How Sports Teams Lie About Their Attendance Figures

Football Empty Stadium Seats Rain

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When is a sellout not a sellout?Whenever the team selling tickets decides that it is–no matter how many tickets they actually sold.

Maury Brown of “The Biz of Baseball” takes a detailed look at how sports teams manipulate their figures — often from game-to-game — to make their attendance numbers almost whatever they want to it to be.

For starters, attendance no longer means the number of people who are actually at a stadium watching a game. It’s the number of tickets sold … but that doesn’t even tell the whole story.

Sometimes that number includes free tickets for season ticket holders, rainchecks, or promotional give-aways. Sometimes it doesn’t.

With the NFL blackout rules it gets even trickier, because not having a sellout can mean no TV broadcast in a local market. Sometimes a rich benefactor will gobble up thousands of tickets to reach the limit … or a team will just stop making tickets available and declare the game “sold out.” No one really knows what the rules are or how they’re applied.

If you’ve ever wondered how your favourite team came up with that attendance number (and if it really means anything) then it’s a must read.