Fans holding tickets for Major League Baseball games in 2020, a season on hold indefinitely amid the global coronavirus pandemic, could be notified as soon as Wednesday about options for exchanges or in some cases refunds, with specific ticket policies to be decided by individual teams.
MLB on Tuesday was preparing to offer guidance to its teams on how to handle ticketing matters for games lost due to the pandemic, with those policies expected to be rolled out this week. Opening Day was to have been March 26, and until now MLB had asked teams not to announce ticket policies, as the games lost to this point had been designated as postponed and not canceled.
At least initially, the offer of refunds is expected to be limited to scheduled games in March and April, according to an industry source familiar with MLB’s plans. The expected rollout of individual teams’ ticket policies was first reported Tuesday by the Wall Street Journal.
The sport still hopes to salvage a 2020 season, most likely starting this summer with games in empty stadiums in locations where government and public health officials have lifted stay-at-home directives. Among the plans considered recently by MLB was sequestering players in protective, isolated bubbles at spring training facilities in Arizona or Florida. The hope would be to permit fans to attend games later in the modified season, perhaps in limited numbers to allow for social distancing.
In the meantime, MLB has come under increasing pressure from fans and politicians to clarify its ticket policies, with the delay of the regular season now in its fifth week and teams holding millions of dollars in ticket revenue for games that are unlikely to be played.
At least one lawsuit, currently seeking class-action certification, has been filed in U.S. District Court against MLB teams and ticket agencies seeking refunds for fans, and a handful of members of Congress have been vocal in appealing to sports leagues and ticketing agencies to refund ticket money to consumers. Similar political pressure has been placed on the entertainment industry for events lost to the coronavirus pandemic.
“With Americans weathering the brutal and continuing impacts of this global crisis, your decision to confiscate their money is reprehensible and should be reversed immediately,” Reps. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J., and Katie Porter, D-Calif., wrote earlier this month in a scathing letter to Ticketmaster.
Baseball, a $10.7 billion industry, is facing massive losses of revenue due to the pandemic, with still no sure path to starting its season. MLB cut a deal with the MLB Players Association in late March to advance $170 million toward player salaries, and the majority of teams has committed to paying non-playing personnel through the end of May.