2012 Super Bowl Tickets

Year in and year out, tickets to the annual Super Bowl NFL Championship game rank among the toughest to secure in all of sports. The only event that is likely more difficult to secure admission to is the Masters golf tournament, though that has as much to do with the ticket policies of the Augusta National Golf Club as anything. In terms of pure supply and demand, the Super Bowl is the most sought after sporting event ticket in North America.

The National Football League has a lengthy explanation of the Super Bowl ticket acquisition process on their official website. They preface this with a very straightforward observation of the dynamic of supply and demand: “The demand for tickets to the Super Bowl greatly exceeds the supply.” They explain that the majority of tickets are allotted to the two participating teams, with an additional allocation to the other NFL teams. Critics of the NFL's ticketing policy have pointed out that despite this rhetoric most of the Super Bowl ducats end up going to the 'power elite'--primarily corporate executives with whom the NFL and the TV networks are seeking to curry favor. Even with the allocation to the teams involved, very few end up going to rank and file fans of the competitive principles.

In theory at least, there is a way for the average fan to secure tickets to the Super Bowl at face value—the league offers a lottery system to the general public for the right to purchase two tickets. The process is somewhat arcane and convoluted, and particularly in light of the current state of technology. Requests are accepted via certified or registered mail, and these submissions are accepted only between February 1 and June 1 of the year preceding the game. In other words, if you're hoping to attend the 2012 Super Bowl in Indianapolis through this method you're already out of luck. The problem with this is obvious—a fan of a specific team has no idea whether they'll be in the running for the postseason let alone in the Super Bowl.

The NFL also covers themselves legally by operating a separate lottery for fans requiring wheelchair access. The stipulations are similar—successful applicants can purchase a ticket for themselves and a companion—with the additional requirement of a legitimate physical disability that requires the use of a wheelchair. Lest any scheming Super Bowl fans think of faking a disability to obtain Super Bowl tickets in this manner the NFL includes a scary sounding warning that “the NFL reserves the right to take appropriate legal action against individuals who fraudulently obtain any wheelchair and companion seats.” Likely to comply with the specific requirements of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) the NFL allows requests for these tickets through September 1 of the preceding year.

The reality of the Super Bowl ticket situation, however, is that unless you're 'juiced in' with a corporate sponsor of the league your best bet of obtaining tickets is on the secondary market. Although the NFL stresses on their website that they do not sell tickets to “travel agents or ticket brokers” those are the best ways to secure tickets to the big game. Travel agents will offer Super Bowl packages including transportation and lodging along with a ticket to the game. Ticket brokers will offer tickets to the Super Bowl at a premium price—the exact markup on the game depends on the specific matchup both in terms of competitive quality and the size and proximity of the city whose teams are involved. In addition to countless third parties willing to buy and sell Super Bowl tickets, the NFL offers an official ticket exchange website.

Not surprisingly, there is a big concern about counterfeit Super Bowl tickets. The league has a warning about the problem on the official NFL website and explains the intricate design of the tickets themselves. To prevent counterfeiting, Super Bowl tickets feature holograms, laser cutouts, special ink and a unique lamination that not only makes it easy to detect a bogus ticket but deters would be scam artists from trying in the first place. At the 2011 Super Bowl there wasn't a huge problem with counterfeit tickets—partially due to the size of Cowboys' stadium and partially due to the league's countermeasures.