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Statement: “Teams are allowed to buy unused tickets at 34 cents on the dollar — the visiting team’s share — and declare a sellout,” Union-Tribune sports columnist, Tim Sullivan in this column, Sept. 18.

Determination: True

Analysis: Union-Tribune columnist Tim Sullivan calculated that it would have cost the team about $220,000 to buy the unsold tickets and avoid the blackout of its first home game earlier this month.

The loss of the money, apparently, outweighs the loss of good will with fans.

He was correct in his analysis.

New York Newsday columnist Neil Best set the nation of football abuzz this summer when he discovered that NFL teams could purchase any unsold tickets to their home games at a steep discount. Doing that would spare fans — along with local bars and restaurants — a blackout of the live broadcast of the games.

As Best revealed, home teams can buy unsold tickets at 34 cents on the dollar and ensure that the game is televised across the region.

The games are blacked out for a radius of 75 miles around the unfilled stadium.

Sullivan did a little math and discovered that if 8,000 tickets remained unsold, it would have cost the Chargers about $221,380 to ensure that there was no blackout. This is based on the average ticket price at Qualcomm Stadium. And as Sullivan noted, the real price would probably be lower considering that the unsold tickets were probably priced lower than the average of all tickets.

The Chargers are scrambling this week to avoid another blackout of the television broadcast of their Oct. 3 home game against the Arizona Cardinals.

On Wednesday, the Chargers reported that 7,500 tickets remained unsold and it was “not looking good for TV.”

In an email, I asked the Chargers if they could, indeed, purchase the unsold tickets at such a low price as a show of good will to fans. After all, taxpayers may soon be asked to funnel up to $600 million to a new stadium downtown.

Team spokesman Bill Johnston said it was basically true. He replied that the NFL’s blackout policy has been proven to work over the last few decades. It helps fill the stadium. And that, he said, was the best way to make sure blackouts were avoided over the long-term.

A full stadium helps us win games, which helps us sell more tickets and then allows our games to be on live television in accordance with the NFL’s policy. We win and the fans at home win. That’s the best case for everyone.

And that means, for now, a blackout is likely.

If you disagree with our determination or analysis, please express your thoughts in the comments section of this blog post. Explain your reasoning.

You can also e-mail new Fact Check suggestions to factcheck@voiceofsandiego.org. What claim should we explore next?

Please contact Scott Lewis directly at scott.lewis@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.325.0527 and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/vosdscott.

Scott Lewis

Scott Lewis oversees Voice of San Diego’s operations, website and daily functions as Editor in Chief. He also writes about local politics, where he frequently...

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