Miami Dolphins’ Stephen Ross Controlling the Ticket Resale Market and Lying to Fans

Before the season started, as fans, we were told that the Miami Dolphins would limit ticket sales to brokers, in addition to a new seating bowl with the sidelines closer to the field. Armando Salguero, probably the most-followed and largest critic of the Dolphins in the South Florida media, was given the exclusive article on August 27. Now, according to the Wall Street Journal, we know it was all a lie (more on this later).

The media and the team fully expected the Dolphins to get off to a hot start in 2015, possibly starting 6-0. The players bought into it too. Ndamukong Suh, the $114 million free agent, even went as far as to say this year’s Dolphins’ defense would be better than the Lions #2 ranked 2014 defense. He was clearly implying his prediction that the Dolphins would be the top defense in the NFL in 2015. After three games, the defense is ranked 24th in the NFL.

The Dolphins are not in the position they thought they would be going into their “home” game in London against the New York Jets thanks to a hapless effort, and a disappointing 1-2 record (one Jarvis Landry punt return shy of being 0-3).

In fact, one of the warning signs going into the season was that Miami would only be playing 2 of its first 6 games at Sun Life Stadium because of this game in London. If the Dolphins can’t figure out a way to beat the Jets, they will be 1-3 going into the bye week.

The problem with this kind of start, other than the obvious, is that the crap we were fed before the season starts to be exposed, and issues that might have been swept under the rug become front and center.

Let’s start with this London “home” game against the Dolphins’ biggest divisional rival. In the middle of last season, when the game was announced, there was an uproar from fans and media. And rightly so: this game has nothing to do with football or with the success of the product on the field. It was strictly a move by owner Stephen Ross to make Miami eligible to host a future Super Bowl.

In fact, the stadium renovations have little to do with the Dolphins. This new stadium is as much about the Dolphins as playing a divisional home game in London is a good idea. The driving force behind the overhaul is so the venue can host Super Bowls, NCAA National Championships, International Soccer matches, etc. The home of the Miami Dolphins is nothing more than a business asset to a billionaire looking for ways to get richer.

Monopolizing the Secondary Ticket Sales Market

Speaking of a calculated plan to get rich, Stephen Ross put in place a plan this off-season that would ensure he is able to exclusively profit from the re-sale of NFL tickets at Sun Life Stadium. You see, in past seasons, in order to sell more tickets and increase revenues, the Dolphins sold large chunks of tickets to brokers who would turn around and re-sell them at a higher cost. Most of these tickets were on the visiting team’s sideline. This explains the sea of opposing fans at almost every Dolphins home game. I was at the Steelers game in 2010 when the referees gifted Roethlisberger the win in front of a crowd that was at least 50% yellow. It was embarrassing, and even more so because it is routine at Sun Life Stadium.

At the beginning of this article, I cited a story written by Armando Salguero in which he said the Dolphins are “primed to offer the least number of tickets on the secondary market in the NFL in 2015.” Salguero told us that this year, unlike past years, brokers would be getting around 1,000 tickets (out of the 65,000+) compared with as many as 9,000 in years past. Great news, right? Not only were we going to see the Dolphins playing in a newly renovated stadium, but the stadium might even have a home crowd!

Not so fast. Yesterday’s Wall Street Journal article exposed what Ross’s plan really was. It is true that the organization cut sales to external brokers, but it wasn’t in an effort to keep opposing fans out of the stadium (like we were told). Ross, like most smart businessmen, saw a chance to make easy money.

In February of this year, an investor group that includes Ross acquired Atlanta-based PrimeSport Inc., according to the Wall Street Journal. While it is not clear that tickets have come directly from the Dolphins or not, PrimeSport has listed “more than 480 tickets at prices of up to $1,200 each” for this season’s game against the Dallas Cowboys. Additionally, the WSJ points out tickets to this year’s Patriots game in one section are selling at a 51% markup on PrimeSport.

You see, high marquee games each year draw extremely high resale values from which Ross ultimately makes no money. But this year, the Dolphins (and Ross) will not only make money off of the face value sale of the tickets, but Ross’s investment group will make money off of the resale as well.

Miami ticket broker Gus Rodriguez said the Dolphins ticket office told him that they could not sell him tickets because “we have our own secondary ticket business.” Rodriguez normally spends over $1,000,000 on Dolphins tickets to re-sell each year.

In Ross’s defense, according to people familiar with the acquisition of PrimeSport, Ross’s stake in PrimeSport is less than 2%. However, 2% of millions of dollars in ticket re-sales is still a lot of money and certainly more than the $0 he was making last season. Additionally, the tickets are being marketed by PrimeSport to out of town fans through packages that include travel and hospitality.

The issue I have, and I would imagine most Dolphins fans would have, is the information that we were fed prior to the season. Ross and the Dolphins, instead of not commenting at all, spun the rejected sales to ticket brokers as an effort to ensure less visiting fans would be in Sun Life Stadium.

Clearly this is not the case.

Between this Sunday’s game in London, the effort to receive public dollars to finance a portion of Sun Life Stadium’s $425 million renovation, this ugly P.R. spin on secondary ticket sales, and going all the way back to the ridiculous orange carpet in Ross’s first year of full ownership, it is clear that Ross has no interest in putting a winning product on the field.

Perhaps Ross has managed to hide from this fact because of Miami Marlins’ owner Jeffrey Loria to the south, but he shouldn’t be allowed to any longer.

As fans, we should start demanding answers. The most successful franchises in the NFL have great owners whose number one initiative is producing a winning football team: Robert Kraft, the Rooney family, John Mara, the publicly owned Green Bay Packers, and so on.

Say what you want about Joe Philbin, Kevin Coyle, and the Miami Dolphins coaching staff. The mess and disappointment you see on the field starts with Stephen Ross and he needs to change, or the Dolphins never will.

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