PSLs may be a good investment, or a bad one

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It’s fitting, we suppose, that a sport featuring a franchise that has made millions selling phony stock certificates also has multiple franchises selling phony seating rights that can become very real investments.

The concept of the Personal Seat License has become popular in the NFL over the last generation, with teams selling not only tickets to games but also the right to sit in the seats that correspond to said tickets.  As detailed by Mike Rosenberg of the San Jose Mercury News, the PSLs can rise and fall in value over time, based in large part on the quality of the product that the home team puts on the field.

In Pittsburgh, PSLs have been resold at 17 times their initial value.  In Dallas, where the Cowboys continue to be mired in a one-playoff-win-since-1996 slump, the PSLs to Jerry Jones’ palace in North Dallas are selling now for less than their original price.  In Carolina, the success of the Panthers during their first decade of existence pushed the value of the PSLs to triple their starting price.  During a 2-14 disaster in 2010, the PSLs were selling for less than their original 1995 price.

Despite the very real possibility of making money, Rosenberg explains that the SEC prohibits teams to advertise PSLs as an investment — and to include language in the PSL contract in which the buyers acknowledge that they have no expectation of profiting.

Still, that’s precisely what a PSL is.  And so the folks in the Bay Area who will be paying anywhere from $2,000 to $80,000 per chair for the privilege/obligation of thereafter buying season tickets every year should understand that, unlike the folks who purchased stock* from the Packers, the PSL represents an ass-in-seat asset that may appreciate or diminish based on whether and to what extent the 49ers flourish or fail in the future.

51 responses to “PSLs may be a good investment, or a bad one

  1. Oh yea – just like a racehourse might or might not be a good investment. Really.

    It’s simply a license to steal – created by the greedy owners.

  2. “In Dallas, where the Cowboys continue to be mired in a one-playoff-win-since-1996 slump, the PSLs to Jerry Jones’ palace in North Dallas are selling now for less than their original price.”

    Arlington is in North Dallas? I know has been a while since I lived in the area but last time I checked Arlington was a city west of Dallas.

  3. PSLs are an abomination. $80k per chair at the high end? And you still have to buy tickets? Whose gameday “in stadium” experience is being enhanced at that price? Besides the team owner, I mean.

  4. I can understand the whining if the stadium is publicly subsidized and the Owner still sticks the fans with exorbitant PSL fees. But if the financing is private, which is the case for 96% of the money for the 49ers new stadium, the fans shouldn’t be whining too much. The Owner is obligated to repay the construction loans and gate receipts and concessions alone won’t get it done.

  5. Are people really dumb enough to placate these greedy, ungrateful owners by purchasing PSL’s? Just stop people! Watch the game on TV! If you keep enabling them they will never stop!!!

  6. Add more seats for more PSLs which drives resale value down…which is why the City of Chicago did not maximize seat capacity at Soldier Field…shareholders voted on a small increase in seat capacity.

    Keep building these +90k stadium seating and watch PSLs decrease in value.

  7. love it or hate it is a functional system.

    the author references carolina’s abysmal season of 2010. how about mentioning that the value of panthers tickets right now, after a 6 and 10 season, is close to or even higher than they were in 2004 after the superbowl run?

    the average ticket price for our game vs seattle is like $160. our thursday night game average price is over $220.

    success on the field = good business.

  8. Someone offered me $8,000 for my seats 4 years ago and I laughed (seats around me were going for $10k – $12k for a pair). I would be lucky to get $1,000 today.

  9. What most people don’t realize is that PREMIUM PSL/SBL holders get 1st dibs to all events & their premium tickets that take place at the new venue which will include other sporting events & concerts over the next decades. You can then make a profit by reselling those tixs to the public.

    Google, Ebay, Facebook, Cisco, APPLE, HP…..they’re all based here in the Silicon Valley and that means lots of millionaires with stock options and $$$ to burn on these events. I’m sure Packer & Bears fans could vouch for the lucrative value of having these rights generation after generation Right?

  10. sonoco says:
    Jun 17, 2012 11:27 AM
    I can understand the whining if the stadium is publicly subsidized and the Owner still sticks the fans with exorbitant PSL fees. But if the financing is private, which is the case for 96% of the money for the 49ers new stadium, the fans shouldn’t be whining too much. The Owner is obligated to repay the construction loans and gate receipts and concessions alone won’t get it done.

    Bob Kraft finaced and built his stadium without PSLs.

  11. Can you make money off a PSL? Absolutely..

    I purchased a PSL back in the late 90’s for $3000 (2 seats) and sold it for $10,000 in 2010.

