View Full Version : Inflating Attendance Figures

04-15-2005, 06:25 PM
AP NewsBreak: Hornets documents show attendance figures were manipulated
By BRETT MARTEL, Associated Press Writer
April 15, 2005

NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- The New Orleans Hornets, playing before the smallest crowds in the NBA, were able to inflate attendance figures by reselling tickets originally bought at huge discounts for the owner's charity account.

Documents obtained by The Associated Press show that hundreds of tickets were charged to owner George Shinn's charity account on March 9 for $5 apiece, and those same tickets were resold at full price -- up to $41 -- for the sold-out April 2 home game against Shaquille O'Neal and the Miami Heat.

<u>The Hornets' books did not reflect that those tickets were resold.

Rather, the transactions were recorded as purchases of previously unsold tickets for different seats and for other games, thereby boosting paid attendance numbers for games at which many seats were empty.

Hornets officials said reselling already purchased tickets for high-demand games, then reflecting those purchases as something else to balance the books, is common practice in the NBA. </u>

``If we have fans who want to buy tickets to a game, we want to take care of them,'' Tim McDougall, the Hornets chief marketing officer, said Friday. ``That was our interest during the Heat game and we're always going to do that. The people who support us, that's the reason we're in business. So if that means we move the tickets from a charity account, then we're going to do that.''

Sam Russo, the Hornets' executive vice president of business, said teams do similar bookkeeping when season ticket holders turn in tickets they cannot use in exchange for tickets of equal value for a different game.

In some cases, the practice may boost the announced attendance for other games, Russo said, ``But everything adds up and everything gets reconciled.''

It was unclear whether the Hornets' resales violated any NBA policies. The league issued a brief statement when questioned about the specifics of the Hornets tickets that were resold for the Miami game.

``We do not publicly comment about the business affairs of one of our owners,'' NBA spokesman Tim Frank said.

When Shinn's Miami tickets were resold in the days before the game, Hornets group sales manager Chris Zaber sent a memo, obtained by the AP, instructing staff that extra tickets were available but that orders should be written down and not run through the team's computer system.

McDougall said that is done because processing the resale of already printed tickets on the computer system is complicated and time consuming.

In one particular transaction, a customer bought eight $41 tickets for the Miami game at full price ($328), but the customer's account did not reflect that sale. Instead, it showed a purchase of 20 tickets in different sections for the Denver game on April 6. The per-ticket price was listed as $16.40, for a matching total of $328.

The result was that the eight resold charity tickets for the Miami game were officially reflected as 20 additional tickets sold for the Denver game. Russo said that may have happened and if so, that 20 tickets likely were printed up and given to charity for the Denver game.

``You do something like that to try to get the dollars to match,'' Russo said. ``In essence, it improves the revenue and attendance for other games, and our business is to improve attendance and to generate revenue.''

The amount of additional revenue generated by such practices is minor, but the boost of official attendance numbers potentially could help a team try to avoid finishing last in the league in that category.

League officials are concerned that attendance has been lower than Hornets ownership projected when seeking NBA approval to move from Charlotte, N.C., before the 2002-2003 season.

The NBA fined the team $8 million for reporting inflated season ticket sales in New Orleans while the team was still seeking final league approval for the move. Former minority owner Ray Wooldridge was blamed for that, and the league agreed to forgive the fine after Shinn bought Wooldridge out earlier this season.

New Orleans is one of the smallest markets in the league. And after getting solid attendance -- 19th out of 29 teams -- in their opening season, the Hornets finished second-to-last last season.

With 30 teams in the league this season, New Orleans fell into last place behind Atlanta around the time of Shinn's purchase of 530 season tickets in his charity account for each of the final 12 games of this season. The resales for the Miami game came from that same bloc of tickets.

Hornets officials said Shinn's late-season purchase had nothing to do with attendance concerns and was just part of the owner's commitment to giving back to the community.

``Giving tickets to different charitable organizations is something the Mr. Shinn is adamant that we follow through on,'' team spokesman Harold Kaufman said Friday.

With two home games left, the Hornets are averaging a league-low 14,150 in paid attendance. Atlanta, also with two games left, was 29th in the league at 14,201.

Text (http://sports.yahoo.com/nba/news;_ylc=X3oDMTBpZmFlcXBpBF9TAzk1ODYxOTQ4BHNlYwN0 aA--?slug=ap-hornets-charitytickets&prov=ap&type=lgns)

04-15-2005, 06:27 PM
I thought this article was interesting because I've often thought some of the "sold-out" crowds at the AAC looked awefully thin.

04-15-2005, 08:40 PM
I think almost every game I see televisied has thin-looking crowds.

04-15-2005, 08:49 PM
Originally posted by: mary
I thought this article was interesting because I've often thought some of the "sold-out" crowds at the AAC looked awefully thin.

Those games actually are sold out. Most of those empty seats belong to season ticket-holders that didn't show up on that particular night. Most people just show up for the big games.

Poindexter Einstein
04-15-2005, 10:00 PM
This article is really MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING. The Hornets owner is a pile of crap, but in this case he became a convenient target to create a buzz.

After you wade past the blazing headline and the eye-popping lead paragraphs, you see that (1) this is what EVERY team does, (2) it is standard accounting practice, (3) they are just shuffling ticket sales from one game to another, to max out attendance, (4) they are taking unused tickets that are going to go to waste, that are designated as "sold" cause they are being held for a charity, and moving the charity's tickets to another date, so they can sell those seats that arent being used, and (4) when they get to season's end, it is all accurate.