The real issue behind limiting ticket sales

Believe it or not, the Seattle Seahawks' staff didn't have a secret meeting before the NFC Championship Game to formulate a plan on limiting how many San Francisco 49ers fans could buy tickets to the game.

A man is suing the NFL for $50 million because he couldn't buy tickets to the NFC Championship Game in January. He claims "economic discrimination" with an illegal ticket policy limiting credit-card sales to selected pro-Seattle markets. His lawsuit claims it was an effort to keep 49ers fans away.

The Seahawks can't comment on a pending lawsuit, but the plaintiff lives in Las Vegas. Nevada happens to be one of three states, including New Jersey and California, where some NFL teams regularly limit credit-card sales.

It may have nothing to do with limiting fan access. Teams often exclude states in an attempt to foil ticket brokers who scam the system and raise prices.

Most ticket brokers operate in those three states. They buy up all the available tickets quickly then re-sell them at much higher prices.

It's true that ticket sales for the NFC Championship Game were limited to credit cards with billing addresses in Washington, Oregon, Montana, Idaho, Alaska and Hawaii, as well as the Canadian provinces of British Columbia and Alberta.

And in this particular case, how would the Seahawks know this person was a 49ers fan since his zip code was in the Las Vegas area? He just as easily could have been a Seahawks fan, but he also could have been part of a ticket-scalping organization.

CenturyLink Field is sold out for season tickets, so the chances of having a large number of fans of a visiting team at any game are remote. Very few tickets were available for the NFC Championship.

The Seahawks had no worries about 49ers fans overwhelming the 12th Man. From a numbers standpoint, that wasn't remotely possible because there weren't enough tickets available. The Denver Broncos had a similar ticket-buying policy for the AFC Championship Game, limiting sales to a regional area.

And doesn't $50 million seem a tad excessive in a lawsuit over a couple of football tickets?