MLS Cup #Ticketgate deepens as tickets invalidated and questions arise

MC13_Cup_logo_COL

I thought it was time for a new post with udpated info on what is turning out to be a real mess for MLS, SKC and the fans.  So MLS just published the following information:

Ed. note: The following is a statement distributed by Major League Soccer on Wednesday.

For the first 16 years of MLS history, the MLS Cup was played at a neutral site. It was a format that worked in the formative stages of the League. But after ongoing discussions with our Clubs, players and fans, MLS moved to a competition-based Cup format that provides the higher-seeded Club the opportunity to host the League championship. This change provides the host club, their players and fans, with a special and memorable opportunity to celebrate a season-long achievement in their home market.

As part of this format change, in conjunction with our clubs, a policy was created to provide the visiting Club an allocation of 1,000 tickets for distribution to its staff, players, partners and fans. The visiting club determines how they will allocate this block of tickets to their various constituents.

Real Salt Lake will announce how they will allocate their 1,000-ticket allotment later today.

Earlier this week, a limited number of RSL fans gained access to a secure link that had been established solely for Sporting Kansas City season ticket members to purchase MLS Cup tickets. Because RSL fans were not authorized to use this link, the purchase orders were not fulfilled.

Of course their is a problem with that statement, it isn’t true.  Here is an image of the email that was sent to SKC STM’s last friday:

SKC STM MLS Cup email

 

I have blocked out the code that was included, but it wasn’t the “compromised” code of “13stmcup” it was a unique numeric code.  as you can see they had from noon yesterday until 2 pm today to purchase seats (not their specific seats) for MLS Cup, they could only but the number of tickets as they had season tickets.

So the question is what was that code for?  Was it really hacked?  Ticketmaster is a worldwide company that has sold tickets for the biggest events on the planet, they know what they are doing.  When they make arrangements with a seller to do a presale, there is a code create, a date and time window that the code is valid for, and then what seats can be purchased with that code.  So who was this code for?  I have talked with two SKC STM’s who never got a communication with the “13stmcup” code, so clearly this wasn’t the presale code for them to use as SKC and MLS are now claiming.

I can tell you with a level of confidence what has happened.  SKC know how many STM’s they have and how many seats they could buy with their unique code, they also know how many tickets MLS is allocated and what RSL is allocated, instead of putting the rest of the tickets on sale on December 2nd, which is the “general public” date they are trying to fill the stadium with their fans.  So they created a code to do just that, their intention was to distribute it to their STM’s but they hadn’t done it yet, so someone either guessed the code or someone at SKC leaked it and then it got leaked to the public.  When they found out that it was out and being used by both SKC and RSL fans, they panicked, but remember codes are only good for the dates and times that the seller tells Ticketmaster to accept them, so the problem was clearly on the SKC end of things.

Once RSL fans took to social media proclaiming their ticket purchases (since RSL still hasn’t announced the details of how RSL fans can get part of the 1000 ticket allocation) and it got noticed by folks at SKC.  The end result is that all those tickets purchased by anyone with that code have been invalidated:

invalidated MLS Cup order

 

This is the text of the email sent out by ticketmaster:

On Wednesday, November 27, 2013 11:21 AM, Notification <Notification@Ticketmaster.com> wrote:
Dear fan,

This is not the kind of email we like to send. We had to cancel the tickets you bought for the following event because they were only available as a pre-sale with a password…but the password had not been distributed yet! 

MLS Cup 2013
Sporting Kansas City vs. Real Salt 
Lake
Sporting Park
Saturday, December 7
th, 2013 at 3PM
Major League Soccer is requesting to fully refund any ticket that was sold at this time.
What do I need to do?

The good news is you don’t have to do a thing – you should see the full refund posted to your account within 7 – 10 business days. Just discard the tickets we sent, they’ve been canceled and will not get you in to the event.

We want you to get tickets for Sporting Kansas City vs. Real Salt Lake when they officially go on sale. 
 
