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sports pricing


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The setting of a cost for the consumption of a sporting event, whether watched on a broadcast transmission or in live attendance at the event itself. It is not easy to unravel the actual pricing of a transmitted event, as in an outlet like Sky Television the sport event is usually part of a wider package of channels, though for some events pay-per-view (for, say, boxing) has a clearer one-off cost. In ticket pricing, sports teams are seen as local monopolists, in that they usually sell to a captive, loyal, and returning spectator base. Fans of football clubs in Europe would rarely switch from one club to another, particularly in the same locality—though they may adopt a second- or third-favourite club, based on their own social and geographical mobility or some family history or connection. Spectators of team sports are seen to be unresponsive to changes in admission price (in technical economic language, ‘demand is price inelastic’), and tickets have therefore been priced based on the loyalty of the established fan base.

Market size obviously affects pricing, though, and if demand exceeds supply, a black economy in touting or, in the US term scalping, will find different levels of pricing, particularly for big games or special matches, such as finals or derby games against local rivals. With established fan bases, pricing can be lowered by block deals such as season tickets, where the supporter buys a seat for all of the team's home fixtures (nominally non-transferable, but widely offered to friends and relatives in practice for some fixtures, as such tickets are often bought before the fixtures for the season have been released or confirmed). When such discounted ticketing is available, fans have proved willing to pay higher prices for one-off games, such as an attractive title decider or cup tie. But if the accumulative cost of the ticket price and the associated expenditure on complementary goods in the stadium rises too much, even the most loyal and committed of fans will reconsider the scale of financial commitment to the club. Sport pricing therefore remains a delicate balancing act, combining hard-nosed economics and sensitivity towards the emotional commitment of traditional supporters.

Subjects: Sport and Leisure.


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