When demand can’t meet supply, the numbers will go through the roof. This is the simple equation in the economics of sports. Whether it’s through price gouging, upselling or leaking tickets through the black market, attending the big game is becoming more and more an exercise for the top 1% of society. You can’t play ball if you’re not making bank – it’s that simple.
It’s an indictment in many ways because for generations sport was something intended to give working class people an outlet from their daily lives. What has replaced this tradition is an entertainment industry designed to entice the casual fan and tourist through the turnstiles. Everything changed the moment television ratings usurped crowd figures for sports organizations.
But even for those lucky enough to pay their bills and save for a holiday every year, forking out the hard earned to get to a “Category A” events is nothing more than a pipe dream. Unless you have an entourage and limousine to arrive in, there’s no point turning up. This is when cable television pays for itself or in some cases, a reliable Internet stream.
So which events have set the benchmark for outlandish prices? Well, it all depends on what you consider “official” or “unofficial.” Events like the Floyd Mayweather versus Manny Pacquiao fight is taking sport to new heights where it’s not just a contest, but a red carpet extravaganza. VIP suites, courtside, ringside and dugout seats are reserved exclusively for the rich and famous and the figures are beyond most people’s annual salaries.
If player salaries are broadcast to the rest of the world, then it seems fair on the basis of transparency that purchased tickets receive the same treatment. Here are the 20 most expensive sports events ever attended.
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21 Abu Dhabi GP
Formula 1 racing by nature is an elitist event designed to glamorize material wealth and high society. That’s why it was no surprise Silverstone Managing Director Richard Phillips strongly defended the prices for patrons to attend F1, comparing the time a race takes to a 90-minute soccer match. One single entry at the Abu Dhabi GP has been listed at $513, something which might be affordable to the oil barons of the Middle East but a pain in the backside if you include that with an international plane flight. It remains the biggest racing sport in the world, yet NASCAR wins hands down on affordability.
20 Texas at Notre Dame
It’s any wonder Colleges have come under fire for failing to compensate the young footballers who pack out stadiums and sell the brand better than any other asset the organization can market. The Fighting Irish’s home fixture against Texas Longhorns reportedly cost $576.08 for certain tickets in September, outlining how much demand there was to see these two giants of the College game lock horns for the first time in two decades. The cheapest Notre Dame season tickets start at $1,400 and only go north from there.
19 Stanley Cup Finals 2013
Since the Boston Marathon bombing disaster, the mindset of the city changed. People wanted to latch onto a feel good local story and fortunately the Boston Bruins were just that on their run to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2013. The people of Boston were so up for it they weren’t turned off by the $1,380 average ticket price. While the Chicago Blackhawks took home the gold and glory, Boston could feel a sense of pride and achievement during the most tragic of years for the city.
18 BCS National Championship Game 2012
It was a mouthwatering contest from top to bottom. Alabama’s 3 consecutive title wins leading into their 2012 clash against traditional powerhouse outfit Notre Dame was an event not to be missed by any College football fan, particularly the Alabama and Fighting Irish supporters. An average gate receipt pocketed $1,565 which was incredibly modest compared to some of the high-end purchases in the luxury boxes. Those went for a reported price of $250,000, a figure that’s referenced as an appropriate annual tax threshold marker, not a usual football ticket.
17 Singapore GP
There’s something sexy and cool about racing formula one cars around at the dead of night. Sure there’s tons of lights and cameras around, but the atmosphere is unique and creates an event custom made for the tropical Singapore climate. That’s why race goers are happy to part with $1,800 for a regular spot from practice to the race itself.
15 2013 NBA Finals Game 7
It was the moment LeBron James justified his controversial move to Miami, fulfilling his desire to win an NBA championship. The San Antonio Spurs pushed the Heat all the way to game 7 and the Floridians came out in force to see their side clinch the title on home court 4 games to 3. Tickets went for around the $1,800 mark and with LeBron racking up 37 points it was almost two grand well worth parting with.
14 2013 World Series Game 6
A hundred years plus for a World Series win is a major drought and a huge reason why locals forked out $1,000 plus to see the Red Sox make history in Boston. Fenway Park is still coming down from the high of the game when they clinched it in game 6 against the St. Louis Cardinals. Even those lucky enough to grab a sneaky dugout seat for $10-12,000 would have made every minute of it to see a glimpse of MVP David Ortiz.
13 Super Bowl XL VII: Baltimore Ravens vs San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers and Ravens put on one hell of a show for the 2013 Super Bowl in New Orleans. With lights going out and both offenses putting on over 30 points each, it reflected more of a spectacle for the ages than a simple football match. Beyonce and Destiny’s Child kicked things up a notch at the halftime show and all up as a package people needed to fork out an average of $1,210 to be part of the action. That was a steal compared to some third party tickets going for a rumored $316,00 a pop!
12 FIFA World Cup Final 2014
Despite the hosts Brazil going out in the most horrendous fashion possible, getting spanked 7-1 at home to eventual winners Germany in the Semi Final, the showpiece event between the Germans and Argentina put the nation and the world to a standstill. A single ticket for the game started at a minimum base price of $990 going into the tens of thousands for prime viewing. Oversees tourists who wanted to follow their team from the group to the knockout stages paid upwards of $3,350.
