Bucs do the right thing, eventually, with longtime season ticket-holders

Published April 7, 2017

Brad and Cheryl Hall live in Seminole. They moved from Ohio 40 years ago. In 1979, they bought Bucs season tickets and have been season-ticket holders ever since.

"We're avid fans,'' Cheryl said. "We love it.''

That nearly changed this week. The Bucs, sick and tired of seeing Raymond James Stadium littered with opposing team's fans, are doing what they can to ensure they fill their stadium with Tampa Bay fans. In doing so, they nearly booted out a pair of seniors who have been emotionally and financially supporting the Bucs for 38 years.

This story shows just how far the Bucs are willing to go to make sure fans of other teams such as the Bears, Patriots and Jets don't overtake their stadium. And you certainly can understand their frustration when more fans in the seats are cheering for the other team.

So what in the world happened with the Halls?

Last week, Brad, 70, and Cheryl, 71, received a letter from the Bucs saying a ticket payment was past due. Because a monthly payment is automatically withdrawn from a credit card, Cheryl was confused. She finally reached the Bucs' tickets sales director and was floored by what she heard.

"He told me, 'Your tickets are being pulled,' " Cheryl said. "I was like, 'What? What are you talking about?' I couldn't believe what I was hearing.''

The Halls' two seats are in the first row behind the opposing bench. For 2017, those tickets cost $2,704, and the Halls had paid $1,460 of that. The Bucs said they would refund the money, but the season tickets? Forget about them.

So Hall made one more call: to the Tampa Bay Times.

Now for the rest of the story:

The Halls' ticket account was red flagged because in 2016 they attempted to sell tickets to six of the Bucs' eight regular-season games through the NFL's officially licensed ticket exchange. They ended up selling tickets to five games, giving tickets to two games to their son and attending one. But because they tried to sell more than half their regular-season tickets, they appeared to be a ticket broker.

That's what the Bucs are trying to eliminate.

They say they understand if fans can't make every game and occasionally sell their tickets. But when someone is selling half of their tickets, they grow suspicious.

"To ensure that Buccaneers fans have the best opportunity to purchase season pass memberships in the most desirable locations,'' Bucs chief operating officer Brian Ford said, "we have made the decision to stop selling memberships to a limited number of account holders that have been identified as ticket resellers to opposing team fans.''

If someone buys a ticket, shouldn't they be able to do with it what they choose?

Well, for the Bucs, it isn't about the money. It's about making sure the home crowd is strong.

"Our top priority is providing our fans with a best-in-class experience when they attend games at Raymond James Stadium," Ford said. "By providing our most passionate fans with access to the best seats, we create the type of homefield advantage that our players feed off on game days. Fans from opposing teams will still have the option to purchase individual tickets in various locations around the stadium or may choose to sit in designated visiting fan sections, which we have provided."

Stay updated on Tampa Bay’s sports scene

Stay updated on Tampa Bay’s sports scene

Subscribe to our free Sports Today newsletter

We’ll send you news and analysis on the Bucs, Lightning, Rays and Florida’s college football teams every day.

You’re all signed up!

Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.

Explore all your options

This isn't unusual. Other teams monitor how fans use their tickets and try to eliminate brokers. The Lightning does it.

It's more noticeable in a transient place such as Tampa Bay, where many people come from other states and bring their lifelong allegiances with them.

In the end, the Bucs did the right thing. Though they should have been more familiar and initially cooperative with a couple who has had season tickets for 38 years, they fixed the problem.

The Halls are getting their season tickets back.

But the Bucs' quest to make Raymond James a true homefield continues.