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NFL Selling 1 Percent of Super Bowl Tickets to Public Ruled Legal

Jan. 9, 2019, 8:44 PM

The National Football League’s ticket allocation for the 2014 Super Bowl, including its offering of only 1 percent of tickets to the public, didn’t violate a New Jersey law, the state top court said Jan. 9.

The NFL, following its custom, sold 1 percent of the 2014 Super Bowl tickets to the public through an NFL-sponsored lottery. It gave the remaining 99 percent to NFL teams and other entities connected to the league.

Josh Finkelman, who bought two tickets to the big game for $2,000 each, alleged the league broke a consumer protection law meant to curtail holding back sports and entertainment tickets from their initial sale to the public.

The law, in effect during sales for the 2014 Super Bowl at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., said, “It shall be an unlawful practice for a person, who has access to tickets to an event prior to the tickets’ release for sale to the general public, to withhold those tickets from sale to the general public in an amount exceeding 5% of all available seating for the event.”

Some of the tickets were, in turn, sold to brokers, who resold them at inflated prices, Finkelman said.

Finkelman bought two tickets on the secondary market for more than twice the $800 face value. He sued on behalf of a class who either bought tickets at premium prices from resellers or couldn’t afford them.

The NFL didn’t break the law, the court said.

The league is a “person,” covered by the law’s restrictions, it said.

But the only tickets designated for “release for sale to the general public” were the ones sold to lottery winners, the court said.

The law would have been implicated if the NFL had held back more than 5 percent of those tickets, But Finkelman didn’t allege that any tickets meant for lottery winners were unlawfully withheld.

Finkelman’s claim is based on the purchase of two tickets in the 99 percent of tickets the NFL distributed to an unidentified party, which were then resold.

But those tickets weren’t destined to be part of a public sale, the court said. Therefore, the league’s allocation didn’t constitute unlawful withholding within the meaning of the law.

The law has since been repealed.

Nagel Rice represented Finkelman. Haynes and Boone and Fox Rothschild represented the NFL.

The case is Finkelman v. Nat’l Football League, 2019 BL 6637, N.J., No. A-38 September Term 2017 080501, 1/9/19.

To contact the reporter on this story: Julie Steinberg in Washington at jsteinberg@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jo-el J. Meyer at jmeyer@bloomberglaw.com; Steven Patrick at spatrick@bloomberglaw.com