Over the last 12 hours, Ticketmaster have released the pricing breakdown for the upcoming London Series on the 29th and 30th June 2019.
To save you a click, here is the graphic you will be presented with.
You’re probably staring at that graphic as I did, in disbelief.
This will not be a cheap event.
The cheapest seats with any comparable view to a Major League ballpark seem to be the outfield bleachers (CAT 6) and they are priced at £120. After that it increases to £220 (CAT 3) in the corner outfields, £270 (CAT 2) on the foul poles, £320 (CAT 1) on the 1st and 3rd baselines, then the premium seating behind home plate is £385.
Let me quickly take you back to May this year, during the MLB London Series annoucement in London. Tim Slavin from the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) took to the podium and spoke for a good 10 minutes about goal of the London Series. This is taken from the announcement post I wrote at the time:
His (Slavin) big message was about inspiring people to try the game before, during and after the series had happened. He spoke passionately about people picking up a ball, a bat and/or a glove and heading out to gardens, fields, parks, to try and emulate America’s Pastime.
I loved this. I loved that the commissioner — Rob Manfred — backed this up and kept mentioning the future of baseball, the children of baseball, inspiring the youth of the game, drawing new fans. It gave me incredible hope, it still does.
Now go back to the graphic at the top of the post. Does that set of pricing match what Slavin and Manfred said? No – it does not. What it does match is something very different. We’ll come to that later.
Now lets think about the youth of the game that Slavin and the commissioner mentioned. Lets take a “typical” family of four. This family consists of a mum, dad, son and daughter. This specific family love the NFL and have been really embracing the London games when they can afford to, usually getting tickets through sports clubs, friends, or just sitting on the laptop like many others, trying to get those early bird ones. Dad has liked baseball all his life, but hasn’t really sold it to the kids yet. He sees the London Series as a prime opportunity. They want to see the game up close, but there is no way they are able to afford the premium, or baseline seats. So Dad starts excel up and they work out they can potentially afford the outfield bleachers.
£120 tickets x 4 = £480
£480 on tickets.
Running Total: £480
Lets say they live in Birmingham, they pay for a return train ticket for the family of four with no specific travel cards.
Running Total: £653.70
The family decide to stay the night in London, to really enjoy the Saturday game and then head back the next day, so clearly they need a hotel. They decide to stay at the Travelodge in Stratford, they know the brand, it’s close to the Olympic Stadium, they have a decent “base” for the game.
Dad’s wild, he decides that he’s going to risk the non-refundable early booking rate with breakfast at £148.40.
Running Total: £802.10
Mum is pretty frugal, decides she will make packed lunches for them on the train down. Dad insists that they each have ballpark hot dogs. In true baseball style, he wishes to enjoy two beers whilst at the game. Mum and the kids decide they will have a large water to share and one cola each.
Time for some estimates:
Packed lunch for four – £10
Ballpark Hotdogs (£5 each) – £20
Ballpark Beer (£7.50 each) – £15
Large bottle of water – £5
Cola (£4 each) – £12
Travel and ballpark food total – £62
Running Total: £864.10
During the game they visit the merchandise stand, the son has become enraptured by Mookie Betts‘ outfield ability and would like a Red Sox jersey. The daughter stared in awe at Aaron Judge and his home-run power, she would like a Yankees jersey. They are both on offer at £75 each. The Dad decides he would like a Red Sox cap at £20, the Mum takes a Yankees one, also £20.
Total merchandise spend: £190
Running Total: £1,054.10
They decide to save money after the game and have a McDonalds at approximately £5 each – £20 total.
Running Total: £1,074.10
After breakfast, they rush to the local Sainsburys and pick-up some sandwiches, crisps and drinks for the way home. It was a meal deal for all four of them, frugal mum strikes again and spends only £20.
Total Expenditure: £1,094.10
Re-reading what I have just written, I don’t think that’s an unreasonable day out for a family of four that decide they want the best MLB experience they believe they can afford. Simply on the price of tickets.
Screw it, lets say Mum isn’t happy about the price of tickets and decides that the £30 ones are the most they are willing to spend.
New Total Expenditure: £734.10
I didn’t search for the absolute cheapest deals out there, I made quick searches for a train, a hotel and made some fairly conservative estimates on concession pricing (If it’s considerably cheaper than what I have gone for, feel free to ask me to buy you beer). Yeah you could take a coach, you could drive, you could get an AirBnB, you could crash at a friends house, you might not want to take the kids. All of these are true, but I just wanted to run a scenario that is probably happening out there right now.
As an aside, I think it’s unfair to make comparisons between flying to New York to watch a game and watching it in the UK.
Do not mistake what I have written there, I understand why people are making those comparisons, but in my mind it’s wrong to do so.
In baseball, a team has 81 home games and 81 road games. In terms of supply and demand, thats a lot of home games where you as a business have to try and fill a ballpark. So there will always be offers, discounts, cheap seats, unused season tickets etc.
This series is two games and the first ever to be played in the UK. It’s the equivalent of (urgh, standby for me referencing a terrible sport) Manchester United playing a Premier League fixture against Manchester City in the Middle East. Those tickets will probably not be cheap.
However, do you know what is cheap? A flight to the UK from Dubai isn’t too pricey, hotels in Manchester aren’t too bad, tickets at Old Trafford are…well I have no idea.
I understand why people are making the comparison between flying to New York to watch this fixture and the cost of it taking place in the UK. However, you’re paying to have this regular season fixture take place on your doorstep (Well, 9 million of your doorsteps anyway). If this was an exhibition match, there’s no way it draws this sort of pricing.
When I posted the pricing graphic on twitter earlier our mentions exploded. People are furious, people are saying they will no longer attempt to buy tickets, people are astounded at the cheek of the pricing, people are alarmed at the lack of affordable pricing and so much more. I really wanted to post some of your replies in here, but there are so many, it would be difficult to choose just a few. Please go check out the post to see some replies.
So why are the tickets priced like this?
On the day of the announcement, the London Mayor told us of a pre-sale registration website. On the website we entered our details which enabled us to get all the information on the upcoming series and early access to ticket sales. Some wondered how many would actually sign up for this, I mean come on, who cares about baseball in London or the UK?
So, do you want to know how many signed up?
We have it on good authority that 50,000 people signed up.
Wait, thats not the total number as it stands today. That’s after one day. Keep in mind the stadium is due to hold around 55,000 people for each game.
I don’t know what the total is at now, but if it was at 50,000 on the day of the announcement, then I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s tripled or quadrupled.
Do you see why the tickets are priced like they are?
As disappointing as it is for most (including me as I cannot afford anything above CAT 8 – £60), MLB are literally playing the supply and demand game right now.
And the demand is bloody high.
Manfred and Slavin wanted to inspire the youth, the next generation, those who haven’t even considered playing baseball prior to the London Series announcement.
We have said for a long time at Bat Flips and Nerds that MLB do not need to advertise to me, you or anyone else who already follows baseball. Because we know it’s coming and we know we want to go.
Their main goal has and always will be attracting new fans.
Unfortunately with this pricing policy, I feel that those new fans and the next generation are being priced out of the “main event”. This is being saved for those who can afford to splash out and be extravagant.
I don’t know what MLB have planned prior to the series or what their legacy will be after the series is complete. If they want to inspire the youth — as was so heavily mentioned back in May –, they need to make sure the events surrounding the “main event” are accessible and affordable for those they are targeting.
Otherwise, this could all be an extravagant, one-off, profit making exercise.