On the eve of the AFL finals, League CEO Andrew Demetriou has made his stand very clear with regard to tickets sold on eBay or other online auction sites.

“You won’t get in and there is no point moaning and groaning and whingeing because those tickets will be placed back on the system and they will be going to people who pay face value,” he said.

As suggested in a couple of letters to Crikey yesterday, it’s strange that the League, and the ACB, takes such issue with fans being prepared to pay a lot of money for prime seats to the biggest sporting events. Not surprisingly, this is also a view eBay executives have expressed.

Of course, James Sutherland at the ACB, or Demetriou, would probably be more concerned with the fact that their organizations aren’t getting that extra money. Some shady net-savvy scalper is profiting through eBay, which says free market rules should apply and is based in Switzerland anyway, and therefore difficult for a guy like Demetriou to heavy (“That’s it! No AFL matches in Basel for a year!”).

Ticketmaster, the US ticketing giant which just happens to be the official ticket supplier for several of the Australian cricket grounds, believes the solution is to drop the concept of a face value on the tickets and auction them, as they are for 200 major events in the USA each year.

“If there is extra money, it should go to the promoter and the act, rather than to the scalpers, who don’t give anything back to the industry,” Ticketmaster chief executive Maria O’Connor said. “If you can get $1000 for a ticket, why shouldn’t the promoter and the act get it?”

“If you can sell the best seats at a premium, you can sell the lesser seats at a lower price. Putting 200 seats up for auction would take the steam out of the demand”, she said.

But here’s where the ACB and AFL need to be commended for a long-held strategy – and that is to keep prime seats within the financial reach of all fans, not just those with healthy wallets or, in the Ashes situation, potential tourists with a massive exchange rate advantage. The frightening likely result of this whole debate could be that the days of buying a Grand Final ticket or an Ashes seat for a price within the reach of low-income sports fans are about to disappear.

If ticket auctions become the norm, then working class fans can look forward to watching from the nosebleed seats or behind pillars. Sure, it’s supply and demand; in fact, it’s pure Darwinism among the competing wallets of fans, but it would still be sad.