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NFL Sued for ‘Unfair’ Super Bowl Ticket System

Joe Robbins/Getty Images(NEWARK, N.J.) -- Are the Super Bowl's sky-high ticket prices unfair to the public? That's what Josh Finkelman, from New Brunswick, N.J., thinks, so he decided to sue the National Football League in what he hopes will be certified as a class-action lawsuit.

Finkelman, who works in warehousing, sued this week in federal court in Newark, N.J., accusing the NFL of unjust enrichment and violating New Jersey consumer fraud law, which prohibits withholding more than 5 percent of seating from the public for any event to be sold at other than face value.

In his lawsuit, Finkelman, 28, and his attorneys argue that just 1 percent, or 775 of 77,500 tickets, are available to the public at face value for this year's Super Bowl XLVIII at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.  The capacity for MetLife Stadium is 82,500, according to the stadium website.

For most people, a ticket to the Super Bowl is out of reach. The average ticket price now is $3,432.90, according to TiqIQ, a bit less than prices last year around this time, which were $3,521.44.

Finkelman bought two tickets to the Super Bowl on Dec. 30, 2013 at $2,000 each, which was "far in excess of the face value of the tickets," the lawsuit states.

The most expensive seat now is in the Lower Club area at over $19,200, while the priciest suite is $962,000 for 30 tickets, according to TiqIQ.

Diane Sammons, an attorney for Finkelman and partner with Nagel Rice LLP in New Jersey, said she would hope that the lawsuit would force the NFL into compliance with New Jersey law, but realistically, a court won't hear this case before the Super Bowl next month.

She says that she hopes the NFL will change its policies for future Super Bowl games.

"I think that could happen if more people were aware that only 1 percent go to general public through a lottery system," she said.  "Your chances are generally nil."

In a statement provided by a spokeswoman, the NFL said it "would like for as many fans as possible to attend."

"We can never fulfill all the requests for tickets.  The NFL's Super Bowl ticket distribution process has been in existence for years and is well documented.  We are confident it is in compliance with all applicable laws," the NFL said.

The NFL says "every ticket" the league distributes is sold at face value.  The league says 75 percent of tickets are distributed to the teams, including 35 percent to the two participating teams.  Then, teams hold lotteries among their fans from information submitted a year prior.

Teams also retain tickets for their sponsors.

Here's how the NFL breaks down the ticket distribution.

  • Participating two teams share: 35 percent
  • Host teams NYG/NYJ share: 6.2 percent
  • Remaining 28 teams share 33.6 percent (1.2 percent each)
  • League retains: 25.2 percent (NFL sells tickets to media members, media partners, and sponsors)

But Sammons says the team often distributes tickets to the secondary market in pricey packages including transportation and entertainment, such as pre-parties. And the franchises get a cut of these packages, Sammons said.

"The Super Bowl has become an event for the very wealthy," Sammons said. "The New Jersey statute was intended to stop that and to prevent all the profits to go to the secondary market, which is what is happening."

Chris Matcovich, vice president of data and communications with TiqIQ, which is a sports and entertainment ticket re-seller, said he estimates that about 10 percent of seats in this year's Super Bowl will be sold at face value, not the 1 percent that the lawsuit contends.

He says the NFL could argue that it is following New Jersey state law by releasing tickets to the general public, depending on whether teams and sponsors are considered the general public.

"The NFL isn't holding tickets back for the benefit of themselves, but for the teams and their fans," he said.

Robert Tuchman, president of sports and entertainment marketing company Goviva, said the general public may ultimately get into the hands of fans.

"The key thing is the NFL makes these tickets available to the teams who make them available to their fans which is the general public," he said.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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