For great gridiron seats, be prepared to wait a decade or more.
That's what Green Bay Packers fans face. Seventy-four thousand fans are in line for season tickets that have been sold out since 1960. It's not much better in New York. There, 70,000 Giants fans await season tickets, and can expect to do so for 10 years.
This is due mostly to the NFL's short window of play; there are only eight regular-season home games, forcing devotees of the sport to scrap for a limited number of faceoffs.
Some teams ask for a yearly fee to remain on the list. It is then subtracted from the overall bill once one starts receiving tickets.
Season tickets guarantee either two or four permanent seats per game, and once you're a holder, you've got them for life.
Right now, out of 32 teams in the league, 24 say they have waiting lists. Those lists range from under 1,000 people to over 150,000. For some fans, this means a wait not just of years, but decades.
Jon Lieb, 38, waited 12 years for his New York Jets season tickets.
"I have to admit, I was a much bigger fan when I joined the list," says Lieb, the managing director of New York City media and marketing firm Thirty Ink. "But I'm still happy I got them — I make about four games per season myself, and I give the other tickets to clients and friends."
Lieb says that not long before he finally scored his set of four seats in 2005, it seemed like there was no hope in sight. He reckoned it would be another decade before he saw the ink of a season ticket stub rubbed onto his hand.
But in 2003, things changed for Jets waitlisters. The team decided to impose a fee of $50 a year for those on the lists. Lieb said he saw his place improve from 3,503 to 1,004 within four months of the announcement.
"I didn't mind paying the $50," he says. "And look where it got me — four good seats by the aisle, midway on the upper deck. I was surprised they were that good."
Thousands of fans aren't as lucky as Lieb, so they look to secondary ticket sellers, like StubHub.com, to score seats at sold out games.
"The undeniable demand for the product is what makes people get on these waiting lists, but more often than not, they're not going to be able to make every game," says Sean Pate, a spokesman for San Francisco-based StubHub.
Do the most popular teams on StubHub correlate with the longest waiting lists? Sometimes, but not always.
So far this year, the San Diego Chargers, Chicago Bears, Dallas Cowboys, Washington Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles have been the site's best-selling teams. The Redskins are no surprise, since their waiting list is the longest (155,000); but what about the Dallas Cowboys, who don't even have a waiting list this year? Out of the five teams, only two — Redskins and Eagles — have waiting lists amounting to more than 10,000 people.
Pate says waiting lists are only part of the explanation. Stadium size and team performance also matter: The Cowboys, for example, have a seating capacity of 65,000 — a little smaller than average for a stadium. Combine that with a few lackluster years in terms of performance, plus plans to move to a new, bigger stadium (85,000 seats) in 2008, and you can see why their season tickets are not yet sold out.
However, as a team's performance picks up, demand for the better tickets, closer to the field, becomes greater, regardless of the waitlist. Teams like the Cowboys and Bears might not have a huge demand for season-long seats — the Bears list is only 3,300 — but their improved performance keeps tickets in demand. Of course, all-around powerhouses (good team, sold out season tickets and located in densely populated areas) like the Eagles and New England Patriots tend to stay popular in the StubHub circuit.
Ticketless Eagles fans like Kevin Kaufman, 37, will have to rely on secondary sellers for at least another year.
Kaufman has a sad story: He was once the proud owner of season tickets, but in an unfortunate turn of events, they were revoked (the person he shared the tickets with decided to sell them off and they weren't in Kaufman's name). Now, the University of the Arts executive is so far down on the waiting list he doesn't even know his exact number.
"At this point, I'm just hoping to take my kids [aged 3 and 6 weeks] to the games," he laments. "When they're teenagers."
© 2012 Forbes.com