Note: Onsale dates and times sometimes change so please check the event on Ticketmaster.com for updates.
If you received tickets via our Ticket Transfer program, this email serves only as notification.  As you did not purchase the tickets from Ticketmaster, you will not receive a refund.
 
If you sent tickets to someone via our Ticket Transfer program, please be advised we have notified the current ticket holder.  All tickets are being returned to your account and the refund information posted above applies.

If you need anything else, we’re always here for you – just hit reply and ask us or visit Ticketmaster.com!

Thanks for being a fan!

Ticketmaster Fan Support

So fans who bought tickets and made plans to attend MLS Cup are now left out in the cold, and even fans who didn’t use the code are now at risk of buying tickets on the secondary market that may not be valid.  I believe that this image shows the what code might be invalid on a printed copy of the ticket, if your ticket has this code you might want to check with Ticketmaster:

MLS Cup ticket

 

I have it from one source that while their Ticketmaster account shows that their order is now invalid, that the funds for that transaction are still in hold on their credit card account.  Not Cool.

So why do I believe that is what happened, well first it lines up with what two separate SKC STM’s have told me, and shown me, and second because one of those STM’s just got the following email from the SKC front office:

On Wed, Nov 27, 2013 at 11:50 AM, Brian Diebold <bdiebold@sportingkc.com> wrote:

Great News! We’ve received a limited allotment of tickets back from MLS and we want to pack Sporting Park with as many Sporting Fans as possible so we are giving Season Ticket Members an opportunity to secure additional MLS Cup Final tickets. This exclusive sale begins at 2:00 PM CST on Wednesday, November 27 and lasting until 10:00 PM CST on Friday, November 29 or while supplies last.

Click “Purchase Now” and your promo code is your season ticket “Account ID number”.  Your Account ID number can be found by logging into your online Sporting KC Account and is located in the upper left hand corner.

*Only the total number of seats associated with your regular season ticket account can be purchased during this exclusive sale. Standard Ticketmaster delivery options will apply.

PURCHASE NOW

Your PROMO CODE is your Account ID number.

To stay connected and learn more about your Season Ticket Member benefits, follow us on twitter @SportingKCSTM and like the STM Facebook Page.

Brian Diebold

Client Services Executive

Sporting Kansas City

1511 Baltimore Ave. | Kansas City, MO  64108

O816.949.1269|  608.577.9865

Ebdiebold@sportingkc.com

STM Facebook Page | @SportingKCSTM

 Perhaps there is no more clear indication of SKC getting caught with their pants down than this email and their change from their planned generic code to now using the specific STM account number as the presale code.  This wasn’t hacking, this wasn’t anything illegal, this was smart fans using social media to beat the club at their own game, and then getting mad and throwing a fit about it.

MLS should have made the honor the tickets, instead you now have potentially thousands of invalid tickets out there, how many will make it into the secondary market, do you expect a casual fan wanting to go to MLS Cup to know the difference?  How many people will travel to Sporting Park on December 7th, only to be turned away from the gate?

This stinks, from how it happened, to how the reaction has been communicated.  Yes I know that I risk backlash from MLS for making all of this public, but without SKC or MLS being transparent about things, and owning up to their own mistakes, someone has to keep their feet to the fire.

Oh and there is plenty of issues on the RSL side as well, one has to wonder how the “1,000” tickets available to RSL will be allocated?  I know as a STH that I got the following info:

As the visiting team, RSL has been allocated a limited number of tickets for MLS Cup. On Tuesday December 3 at 10 AM, we will release the remaining few hundred tickets to Season Ticket Holders on a first come first serve basis. Tickets will be available to purchase online only. A limit of 4 tickets will be available on each individual purchase transaction. Once you have purchased tickets you will be able to pick them up at the Rio Tinto Stadium box office. Due to the demand for this limited number of tickets, phone and email orders will not be accepted. You will need your season ticket holder account number to complete the purchase. If you do not remember it, please call us immediately. More information on this sale will be sent out to RSL PRIDE Season Ticket Holders on Monday prior to the sale on Tuesday Morning.

