It was a Saturday morning during the summer and I did not have any plans for the day. I decide to call up my buddy, Mark, to see if he wants to go to the Giants game in the afternoon. Mark says, “Go to the game? I can barely afford the ticket, and don’t even get me started about concessions.” This got me thinking, why in the world are sporting games so expensive? While considering the numerous variables at play, I realized that almost all games are expensive, but NFL games are significantly more pricey than MLB games. From an economic perspective we can analyze the supply and demand of each situation.
Before we dive into analyzing the price of attending various sporting events I want to tell a brief story. About ten years ago my older brother’s birthday was at the Oakland Coliseum for an A’s game. He invited loads of friends, and my father did not seem to care about the number of people we were taking to the game. We arrived at the game and my Dad bought everyone a ticket, a hot dog and a soda. Tickets were $5, hot dogs and soda were $2. My brother even had a birthday message on the big screen during the middle of the third inning. To this day my parents joke that this was the cheapest birthday party that any of us have ever had, and it still amazes me that the tickets were only $5.
Today, I am in the position to analyze the ticket price, and hopefully make some sense of it. Looking at the demand side, it was a Tuesday day-game and the A’s were not having a good season. On top of that, the visiting team was the Cleveland Indians, so the game did not have the same draw as a Red Sox or Yankees game. Looking at these factors we can easily state that the demand for tickets to this A’s game was low.
What about supply? The supply of A’s tickets stays constant for most of the season. At some games they close off or open up certain sections to accommodate special situations such as playoff games, but usually the number of tickets supplied is unchanged. The normal number of tickets supplied at an A’s game is 35,067, but the tickets supplied for a Raiders game is more than 56,000 (coliseum.com). This is an interesting stat because both teams play in the same stadium. The A’s franchise struggles so much with filling the stadium that they have given up on filling it and reduced the number of available seats by roughly 20,000. The average price for an A’s ticket in 2014 was $22.84, which is less than half of the average price for a ticket to Fenway. The average price for a Raiders’ ticket in 2014 was $161.13, nearly $300 less than the Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks’ average (TiqIQ).
Comparing Oakland franchises with Boston franchises reveals an enormous discrepancy in price, but it can be explained quite easily. Boston teams have had tons of success throughout history, their fans are loyal, there is no rival team in Boston to split the fan base, and lastly the entire New England area supports Boston teams. The more interesting comparison is between the A’s and the Raiders.
To explain the extreme difference between A’s and Raiders’ ticket prices we will carefully look at supply and demand factors as well as any other, outside influences. First, let’s look at supply. There are roughly 20,000 more tickets supplied for Raiders’ games than A’s games. By the law of demand, we would expect A’s games to be more expensive, but that conjecture is invalid because we are not keeping all other factors constant. In fact, we are missing the most important factor in this analysis, the number of games in a season. Since there are 162 games in an MLB season and only 16 games in an NFL season, the quantity of tickets supplied for the entire season is far greater for the A’s than the Raiders. In a single season there are roughly 5,680,854 A’s tickets supplied, but only 896,000 Raiders’ tickets. Now that we are looking at the entire season it is clear that the ticket supply of NFL games is a mere fraction of MLB games. Now, let’s look at demand. Clearly, the demand for Raiders’ tickets is much greater than A’s tickets, but why? The Raiders are also historically a terrible team, the economic status of the fan base is identical to the A’s, but the quantity of tickets supplied is much less.
Attending professional sporting events in the USA is expensive regardless of the sport, but the variance in price between sports is also significant. Obviously there are numerous factors that determine the price of a sports ticket, but the quantity of tickets supplied over the entire season is what makes NFL games so much more expensive than the other major sports.
“2014 MLB Tickets: Average Price By Team.” TiqIQ Blog Your Live Event Connection RSS. 28 Mar. 2014. Web. 11 Feb. 2015. <http://blog.tiqiq.com/2014/03/2014-mlb-tickets-prices-by-team/>.
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“O.co Coliseum.” Oakland Athletics. Web. 10 Feb. 2015. <http://oakland.athletics.mlb.com/oak/ballpark/>.
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