    What team was it for? Cincinnati Bengals.

    If THAT team can make you money on a PSL then any of them can.

    Caveat: When I purchased the PSL I’d actually been a season ticket holder since 1967 and was able to get seats on the 50. So, if you look at it that way, maybe the investment didn’t make me as much. But, I also enjoyed a lot of football along the way.

  12. I can’t speak for any other team’s fans but I am happy that Carolina sold PSLs. Unlike most places, they saved us a lot in public financing.

    As for the folks complaining about greed, just tell your politicians to stop paying them. Let the rich folk pay their $80k and let those of us who aren’t catch a break.

  13. All the PSLs in the house that Peyton built will be empty cause Luck is gonna suck.

  14. I’m of the belief that because of the investment and associated risks – owners should have the benefit of the doubt on most money-related issues. But this whole thing of PSLs smacks of nothing more than charging us fans twice for the same seat. It’s BS and should be illegal. Why didn’t they just raise the price of the seats? They’d at least have been honest about it…

  15. I bought a 4000.00 couch instead of season tickets this year. My ass is going to be a hell of a lot more comfortable and the beer is a hell of a lot cheaper.


  16. PSLs are a gimmick created to take advantage of fan competition. It is a sorry way to “earn” (read–steal) money from people. Corporations purchase many tickets (instead of real fans) and then write them off as a business expense (that taxpayers ultimately pay for).

    PSLs are essentially like hailing a cab, finding out the fare will be $50, but the right to sit in the cab for the ride will cost you $200. Scams like that should be illegal but because there are a bunch of idiots that are willing to pay them (just so the next guy doesn’t get the chance to) they will continue to be used. The teams do not care if you profit from the PSL or not. They already got the money they wanted up front and there is no way the team can make money off an unsold PSL.

  17. I personally enjoy going to games more than watching them at home. We own 2 PSL’s on the 50 yard line at M&T Bank Stadium that we bought when they were first offered. Without those seats we would never be able to attend games because ravens tickets sell out immediately. In the end buying PSL’s and paying for the yearly season tickets has saved a substantial sum of money than buying tickets off the secondary market

  18. The only stadium where a PSL is a solid investment is at FedEx Field because the football god, Robert Griffin the 3rd will crush the league week in and week out on the way to Canton.

  19. I only get season tickets for my team. PSL’s don’t work in smaller markets. They especially don’t work when there are too many fair-weathered fans in the state.

  20. I bought my PSLs when the Raven’s played in Memorial Stadium! They have been a solid investment! And, watching them first hand in our stadium is definitely an experience you can’t get on your couch!

    I’m on the 30 yard line 8th row! Everyone in my section knows each other!
    Go Cheerleaders!! 😉

  21. @geeeeemen

    Where are you getting this info? The only thing google found for me was a post from August 2010 stating that the Giants had 1250 left to go, and the Jets 1350.

  22. heymuzzwatchadoin says:
    Jun 17, 2012 2:01 PM
    I don’t see how they work.


    It’s very simple. Every seat that has a Personal Seating License has a license on the seat that people can purchase. If you purchase the PSL for said seat you have first rights to tickets in that seat for any event at that establishment. If you choose not to purchase the tickets someone else can purchase them and sit in the seat “own”.

  23. I’ve been a season ticket holder at Candlestick since 1980 and have been to all five Super Bowls. Granted during those years the Niners were super, fun and exciting. Yes, there were bad years, but the thrill was still there. Wednesday I’m writing a check for $4,000 for two seats at the Niners’ new stadium. I’ll be sitting between the 20 and 25, which is where I am now. Game prices are $95 per seat. I just can’t see that watching games on TV comes close to the thrill of being there. I can compare the difference by watching away games, which lack the roar and camaraderie of the home crowd. And buying Builder Seat Licenses (BSLs) may be a risk. But I’m also taking out an insurance policy on Harbaugh.

  24. I seriously doubt if any of the professors I had for my MBA would call a PSL an “investment”.

    Entertainment luxury tax – maybe – expense more likely – but investment? Hardly.

  25. FYI, the Cowboys PSL’s will continue to decline and decline in value, and that has nothing to do with the performance of the team. There’s nothing “permanent” about Jerry Jones’ seat licenses. What few people outside Dallas know is that when Cowboys’ Stadium turns 30, ownership of those licenses goes back to the team. That’s not a typo and I’m not kidding. So the resale value of those seat licenses will gradually spiral down to zero over the coming years because in 2039, everyone is going to have to buy them from the team AGAIN.