I got word today that some sponsors were able to purchase tickets yesterday, before RSL season ticket holders, before members of the RSL supporter groups.  So RSL fans who wait until Tuesday to try to follow the system to get tickets will have just 4 days to make travel arrangements and prices have gone up everyday.  There has to be a better way to deal with this.

I love the idea of the team with the best record hosting MLS Cup, it is a great idea, but clearly MLS didn’t put enough thought or planning into how to handle the ticket demand.  Sporting Park holds about 20,000 fans, they have roughly 11,000 STM’s so there should be a fair deal more tickets available for the general public(which would include RSL fans).

That’s How I See It

 

 

11 comments

  1. Patrick says:

    When the USA Mexico tickets went on sale, Ticketmaster used the same system. I got a code that was unique to me, I did try to log in again to see if I could use my code again I could not.

    • admin says:

      I know for the Gold Cup and USMNT match in Salt Lake there were generic codes as well, there was a credit card presale and various other presales. Presale and discount codes are shared all the time online.

  2. admin says:

    So here is an open letter that @drinkwithdunny wrote to #MLS – I’m really struggling with the explanation I received for having my tickets to the MLS Cup voided. The Ticketmaster email stated “they were only available with a password… but the password had not been distributed yet!”

    I’m REALLY scratching my head here, as the password HAD been distributed, case in point, Sporting KC’s own twitter account tweeted about its existence yesterday, at 11:06 AM Mo…untain time. The tweet said the code would start working at noon. If the password hadn’t been distributed, how could tickets be available at noon for a non existent code?

    While I recognize that the code was originally intended for STM participants, there was NO indication at purchase that the code being used was only intended for a narrow group of people. Had there been such a qualification in the ticket purchase process, your actions claiming the tickets invalid would have more weight. However, so such qualification was communicated.

    I, and countless others, made a valid contract when we purchased those tickets, regardless of what the code was intended for. An offer for tickets was made, acceptance of that price was given by myself, and countless others, and money was exchanged. We formed a valid and binding contract for those tickets. And a cancellation of that contract opens up significant liability for detrimental reliance. Many of us IMMEDIATELY purchased non-refundable airline tickets, relying on the fact that we had a valid contract granting us tickets.

    Now you’re making a unilateral decision to break the ticket purchase contract. How do you intend to compensate those that are now out hundreds upon hundreds of dollars in non refundable airfare?

    • Chip says:

      Don’t get caught up in “I made a valid contract.” The Terms of Use for Ticketmaster deal with promo codes very clearly. When you purchased the tickets, you agreed that you either received the code directly from TM (which you did not) or that you did not “violate the terms of the presale or offer.” Did you violate the terms of the presale or offer? (Nobody knows since the explanation in this post is pure speculation about the origin of the code you used). Did you even have any idea what the terms were for using the code? No.

      It is not reasonable to rely on a contract you made when you either did not read the contract (most likely) or did not bother to figure out if you were living up to the contract. I’m sorry you spent more money after buying those tickets, but not sorry enough to expect anyone else to pay for this lesson. Always read the contact – this one gave you notice.

      • Thomas Woodbury says:

        You raise an interesting legal question. And my understanding of both contract law and court decisions on the topic, “offer and acceptance” take priority over any company policy. In other words, state and federal law eclipse ticketmaster’s poorly written and hidden policy,
        Furthermore, when Ticketmaster emailed those individuals who purchased those tickets, they essentially passively overlooked any violations in their terms of purchase and created a contract.

        • Thomas Woodbury says:

          One other point, Ticktmaster gave the ticket purchaser 5 minutes tom putting the ticket in their cart to complete the entire purchase process, in essence making it impossible to read all the terms and conditions and still get the ticket (see adhesion contract). It’s easy to hide behind a terms and condition statement that is impossible to read.

