Seventh Circuit: Season tickets are a privilege, not a right

By Joseph M. Hanna published on 03 July 2017

30 June 2017

On June 22, 2017, a three-judge Seventh Circuit panel ruled Indianapolis Colts’ season ticket holders do not have a right to roll their seats over from one year to the next. This upholds a U.S. District Court ruling from November 2016.

This suit was brought by Yehuda Frager, a Pennsylvania-based ticket broker, last March. Frager alleged the Colts refused to renew his 94 sets of season’s tickets, which he paid over $75,000 for. It is alleged the Colts redistributed the tickets to a local broker in an attempt to better control the secondary market. This move irked local brokers. The brokers viewed it as an overreach by the team that could hurt the resale of tickets. Even though the Colts have their own resale platform, as does the NFL, there are fans who sold their tickets too often on the platform and had their tickets revoked.

Frager’s attorney argued season tickets are the property of the season-ticket holder and a team has no right to withhold them. U.S. District Court Judge William T. Lawrence dismissed this argumentand the case all together without prejudice in November 2016. While, Frager argued the refusal to award him his tickets amounted to conversion of property, the invoice Frager paid stated each ticket was a revocable license. The invoice also had a reservation of rights for the Colts to reject any order or renewal. Judge Lawrence ruled this language showed Frager did not have a possessory interest in the tickets nor a contractual right to renew. The Seventh Circuit agreed.

Frager has also brought suit, in February, against the Chicago Cubs. Frager was a Cubs season ticket holder since 2011 and had over two dozen tickets. Frager and the Cubs reached a settlement for the 2016 season, but the Cubs violated that agreement by not issuing Frager his tickets for 2017 and not sharing passcodes necessary for special events at Wrigley Field. Frager alleges other brokers were not treated as he was. The Cubs have removed over 40 broker accounts from their season ticket trolls since 2012. This action, coupled with the fact Chicago no longer allows tickets to be printed off at home, created the rumor the Cubs are trying to control the secondary market. Chicago argued they were just trying to get more actual Cubs fans on the season ticket roster. This suit was dismissed by a Cook County judge in May 2017 for the same reasoning the Seventh Circuit used in the case against the Colts.

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About the Author

Joseph M. Hanna

Joseph M. Hanna

Joseph Hanna is a partner of Goldberg Segalla and concentrates his practice in commercial litigation with a focus on sports and entertainment law and retail, hospitality, and development litigation. Joe represents sports franchises, professional athletes, and movie studios with various issues related to licensing, contracts, and day-to-day management. He serves as Chair of Goldberg Segalla’s Sports and Entertainment Law Practice Group and editor of the firm’s Sports and Entertainment Law Insider blog. In addition, Joe is the Chair of Goldberg Segalla's Diversity Task Force. He possesses an AV rating from Martindale-Hubbell.
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