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The state of tickets for postponed sporting events

Joe Asselmeier, left, and his wife Judy Asselmeier,

Joe Asselmeier, left, and his wife Judy Asselmeier, of Columbia, Ill., try to get a refund for their St. Louis Cardinals spring training season tickets at the Roger Dean Stadium ticket booth, Friday, March 13, 2020, in Jupiter, Fla.  Credit: AP/Julio Cortez

Playing a full schedule of baseball games in front of ticket-buying fans in major league stadiums no longer is a real possibility. But the owners of those tickets are in limbo, much like baseball itself.

That is because Major League Baseball, like other leagues whose seasons have been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, has not officially canceled any games.

As a result, games that have not been played continue to be regarded as postponements and thus are akin to a rainout, in which rainchecks are honored for future games but are not eligible for refunds.

So MLB and its teams continue to advise fans who hold tickets to games that never happened, such as those for Opening Day last month, to sit tight for now.

That will not satisfy everyone. Lawsuits against leagues, teams, ticket companies and resellers have begun to crop up around the country, filed by consumers frustrated that their money is locked up for non-existent events.

At some point, MLB and other leagues will make their scheduling plans official and if that involves cancellations, refunds will be in order. But in the meantime, there only is uncertainty.

Teams likely have been and will continue to be open to working with fans with pressing financial concerns or other special circumstances, but officially the word is that there is no word until the state of play is resolved.

Adding to the complexity is that fans obtain tickets from a variety of sources, including team box offices, an official online seller such as Ticketmaster and secondary market sites such as StubHub.

StubHub is telling its ticketholders to await further instructions for postponed events. For cancelled events, StubHub is offering a coupon worth 120 percent of the cost of their previous purchase for use until Dec. 31, 2021 – but not a cash refund.

Ticketmaster has said it will offer refunds for postponed events such as concerts, but its president, Jared Smith, made it clear in a letter to two members of Congress last week how challenging that process will be because of how much money it already has paid out to promoters.

Smith wrote that as sports, concert and theater companies continue “actively working through rescheduling options” for events that are in flux, Ticketmaster will work with them on the logistics and timing of refunds.

NBA and NHL teams are in a less-dire situation than baseball because most of their regular-season games had been played before sports went on hiatus in mid-March. (No local basketball or hockey teams had collected money for playoff tickets when their seasons paused.)

But they, too, are in limbo because their remaining games have not been cancelled.

The Liberty had been scheduled to open their home schedule on May 17, but that start has been postponed. Individual game tickets had not yet gone on sale when the postponement was announced, so only season ticket holders are affected for now.

NYCFC has had 12 of its games postponed so far. Sam Cooke, vice president for communications, said the team’s season tickets holders were not asked to pay their monthly bills on March 15 or April 15, and that it is “unlikely” they will be charged on May 15.

“We’ve taken a very simple approach to it that we’re not going to continue to charge fans,” Cooke said.

The Giants and Jets have been deferring scheduled payments on season ticket plans for 2020.

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