          • Chip says:

            There is nothing wrong with adhesion contracts and nothing about this one is unconscionable. Expecting that presale code be used in accordance with the terms is perfectly acceptable.

            I also don’t see the distinction between company policy and offer and acceptance. The terms of use are a part of the offer, not something separate from it. Besides, there is nothing hidden or complicated about the Terms of Use. The relevant section is in plain language and uses bullet points to make it stand out. How much time you had to complete the purchase once you started is irrelevant because you agreed to the terms of use before you ever put any tickets into your cart.

  3. n/a says:

    Looks like “ZSTH” is the new code printed on the tickets that went on sale today. So if your tickets have that code, they should be valid. If they have “Z13STMC”, probably not.

  4. n/a says:

    (from http://www.kansascity.com/2013/11/27/4654422/not-all-mls-cup-presale-tickets.html)

    Sporting Kansas City officials said Wednesday they are sorting out the ticket snafu that allowed the general public to purchase MLS Cup tickets that were reserved for season-ticket members.

    The exclusive 48-hour presale was compromised late Tuesday when nearly 1,000 MLS Cup tickets were sold — many of them to Real Salt Lake fans — using an online code that leaked across social media. Real Salt Lake plays Sporting KC for the MLS championship at Sporting Park on Dec. 7.

    Sporting KC chief revenue officer Jake Reid said the club is still trying to figure out how fans gained access to the code — “13STMCUP” — which had not yet been distributed, he said.

    “It’s possible somebody guessed it,” Reid said.

    All tickets purchased on Ticketmaster via the code were canceled, and buyers were refunded their money. But not all sales were invalidated.

    Season-ticket members were sent an email with instructions on how to purchase tickets to the MLS Cup during the exclusive presale using their account manager on Ticketmaster. No code was required for season-ticket members to buy tickets using the Ticketmaster account manager, and all of those tickets purchased through that method remain valid, Reid said.

    Reid said the club created a Ticketmaster promo code for season-ticket members who had trouble logging into their account manager. While the code was live — and thus led to nearly 1,000 tickets being sold — it had not yet been distributed to anyone.

    “We don’t give out the code until 24 hours after the presale starts,” Reid said. “That’s noon today.”

    • admin says:

      That is probably the most realistic version of it, but I still think it was a mistake on SKC’s part using a generic code for a big event like this almost always leads to leaks. They had sent a very specific code (their account number) to each of their season ticket holders (members), which limited the number of tickets they could buy to the number of season tickets they have, this code didn’t have any such limit, I believe you could buy up to 12, I know you could buy at least 4. You would think that if a STM had trouble that they could have called TM, or used their chat customer service or contact SKC customer service to help them. So I am not sure if I buy that this code was meant to be used that way, it also doesn’t explain why that code in question could purchase tickets in the away supporter section, wouldn’t those have been blocked off from SKC STM’s?

      It also flies in the face of the email they sent (as posted in the blog) that gave each STM their specific code to use to order tickets. Now they did post online that STM’s had until 10am yesterday to buy the tickets in their “account manager” and the code went active after that time period had ended. So either SKC was very incompetent in how they dealt with their own STM’s or something still doesn’t add up all the way. This still smells like spin to me.

      Thanks for sharing

  5. Donny says:

    Sporting park holds 18,467 which can expand to 25,000 for concerts. So of that 18,467, RLS “fans” are given 5.4% of the seats. Given that those 1000 seats are for players friends and families, sponsors and VIP’s. I guesstimate that leaves traveling supporters approximately 3.9% of the seats available. A far cry from the 10% EPL allocates for away teams. Less than 5% for a championship game?

    I am going to KC come hell or high water with our without a ticket. Yes I was one of the many that purchased an “illegal” ticket as they are calling it.

    To be honest it really leaves me proud to be an RSL supporter. We all jumped on it as soon as we could and it scared the piss out SKC. We might even have been close enough to have home field advantage at an away game… A dood can dream.

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