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MLB reverses ticket policy, clearing way for teams to offer refunds to fans

Fans wave towels during Game 2 of the 2017 World Series between the Dodgers and Houston Astros at Dodger Stadium.
(Sean M. Haffey / Getty Images)

With more than 400 major league games already called off because of the coronavirus outbreak, baseball on Tuesday reversed a policy that had restricted fans from widespread refunds on tickets to those games.

On a conference call, Major League Baseball informed team officials that they no longer needed to advise fans to hold on to those tickets. The decision clears the way for teams to announce refund policies for the games.

The Dodgers are expected to communicate a plan Wednesday, according to a person with knowledge of the situation. The Angels said they would not comment until then either.

The change comes one week after MLB and all 30 teams were named as defendants in a lawsuit over the failure to refund tickets. StubHub, the league’s official resale partner, and three other ticket outfits also were named as defendants.

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MLB has listed the affected games as postponed rather than canceled, with fans advised to retain their tickets and await a rescheduled date. Refunds generally require the cancellation of an event, and team and league websites stated that MLB remained “committed to playing as many games as possible when the season begins.”

Two days after his release from the hospital following a fall at home, Vin Scully assured Dodger fans he was healthy in a prerecorded message.

However, that position had become increasingly untenable. Commissioner Rob Manfred conceded on ESPN on March 25 that “we’re probably not gonna be able to” play the full 162-game schedule. On April 7, MLB issued a statement indicating that playing whatever could be salvaged of the season entirely in Arizona was “one potential option.”

Under that option, as well as alternate options that have surfaced since then, games would be played without fans, and usually far from a team’s home stadium.

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Kelly Hyman, an attorney representing the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, said the suit will go forward for now.

“It is a shame that it has taken this lawsuit to get a response to endless inquiries about refunds,” Hyman said. “To be clear, the claims will not be resolved until ticket purchasers are refunded their money completely and immediately.”

In a normal year, the regular season includes 2,430 games. MLB has not announced a target date to start the season, or the second spring training that would precede it, so it is unlikely games would be played before June.


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