Now that next week’s NFL playoff schedule is set, tickets are on sale and in high demand. But they’re only available to fans of the home team.
That’s the idea anyway behind the ticket-selling strategy of the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos, the two teams that are hosting, respectively, the NFC and AFC Championship games on Sunday, January 19. The host teams have no ironclad means of detecting the allegiance of any particular fan buying tickets to a game, and therefore it’s not entirely possible to only sell to homers. Instead, the official ticket-sales channels stipulate that only customers who have billing addresses in the vicinity of the host team may buy seats for next weekend’s games, which will determine who plays in the Super Bowl.
As the Denver Post explained, tickets for the Broncos-Patriots game at Sports Authority Field in Denver go on sale on Monday via Ticketmaster, but only for fans who live “in the Rocky Mountain states, including Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming, Nebraska, Montana, South Dakota and Western Kansas.” That means anyone living in Massachusetts, Connecticut, or anywhere other than a few hours’ drive of Denver is essentially banned from purchasing tickets from the main sales outlet.
Likewise, as the San Jose Mercury News reported, the Seahawks announced, “Tickets will be available to fans with a billing address in WA, OR, MT, ID, AK, HI and the Canadian provinces of British Columbia and Alberta,” and also that “ticket availability is limited and expected to sell quickly.” So if you’re a from the Bay area, home base for diehard 49ers fans, or if your credit card billing address is anywhere other than those listed above, you’re out of luck.
The reason behind the billing code stipulation is pretty obvious: Host teams want their stadiums to be packed with their fans, not those of the visiting squad. Crazed fans are known to travel all over the country and beyond to see their teams compete in playoff games. But it’s embarrassing and beyond annoying for a team to be playing at home and yet not enjoy a full home-field advantage because too many “outsiders” have managed to get hold of tickets. See the Baltimore Ravens fans celebrating last year after beating the Patriots on their home turf in the playoffs last year as a prime example. “One section in the corner, across the way, all you could see was purple,” one Ravens fan said a year ago, when the team from Baltimore went on the road to beat the Patriots and earn a spot in the Super Bowl.
What’s more, teams like the Seahawks have a huge advantage playing at home because their stadiums are so loud, thanks to Seattle fans making noise—and making it all but impossible for visiting teams to function as they’d like. Allowing tens of thousands of 49er fans to take up space in Seattle’s CenturyLink Field could diminish this advantage the Seahawks enjoy at home.
Earlier rounds of the NFL playoffs had no such billing address stipulations because, well, beggars can’t be choosers. Leading up the Wild Card playoff game weekend, three of the four host teams were struggling to sell out stadiums and local fans even faced TV blackouts because of it. NFL franchises weren’t about to limit who could buy tickets; they were happy to take the money of anyone willing to pay up. Due to high demand for the two upcoming playoff games, host teams are in no such position, so they can try to pick and choose who is “worthy” of buying seats.
Patriots and 49ers fans aren’t completely blocked from purchasing tickets, however. They may not be able to buy through Ticketmaster, but they can buy on the secondary market. As the Niners Nation blog explained, “While the Seahawks are blocking California (and other states) residents from purchasing tickets on Ticketmaster, you can still purchase tickets through NFL Ticket Exchange, Stubhub, TiqIQ and other such sites. The cheapest ticket I’ve found is $380, but hopefully some decent deals will slip through.”
According to TiqIQ data, as of Monday Seattle holds the edge of Denver in terms of priciest tickets on the secondary market. The average sale price for Sunday’s game in Seattle is $688.14, compared to $579.22 for the game in Denver. The cheapest seats going, meanwhile, are reportedly $365 in Denver and $381 in Seattle.