The high price of being a sports fan

Fans shop before Game 3 of the National League Championship Series between the San Diego Padres and the Philadelphia Phillies, Friday, Oct. 21, 2022, in Philadelphia. (Image: AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Philadelphia is potentially on the verge of being crowned the new city of champions with the Phillies playing in their first World Series since 2009, the Eagles at 6-0 and the only undefeated team in the NFL, and the Union holding the best record in The MLS Eastern Conference. Basketball and hockey have just started their seasons, but big things are expected from the Harden and Embiid-led Sixers, and there’s always hope for the Flyers.

Fanatics in Philadelphia are as passionate as ever, but how much is all this sports fandom worth?

According to MLB and the NFL, demand for Phillies and Eagles games has increased as each team has accumulated more and more wins.

Prior to their Game 5 victory over the San Diego Padres in the National League Championship Series, Phillies tickets were selling for an average of $372.32 per MLB ticket. According to CNBC, the average ticket price for the upcoming World Series games in Philadelphia is more than $3,000 – the second highest price for a single championship game in more than a decade.

According to StubHub, tickets for Sunday’s Steelers vs. Eagles game at Lincoln Financial Field range from $261 to $9,214, not to mention the cost of parking, snacks and souvenirs.

Addy Weiner, professor of statistics and head of the Wharton Sports Analytics and Business Initiative, says the high cost of being a sports fan is simply supply and demand.

“When there’s a shortage, prices go up,” says Weiner. “Playoff baseball games and home games for football teams are expensive for the average person. On the other hand, there were tickets available all season and people weren’t buying them. World Series prices have predictably skyrocketed, but they may still be worth the price for some, as a World Series game in Philly is an unforgettable experience like no other city.”

Inflation puts a strain on the wallet, but doesn’t affect the local sports fan experience, Weiner explains.

“The games have always been expensive, with food and concessions, and not everything has gone up equally,” he says. “I imagine when the money starts to go down it might affect how many people go to a game because going to one is an expensive experience. Bringing a family of four to a game is extremely expensive.”

Weiner says there are other costs that speak to the economic psychology behind sports fans, such as the cost of time and sports betting.

“Being an avid sports fan takes time, but it depends on how it’s used,” he says. “Some fans like to have games in the background on the TV and do work or chores while they watch. But you can’t do that with all sports, like fast-paced sports like hockey, where if you blink, you miss something. Of course going to a game is a great family event, but often very expensive.”

Sports betting has grown and contributed to various societal problems, according to Weiner, but in return it offers more participation and interest in sports.

“Sports betting makes people much more excited about sports, especially if they’re betting,” he says.

Competitive sports have been a major part of society for thousands of years. Gladiatorial combat in the Roman Empire had an economy of winners and losers. The famous (or infamous) Philadelphia sports fan is not a new phenomenon.

“They are disproportionately important to their economic size,” he says. “Sports as a market is worth billions of dollars, but compared to the size of the economy it is small. Many businesses are much bigger than the collection of sports, but sports take up an incredible amount of people’s mental energy.

He says the fans control the prices in the market. As long as fans continue to buy items at market value, Weiner says teams will continue to raise their prices.

“So much of the games are on TV,” he says. “Depending on how much you watch, there are plenty of all-inclusive streaming packages available to make being a sports fan affordable. Also, possibly attending college sporting events is another more affordable option.”

Other ways to combat the high cost of being a sports fan are to buy higher-level seating, take the family out to dinner before the game, and take public transportation when it’s available.

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