There's no great secret that pre-season tickets are the biggest scam in the great cascade of scams that fuels the NFL machine. Season-ticket holders are compelled to pay full freight for two meaningless games played by guys they've never before or will ever again hear of.
Eight of the 32 teams—the Patriots, Bills, Steelers, Chargers, Chiefs, Vikings, Lions, and 49ers—have gone to a variable pricing structure for pre-season tickets, meaning they charge less for worthless-ass pre-season games. This was an improvement for most of these teams, and 49ers fans were further helped out by Levi's Stadium opening this year—plenty of fans were up for being to beta test a concessions app system that shorts out and steals your money.
Other fans weren't so lucky. SeatGeek collected data on every pre-season game this year, and compared the average price a ticket sold for (not the listing price, which these sorts of stat dumps usually use) to the lowest face value of tickets in that section, as they were advertised for the teams. SeatGeek only looked at seats on the 50-yard-line on the upper and lower levels and end zone seats, also on the upper and lower levels.
There are charts below, but this is a bloodbath. If you throw out over-rich Niners fans, you're left with only the Patriots and Steelers fans keeping their heads above water on resale—and even then, only barely, and without factoring in fees. The Cowboys were by far the worst on average, with fans losing an average of $118.57 per ticket. The Saints had the biggest single-section dip at $201.63.
These numbers don't take into account the volume of tickets sold per game—SeatGeek's market share isn't what StubHub's is, but it had enough sell-through for these numbers to be significant.
Here are the charts for all four sections, and below, you'll find some additional observations from SeatGeek:
From SeatGeek's Connor Gregoire:
Takeaways & Analysis
- Of the 128 sections we looked at across the NFL, we found that 120 of them (or 94%) were overpriced compared to the average price fans have paid on the secondary market. In 102 (or 80%) of those sections, the secondary market average was at least $20 lower than the face value. In the lower level, 28 of the 64 sections (44%) we looked at showed that season ticket holders trying to recoup the face value of their preseason tickets lost at least $50 per ticket.
- Which was the worst seat to try to get your money back on the secondary market this preseason? Try a lower-level Saints ticket at midfield, which has a face value of $305 but resold for only $103.37, costing season ticket holders an average of $201.63 per ticket, per game. That means a fan with two season tickets in that pricing tier trying to resell his preseason games lost more than $800 on those two games.
- The Cowboys were the only team in the NFL to finish in the bottom four in all four seating areas based on dollars lost per ticket on the resale market. Their lower-level midfield tickets drew the second-highest resale average ($221.43) behind only the 49ers, but because they also have the highest face value in the league at $340 a pop, fans reselling those seats took a hit of $118.57 per ticket.
- The two teams that stand out as pricing their preseason tickets most fairly are the 49ers and Patriots, both of whom are employing preseason pricing this year. Resale prices were actually considerably higher than face value for San Francisco's two preseason games at brand-new Levi's Stadium, which would have allowed a season ticket holder with lower-level seats at midfield to profit $128 per ticket, per game. In the other three seating areas we looked at, 49ers tickets resold for $20-$35 above face. The Patriots priced their seats almost perfectly to the market, leaving room for season ticket holders in the lower level at midfield to make a few bucks if they tried to resell and pricing their other seats within $6 of the resale average.
- But just because a team provided a preseason discount didn't mean they weren't gouging their fans this August. The Vikings provided preseason pricing for their first games at TCF Bank Stadium, but their tickets still resold at at least a 60% discount in all four seating areas; paying the season ticket price, fans lost $67-$87 on average in the lower level and at midfield in the upper level, and the cheapest seats in the upper level — $35 each at face value — were worth only $7.68 apiece on the secondary market. In the company of the Vikings were the Bills, Chiefs and Chargers, who all gave fans a discount on preseason games but were still in the bottom half of the league in all four seating areas based on the average dollar amount a season ticket holder lost on the resale market.