Accusations, lawsuits fly as many fans don’t get promised Super Bowl tickets because of shortage.

Share story

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Fans held up signs outside the Super Bowl begging to buy tickets, claiming brokers reneged on them.

For many, the dream of seeing the Seahawks and Patriots play Sunday had been dashed by the biggest ticket-shortage crisis in the big game’s history. Accusations flew and lawsuits were threatened as tickets remained scarce and prices hovered above $10,000 on major online resale sites like StubHub within a half-hour of the opening kickoff.

James Kimmel, co-owner of Seattle-based online resale site Epic Seats, was at a VIP event pregame as he recounted a frantic week spent acquiring tickets to honor orders by customers.

“We believe our word is our bond and integrity is everything,’’ Kimmel said. “So, we did what we had to do to make sure people got the tickets they paid for.’’

Most Read Stories

Cyber Sale! Save 90% on digital access.

That meant spending nearly $85,000 to secure about a dozen extra seats to replace those not delivered on time to him by suppliers. Kimmel said Epic Seats honored all of its client sales. Many brokers failed to deliver tickets they’d sold.

“There’s no accountability here,’’ Kimmel said. “At the end of the day, if a broker offers to refund you your money, there isn’t all that much you can do.’’

That’s exactly what happened to Hawks fan and former Puyallup resident Tricia Grannis, who now lives in Leesburg, Va., and flew here Thursday with her husband, Will, and daughters Hannah, 12, and Kathryn, 9. Grannis and her husband had purchased four tickets for $12,000 from an Illinois company called The Ticket Guys and only found out by email Friday night that they would be getting a refund instead.

“It’s a real downer, that’s for sure,’’ said Grannis, whose family watched the game on TV with relatives who live in the area. “We didn’t just go with anybody we found online. We checked them out and they were approved by the Better Business Bureau and had lots of good reviews.’’

She said they plan to take legal action.

In an email, the company’s owner, Randy Sigel, told Grannis he’d never had such an issue in 14 years of doing business.

“After repeatedly trying to get a hold of our vendor for our ticket delivery this evening, he informed us he was not going to deliver our tickets,’’ Sigel wrote. ‘Unfortunately, that means we have no tickets.’’

Opinions vary as to what has caused the ticket shortage, which sent prices skyrocketing to record levels. That left brokers — many of whom had anticipated a price drop the week leading into the game — forced to take huge financial losses or else fail to deliver promised tickets to customers.

Many brokers in recent years have engaged in “short selling” ahead of a Super Bowl. They sell tickets to clients before actually having them in hand, then buy them from suppliers the week of the Super Bowl when prices typically drop.

They make their profit on the price difference.

But this year, the prices never fell and the number of tickets for sale remained scarce. Brokers quickly pointed a finger at the NFL, saying the league had intentionally delayed its distribution of tickets.

Ticketmaster is the league’s only authorized ticket reseller — through NFL Ticket Exchange — and the brokers accuse the NFL of trying to squeeze them out by manipulating the market.

The NFL keeps 25.2 percent of Super Bowl tickets to distribute to whomever it wants. It also allots 17.5 percent of tickets to each of the two teams playing, 5 percent to the host Arizona Cardinals and 1.2 percent to each of the 29 other clubs.

Those tickets are then sold at face value to season-ticket holders, former players, alumni and sponsors, many of whom resell to brokers.

Brokers depend on that supply. But they say, in many cases, players and sponsors didn’t get this year’s tickets until a few days before the game.

“The NFL has typically given these tickets out two weeks prior to the Super Bowl,’’ Kimmel said. “This year, for whatever reason, it was the Wednesday through Friday prior.’’

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said that, “There has been no change this year by the NFL in the process or timing of distribution of tickets to clubs, coaches players or fans.’’

But a source working directly with NFL players said two clients, from an AFC team, were upset because they had to wait around Phoenix until Thursday to pick up their tickets. They had already promised to sell them to a broker, the source said.

And an email sent by Seahawks alumni director Paul Johns to former players nine days before the Super Bowl shows the team still hadn’t confirmed by that point that they would be able to accommodate their requested tickets.

“I want to thank you all for your patience,’’ the email began. “We are working very hard on getting the tickets for each of you. I just talked to our ticket people, and they told me to let you know that they will probably be able to accommodate you for your ticket request of two tickets each.’’

Some Hawks alumni complained of not being able to pick up their tickets from the team until Thursday. Johns declined to comment.

With their regular ticket suppliers not coming through, many brokers simply gave up.

Kimmel said one of his longtime suppliers was counting on a company that was a licensee of TeamTix.com, which allows third parties to create a market for tickets by selling “options” on them at variable prices over time.

In this case, the owner of the company, Brian Peters, was using TeamTix to sell options on Super Bowl tickets during the NFL season — and Kimmel’s supplier had put an option on 11 such tickets and was supposed to get them at $1,750 apiece.

Kimmel was then going to buy them for $2,100 each from his supplier. But then Peters sent out a notice last week that he was instead refunding the money, forcing Kimmel to spend more than $7,000 per ticket to acquire his elsewhere.

Peters runs Ludus Tours, which has been accused by Seahawks and Patriots fans this week of defaulting on promised ticket sales to them. He did not return telephone calls seeking comment.

Information in this article, originally published Feb, 1, 2015, was corrected Feb. 2, 2015. A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Brian Peters owns TeamTix.