  26. Some people don’t get it. I’ll gladly throw $300 at the Packers for a “worthless” stock certificate during every offering to keep an NFL team in the city that I grew up in. It’s worth more to me than a PSL payment to a billionaire that I might be able to flip for a few K in profit at some point. And if the reason you are buying a PSL is to use as an investment, there are better options out there. Community-owned pro sports is a pretty cool thing to stand behind if you ask me. If non Packers fans grew up in a small town with a community-owned pro sports franchise, the investment wouldn’t seem so worthless to them.

  27. @millerhour: Buying PSL’s does not give you the right to purchase tickets for “any event at that establishment.” It only gives you the rights to that team’s home football games. Some teams give you that right if you buy club seats or luxury boxes, but if all you have is a generic PSL then if the Super Bowl or a Bruce Springsteen concert or the World Cup or BCS Championship or whatever comes to town, you have no privileges over anyone else.

  28. A PSL isn’t an investment. Its a depreciating asset. Unless you sell every ticket (you eat the preseason games) and the PSL includes concerts and other events, you can’t earn a ROI. Especially not for the premium seats.

    With depreciation and inflation over say 30 years, you’d be crazy to finance a PSL purchase with interest. A PSL isn’t tax deductable. You can’t put in a nice comfy reclining chair.

    And when the team gets all upsetwith its situation and wants a new stadium, your PSL becomes worthless.

  29. ive personall seen 5000 per pair psls gomfor 18k like its business as usual in Pittsburgh. These things happen when you sell out every game since 1976 and also has a season ticket waiting list more than 10 years long.

  30. The PSL is highway robbery. You guys can poke fun at the Packers all you want but they are spreading the cost of the franchise to all the fans where the PSL just prices out the common man from going to games. No one forces the fans to buy the Packer stock and it is the best model to not raise taxes or gouging its fans and still create revenue.

  31. In Pittsburgh, the highest price SBL was $2500. Lowest $300. The construction was managed by the team and came in UNDER budget at $280M.

    NY and Dallas each cost $2B and both stadiums suck and the fans are gouged by 5-6 figure PSLs.

    It just depends on the owners.

  32. nyjalleffingday says:
    Jun 17, 2012 4:50 PM

    Where are you getting this info? The only thing google found for me was a post from August 2010 stating that the Giants had 1250 left to go, and the Jets 1350.

    The Jets still have plenty of season seats available. I get a call about once a month from the Jets ticket office trying to get me to buy their overpriced PSLs and season seats.

  33. briguy5:
    The back of my PSL card reads-
    “Use this card to recieve 15% discount at Raven team stores on game day at M&T Bank Stadium and

    Ownership rights to your PSL

    Online Account Manager

    Raven’s Yearbook

    Weekly e-newsletter

    Discounted Tickets to annual Spring Football Festival

    Opportunity to request individual game tickets prior to public sales

    Option to purchase Non-Ravens events at M&T Bank Stadium when available

    Free Admission for PSL Owner to Sports Legends Museum with card”

    That second to last point implies you have dibs to your seats for non-football events

  34. chc36: The clause you quoted says “Option to purchase Non-Ravens events at M&T Bank Stadium WHEN AVAILABLE” (emphasis added by me).

    Trust me when I say that if some premium marquee event ever went to M&T Bank Stadium (besides Ravens home games, of course) those options would NOT be “available.” Oh sure you can grab all the tickets you want for the NCAA LaCrosse Championships that stadium hosts but trust me when I say if a Super Bowl or BCS Championship game went to Baltimore (not that that’s ever going to happen) then your PSL would get you nothing.

  35. Why is this linked under Raider news? I thought the Raiders ditched the PSL a couple years ago.

  36. As a fan of the team that started all this, I can see both sides. Overall, I’m glad the Panthers financed the stadium this way. Otherwise, the Panthers would have insisted the city of Charlotte pay the entire $175 million – and if we still had a team after that demand (we wouldn’t; the NFL would have given the team to Birmingham or Memphis instead), we would still be paying off the bonds and our property taxes would be at least 20% higher. While it seems like highway robbery to charge someone twice for the same seat, it really is a case of a venue being built by the people who use it, which is one of the main complaints people have about tax money spent on stadiums, isn’t it?

  37. Let’s see. I bought PSLs at M&T Bank stadium in 1997 for $500 each for two upper endzone seats. I just bought a single seat next to mine for $1750. I think that is a great ROI. Have you seen the interest rates on savings accounts, CDs and bonds lately? Of course it helps that the Ravens have had very few losing season since I bought my seats.

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