Those that choose to attend Major League Baseball’s opening series in Sydney this month will be left with empty pockets, with the price of a ticket in the nosebleeds starting at $69 and premium seats behind the batter’s box going for $499 apiece.
The Arizona Diamondbacks will face off against the Los Angeles Dodgers for the first two games of the regular season, with games slated for March 22 and 23 at the historic Sydney Cricket Ground.
Compared to the ticket prices for the upcoming 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup to be held in Australia and New Zealand, where the cheapest adult ticket is $20 and kids’ tickets available from as little as $5, it seems that the chance to see America’s pastime is out of reach for most Australians.
The financial cost to the teams and Major League Baseball for hosting such an event outside of North America is huge, but the fans are the ones being fleeced.
With Dodgers’ starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw inking a deal that will see the left-hander earning around USD$31 million per season, Dodgers’ upper management appear more concerned with winning than ticket revenue.
When looking at the average price of tickets to major sporting events, Major League Baseball games evidently have some of the cheapest tickets in North America.
A regular season game at Dodger Stadium can be seen for as little as USD$18, while an MVP field box seat is only US$125 – a bargain in comparison to the opening series at the SCG.
In the NBA, the iconic LA Lakers – who draw Hollywood celebrities such as Jack Nicholson on a regular basis – have tickets ranging from USD$49 up to thousands of dollars for floor seats like Nicholson enjoys.
The question we must ask is have pro sports out-priced themselves? In hard economic times, has going to the game lost some of its cache?
With live HD TV coverage available direct to your home, has watching sport live waned in popularity? Is this a reason for such absurd ticket prices?
Conversely, here in Australia stadiums such as the historic Melbourne Cricket Ground and its affiliate members organisation, the Melbourne Cricket Club, determine ticket prices members and guests for all sporting events held at the MCG according to different categories.
Tickets in the MCC member stands can go for as little as $6 for the Sheffield Shield state cricket games.
This competition runs at a loss, but Cricket Australia compensates this loss with revenue gained from broadcasting rights and sponsorships and from other competitions – namely Test matches and the new t20 Big Bash League.
The relevant sporting bodies take control of the MCG ticketing for one-off events, with Socceroos games costing members an extra fee of $20, and the Liverpool FC game costing $60.
These prices are on top of the $600-650 per year that full adult metro MCC members pay.
In the US, Major League Baseball was one of the first leagues to adopt a process called dynamic ticket pricing, in which ticket prices fluctuate based on factors such as team performance, individual player performance and even weather.
This format for pricing tickets attempts to simultaneously maximise revenue and attendance.
Dynamic ticket pricing allows teams to encourage fans to attend games when their team is doing badly or playing against a weaker team, as the ticket price is reflective of the on-field product.
By pricing tickets in such a way, teams no longer have to set prices before the beginning of the season and can vary the price of tickets in both directions according to demand.
The one downside of dynamic ticket pricing is out-pricing fans and offending season ticket holders who have paid a set fee for every game of the season, especially when they have paid a lot more for a game than someone who has bought a single game ticket.
To counteract this, some teams have adopted a floor for the minimum amount they can sell tickets. This allows them to price the cheapest tickets higher than what season ticket holders pay, so their valued members are still getting the cheapest seats.
Additionally, sport tickets are set to provide opportunities for other types of revenue, such as parking, food, and merchandise, which would be limited if ticket prices were too high.
This means that fans may be spending the same amount of money to attend the game, but rather than the ticket being the main portion, fans can afford to spend money at the stadium in other ways.
This is most evident on the grassroots level.
Toby Boyle, Operations Manager of AFL Goldfields and overseer of the Riddell District Football League in Melbourne’s north-west, says, “the main sources of revenue for local football clubs are the bar and sponsorship. Clubs would struggle if for some reason their liquor license was revoked.”
In Victoria, local Aussie Rules teams do charge entry and the leagues set this price at between $8 and $11 for adults.
The home clubs take all of the gate money in the home-and-away season, while the league takes the gate money for finals. Teams that host finals will pay the league a fee of around $3,000, however most clubs usually make about double that on the bar during finals matches.
Unfortunately, as is evident for an event such as the MLB opening series, certain sporting events ticket prices are getting out of hand and are unattainable for everyday middle- and working-class families.
While local sports are rarely spectacular or elite, a beer and pie with a front row seat at the local footy can be very appealing, especially compared to the option of buying a nosebleed seat and $10 beers at major pro sport venues.
Conversely, others will argue that HD TV and a comfy lounge suite at home offer just as good a view, if not better than attending the event.
That little thing called atmosphere is what will continue to draw fans, no matter what the cost.