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Sports Economics: Hockey Tickets Aren’t Interest-Free Loans to Ownership

In this week’s edition of “The Hippodrome,” an always-worth-reading weekly feature in the Nashville Scene, friend and fellow Fan of the Fang J.R. Lind critiques the Nashville Predators ownership’s broken promise of spending to the salary cap in the recently concluded 2011-2012 season. A season ticket holder himself, Lind unleashes from a fan’s perspective:

…the Predators finished 2011-12 with a payroll of $52.2 million, some $12 million under the NHL’s salary cap. Granted, there are a number of reasons why: the unexpected emergence of young (and cheap) players, the lack of availability for big contract outsiders, the unwillingness of Weber and Ryan Suter to sign long-term deals.

But nonetheless, it was a promise broken.

Fans pay for tickets — interest-free loans — with the expectation that money will go to improve the team. If the team doesn’t improve, the fans should be able to call those loans.

If the team doesn’t meet expectations, the fans should get restitution. Real restitution.

Emphasis added.

While I’m sympathetic to Lind’s disappointment, and while fans do indeed pay for tickets, tickets aren’t interest-free loans to ownership. Tickets are individual licenses to consume entertainment. Season ticket holders, especially across multiple seasons, may fashion themselves as “investors” in the team, but in reality they’re simply paying to consume entertainment, just like the casual fan who buys a discounted single ticket on a Monday night with his/her military ID. The season ticket holder is just paying more up front for more entertainment than the guy/gal buying a single seat on a given game night.

If you want to invest money in the team to make it better over time, there’s a way to do that: ownership. That’s hard to do because it involves moving real dollars and cents, and not just allocating emotions.

(Now sports fans know why economics is called “the dismal science.”)

Filed under economics dismal science hockey entertainment ticket sales Nashville Predators NHL ownership salary cap