11 NBA Finals 2010 Game 7
Lakers versus Celtics is the definitive West meets East contest of the NBA. The two franchises hate each other and when they fronted up for an epic 7 game Finals series in 2010 the hunger to see the purple and gold defeat their Boston foes was palpable. The privilege of sitting courtside set people back a reported $57,950 a pop and the minimum of two courtside seats cost $115,000. Lakers fans would pay the price of a luxury car to see them take the title away from the Celtics everyday of the week.
10 London 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony
Not a ball kicked, no javelin thrown, no runners running or goals scored. The Opening Ceremony of the London Olympics had everything from dancers to fireworks and even a bizarre cameo from James Bond featuring the Queen of England. Such was the demand for tickets, patrons paid $2,550 to get a glimpse of the action up close while some Category B seats on eBay went for upwards of $4,000. Thankfully for the Brits the Olympics only comes around once every four years or for the locals, once in a lifetime.
9 UFC Jon Jones v Alexander Gustafsson
This was Canada’s moment to shine against a powerhouse of from beneath the iron curtain. If Rocky Balboa got his chance against Ivan Drago, then America’s little brother had their chance when Jon Jones took on top contender Alexander Gustafsson in a UFC light heavyweight championship fight. It had a big portion of the country talking and Toronto was buzzing for it, so much so patrons put down $2,995 for four tickets. It was a bloody contest back in 2013 and they couldn’t argue they got their money’s worth.
8 2010 Olympic Hockey Gold Medal Game
Any USA and Canada contest is going to have a bit of bad blood, but when the two face off for a gold medal at the Vancouver Olympics in a hockey game, then the gloves are coming off! CNN reported that each ticket was priced at an incredible $3,250 and for the Canadian faithful that would have been a wise investment to see their side down the old foe 3-2. 17,000 locals packed in and there wasn’t a spare seat in the house, so the tournament and venue made maximum bank on that event.
7 The Masters 2013
Four-day golfing events don’t come cheap no matter where you travel, but The Masters at Augusta sets the bar ridiculously high. A cool $4,500 is what it cost in 2013 to see all the action with single day tickets going for anywhere between $1,200 to $1,700. That one off price is comparable to attending the Super Bowl so it’s no surprise golf has a reputation for only facilitating for the wealthiest sports goers around the world. Augusta is a special place and at those prices it would want to be.
6 Stanley Cup Finals 2012
The battle between the Los Angeles Kings and New Jersey Devils didn’t come cheap. Diehard NHL fans needed to consider remortgaging their house when they discovered the price for entry was around the $1,116 figure according to Forbes Magazine, a massive ask to see home guys in pads hit a puck around the ice. For the record LA took out the Devils 4 games to 2.
5 Oscar De La Hoya v Floyd Mayweather 2007
Golden Boy Oscar De La Hoya was the man coming down from the mountain as Floyd Mayweather began to assert his dominance in the boxing world in 2007. The then record gate of $18,419,200 broke the record held for 8 years when Lennox Lewis fought Evander Holyfield fight in 1999. Certain retail tickets went for over $15,000 as celebrities from Leonardo DiCaprio to Jim Carrey and Jack Nicholson dazzled ringside.
4 Floyd Mayweather v Canelo Alvarez
Unless the rare result of a draw was to occur, the undefeated pairing of Floyd Mayweather and Saul “Canelo” Alvarez was going to see history be made in 2013. Floyd made a reported $41.5 - $42 million depending on who you believed and before he entered the ring with Pacquiao this fight was the record breaker on all fronts. Floyd’s points decision win was marred by a judge who scored the fight a draw, but the full 12 rounds were completed with ringside seats costing $30,940 per ticket.
3 Andy Murray v Novak Djokovic Wimbledon Mens Final 2013
Don’t leave it late to book a Wimbledon Mens Final ticket, because those that did in 2013 for Andy Murray versus Novak Djokovic had to pay an extravagant amount for the privilege. The prices skyrocketed to an incredible $65,000 that morning of the match and the Brits who jumped on the bandwagon were treated to the “local” hero from Scotland picking up the nations first title since 1936.
2 New York Yankees Legends Suites
The Mets will be hoping their run to the World Series this year will bridge the huge commercial gap between themselves and the might of the New York Yankees brand. Their VIP “Legends Suite” only holds a modest 122 people but there aren’t many people in the Big Apple who could afford the $2,500 per game price or a five-year deal at $1 million. According to reports the Yankees don’t let these limited openings go to the casual millionaire, giving access to leases at a 3-year minimum.
1 Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao 2015
This is the sports event that changed the game. Both men teased and bickered outside the ring but when the announcement was made and the ink was put to paper the record books were always going to be rewritten. The two fighters could demand such astronomical fees because routine secondary tickets were selling at $10,973.14 while getting up close and personal set punters back $77,500. Promoter Bob Arum stated that the gate receipts alone would pocket $74 million on top of the pay-per-view $400 million plus. It’s hard that Pacquiao came out of the whole experience a “loser.”
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