"OMG [Oh my God,] People! This is crazy. The Eagles are a hot team, who sells their tickets fast and markets their product well," wrote one fan on an Eagles Internet bulletin board. "If you did not get tickets (and I am one of you by the way) then that's that. Watch it on TV or buy them at inflated prices. Just stop the damn crying."

Other fans say that they aren't troubled by a season-ticket holder selling a game or two, but that too many season tickets go to people or brokers who aren't fans but predators, buying them just to make a killing.

Should the Eagles pick and choose to whom they sell? In an unusual step last year, the Washington Redskins revoked the season tickets of an undisclosed number of people who were auctioning them on the Internet.

Since the team knew who had which tickets and the seat numbers were on the Internet auctions, it wasn't particularly hard detective work.

"It was pretty obvious which blocks of tickets were up for sale again and again," said Redskins spokesman Carl Swanson.

Eagles fan Tony said if the same thing were done in Philadelphia, more tickets would become available for real fans.

"This is a crazy theory," Banner said of the idea that the team should crack down on scalpers. Discouraging the resale of tickets would actually make fewer tickets available to the public, he said.

Banner also wondered why fans (or reporters) are suddenly obsessed with scalping Eagles tickets when the practice is so widespread in other sports and entertainment events.

Indeed, scalping prosecutions are rare, and in 2001 the city of Pittsburgh decided to permit scalpers to hawk tickets around stadiums as long as they bought a $250 license and wore it around their necks.

The city later decided to limit scalping to a small area between Pittsburgh's football and baseball stadiums.

Creany, the deputy attorney general, said one of the few recent enforcement actions against a large scalping operation occurred in 2000, when the AG's office sued the Ohio-based ticket dealer Front Row for hawking tickets to shows by the Backstreet Boys and John Mellencamp at Penn State's Bryce Jordan Center.

Creany said the action was prompted by complaints from operators of the center, and it was legally possible because Front Row advertised tickets in Pennsylvania newspapers.

Web sites outside the state are much harder to prosecute, Creany said.

Scalping in Birdland?