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Andrew Luck Fans, Beware! You Have No Automatic Right to Renew Indy Colts Season Tickets

Die-hard sports fans, more specifically season ticket holders, almost certainly assume that their game tickets will automatically be renewable from year to year.  As a recent federal court decision (Frager v. Indianapolis Colts, Inc., Dkt. No. 1:16-cv-632-WTL-DML (S.D. Ind. Nov. 9, 2016), aff’d, Dkt. No. 16-4183 (7th Cir. June 22, 2017)) makes clear, however, that is often not the case.

            Mr. Frager, for several years, had purchased and renewed his 94 tickets for Colts games.  The invoice he had received each year indicated that “each ticket purchased grants a revocable license to entry into Lucas Oil Stadium and a spectator seat for a particular game.”  The invoice also indicated that the Colts reserved the right to allocate seat locations, and to “reject any order transfer or renewal;” however, tickets were transferrable during a portion of the season if the holder paid a 30% fee to the Colts for the privilege of transfer.

            For reasons that were not discussed, in 2016 the Colts refused Mr. Frager’s request that his tickets be renewed.  The District Court dismissed his claim that the Colts had converted his property rights, finding that his complaint failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted.  It concluded that the Colts’ reservation of the right to reject any renewal superseded any renewal expectation that Mr. Frager had.  And while he had, at least during the football season, the right to transfer that season’s tickets, that right did not equate to an ownership interest in future seasons.  In other words, neither his expectations nor his promise of future performance  (purchase) was sufficient to give him rights that were great than the express terms of the limited license which was granted annually.  The Court of Appeals affirmed the decision, finding that Frager’s anticipated ability to resell his season tickets was nothing more than “a speculation on a chance, not a legal right.”

            The Colts thereby join a number of other teams – including the Denver Broncos, Chicago Bears, New England Patriots, Chicago Cubs, Buffalo Bills and the Washington Redskins – that have successfully upheld the team’s right to deny renewal of season tickets.  And while there are a couple of reported decisions to the contrary, involving the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Boston Red Sox, those decisions turned on the facts peculiar to those cases (the Steelers had contradictory language regarding renewal in its handbook for season ticket holders, whereas the Red Sox apparently did not retain a right to reject requests for renewal, thereby precluding rejection based upon “historical practices of the Red Sox and the reasonable expectations that behavior encourages”).

            As a result, and while local seat license holders, i.e., fans of the New York Jets and New York Giants, have little to worry about (unless a seat license is revoked due to a violation of the code of conduct in the stadium), other sports fans, and more likely season ticket resellers, may for any reason or no reason be denied their perceived right to ticket renewal.  In other words, a revocable license can be revoked, no matter what the expectation may be, both in Indianapolis and elsewhere.

By Rick Shulman, Principle.  To contact the author click here.

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