By James T. Reese Jr., Ed.D.
Program Director and Associate Professor, Sports Management
and Dr. Brian Freeland, Ed.D.
Dean, School of Health Sciences
Have you ever thought about attending the Super Bowl? What football fan hasn’t? Unfortunately, that dream ends quickly for most people when they begin to shop for tickets and realize Super Bowl tickets can be thousands of dollars.
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It is very simple when you consider the law of supply and demand. Limited tickets and high demand send prices soaring. That is especially true for Super Bowl LV, since only 25,000 seats are available due to social distancing protocols.
Since the capacity of Raymond James Stadium in Tampa is approximately 66,000 and the Super Bowl is an NFL event, this year’s game will be a significant financial disappointment for the league. Although the NFL no longer prints face value prices on Super Bowl tickets, upper-level seats for tickets to Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis ranged from $950-$5,000. Currently, ticket prices on the secondary market range from approximately $6,000 to $28,000 each.
Who Normally Gets Super Bowl Tickets?
So how are Super Bowl tickets distributed? This has been a highly guarded secret since the National Football League (NFL) shares few details. Here’s an insider’s look at where the tickets go.
Historically, the accepted theory in the media has been that teams participating in the Super Bowl receive 17.5% of the total number of tickets for players, coaches, staff and season ticket holders. That figure is generally accurate.
Each coach and player participating in the Super Bowl receives two complimentary tickets (comps) and an option to purchase an additional 13 tickets at face value. Also, the staff of teams participating in the Super Bowl receive two comps with an option to purchase an additional six tickets.
The remaining tickets are provided to VIPs, front office personnel, team sponsors and season ticket holders of the participating teams. A weighted lottery, typically based on seniority, determines which season ticket holders are selected. Each season ticket holder selected in the lottery receives an option to purchase two tickets.
In addition, the team hosting the Super Bowl received a small ticket allocation, as do each of the remaining non-participating teams. Teams distribute most of their ticket allocation to players as part of the agreement with the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA).
For teams who are not participating in the Super Bowl, their players are provided with an opportunity to purchase two tickets to each Super Bowl game. Non-participating teams can distribute any remaining tickets to VIPs, front office personnel, team sponsors and other similar people.
Finally, the NFL retains 25%-30% of the available tickets for league staff, corporate partners and promotions. On January 22, the NFL announced that it has invited 7,500 vaccinated frontline healthcare workers, primarily from the Tampa area, to be guests at Super Bowl LV. This gesture is intended as a thank-you to those healthcare providers for their hard work and service during the pandemic.
Limiting the Number of Tickets on the Secondary Market
One of the strategies used by teams to limit the number of tickets that end up being sold by scalpers at higher prices on the secondary market is to require fans who purchase tickets to pick them up at the stadium in the host city. This strategy helps to ensures that those individuals who are issued tickets will be the ones actually attending the game. Few people are willing to spend the money to travel to the host site unless they plan to go to the game.
The Coronavirus Pandemic May Change Super Bowl LV Ticket Allocation
Due to the limited number of tickets for this year’s game and the effects of the COVID-
19 pandemic on professional sports, the traditional ticket allocation formula may be slightly different for Super Bowl LV. Regardless, if you want to attend a future Super Bowl, the cost of tickets, travel, lodging and meals could set you back in excess of five figures.
About the Authors
Dr. Jim Reese is an Associate Professor and Program Director for the undergraduate and graduate sports management programs at American Public University and a former ticket administrator with the Denver Broncos. He holds an M.S. in Sport Management from Georgia Southern University and an Ed.D. in Physical Education: Sport Administration from the University of Northern Colorado.
Dr. Brian Freeland is the Dean of the School of Health Sciences at American Public University. He holds a B.S. in Health and Physical Education from Radford University, an M.S.S. in Sports Management from the United States Sports Academy and an Ed.D. in Sports Management and Leadership from Northcentral University. Brian has over 20 years of experience coaching youth and high school basketball players.