A few days ago we talked about the free jersey offer for the Sabres next two home games. Puck Daddy talked about it that same day, openly wondering if the Sabres should reconsider variable pricing on tickets. Our original thought was that this was merely an attempt to sell more tickets despite out pricing much of the market, but perhaps there’s something more to it.
Yesterday James Mirtle wrote about the Predators ownership attempting to buy tickets to home games in an attempt to hit revenue sharing benchmarks. Obviously this practice is a little shaky, despite the fact that the league has said this is okay. Mirtle quoted another article discussing the reaction from the NHL’s Board of Governors:
One source among the NHL governors says he and some of his peers are not happy that clubs can buy tickets to hit revenue-sharing targets. They are also not pleased that some low-revenue clubs have started offering larger discounts and more incentives such as merchandise and free trips to people buying single-game or season tickets.
It is all done with an eye to raising enough revenue to land a full share of revenue sharing, which comes out of the pockets of other clubs.
This makes me wonder if that’s what is going on here. You’d be hard pressed to ever find out what’s going on with the Sabres’ front office on much of anything, but could this be a method of maintaining a good attendance record and boosting revenue-sharing marks? These two games have the most profit potential out of any home events, and so not selling a few thousand seats in each would potentially hurt the bottom line. But is it enough to warrant an offer like that for the sake of revenue sharing?
Last season the Sabres finished second overall in attendance figures, with a Winter Classic-aided average of 19,950 per game. This season that number has slipped, and the Sabres currently rank 11th with 18,539 per game. That’s still 99.2% capacity, but a full 1400 tickets less per game. Over a 42 game home schedule that’s a pretty large number, and with higher ticket prices this season that’s an even bigger potential drop. Is that difference in revenue from this season to last season enough to warrant a potential loss in revenue sharing?
Now, it’s very possible that the source isn’t talking about a team like the Sabres. Plenty of teams are having a tougher time putting fans in the seats, including Phoenix, Florida, Atlanta, Columbus, and the Islanders. Their promotions page is filled with deep discounts and “all you can eat” packages to prove it.
Still, the offer the Sabres put forth does seem curious given the situation. Is this merely an attempt to save face and sell tickets in a pricing tier they want to succeed, or is there something much more profitable behind it? Are the Sabres already well into the revenue sharing sector, or is there something more at stake with each free jersey sold? I’m not as well-versed in the CBA and revenue sharing as I’d like to be, so perhaps there is someone out there with these answers.
Either way, it’s an interesting move to ponder. According to a “Team Valuation” by Forbes.com in October, the Sabres received $6 million in revenue sharing last season, and operated at an $8.9 million loss. That’s good for 21st in the league. The question is, are a few free jerseys to sell an extra $800 in tickets enough to change any of that?