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Former Titans Insider Questions Ticketing Practices

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Posted at 6:00 PM, Jul 06, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-07 14:17:26-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- A former Titans insider is blowing the whistle on what he says were the team's questionable ticket practices.

In an exclusive interview, the former employee claimed team officials were so desperate to sell out games that they gave some fans deals that weren't offered to longtime season-ticket holders.

But the Titans argue the man just doesn't know what he's talking about.

"We were misleading the people of Nashville," the former employee told NewsChannel 5 Investigates.

The former employee once had a front-row seat inside the Titans ticket office during what the team has admitted was a troubled period. He came forward after our NewsChannel 5 investigation recently revealed how the Titans went into business with a professional ticket scalper, all part of that effort to be able to claim that the team's games were sellouts.

At the request of his current employer, he asked us not to reveal his identity.

"Overall, I would say it was a good experience," he insisted.

NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked, "Did you feel good about what you did?"

"I can't honestly sit here and tell you I felt good about what I was doing," he acknowledged.

Part of his concerns, the former insider said, were those Permanent Seat Licenses (PSLs) that Titans fans bought -- paying hundreds and thousands of dollars -- to help finance the stadium.

"I feel for the current PSL holders and, at the end of the day, I feel it's important for the people of Nashville to know what actually went on," he said.

Through some dismal years on the field -- and a downturn in the economy -- those fans were told that if they did not continue to buy season tickets, year after year, they would lose the investments in those PSLs.

For the ticket office, it was leverage.

"If you don't pay your tickets before the season starts, your PSL is going to be canceled," the former employee recalled.

But the team became so desperate to sell out games that, according to the man, ticket office employees were instructed to start offering to reinstate PSLs for some fans - even if they bought tickets to just a few games where tickets were hard to sell.

"You had to buy at least two games and we would reinstate the PSL for that nonpaying PSL holder -- at no charge," he said.

And he had documentation for those PSL reinstatements to support his claims.

NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked, "So they could get away with just buying two games?"

"And get their PSL license back that they had lost four or five years ago," the former employee continued.

"That's a heck of a deal," we remarked.

His answer: "Absolutely."

Then there were the deals with the professional ticket scalpers.

The Titans' own PSL transfer form asks fans if they are selling to a ticket seller or broker, claiming the right to prohibit fans from engaging in any such transfer themselves.

"One of the biggest folks who took us up on the offer, we reinstated $40,000 in PSL credit for a broker," the former insider said.

"For a broker?"

"They just wanted to sell the tickets to the game to maintain the sellout streak."

Interim Titans President Steve Underwood, who recently admitted to the Nashville Sports Authority that there were problems that resulted in the team cleaning house inside the ticket office, was not in charge when the insider worked there.

Still, Underwood suggested in a statement that the team was only trying to find ways to help fans and get them back as paying customers.

"Our choice in these circumstances," Underwood said, "is to force a long-time customer to pay another PSL fee or work with them to reinstate their old account. Working something out seems more reasonable to us than the financial gouging your source apparently suggests."

Read Steve Underwood's full statement

But NewsChannel 5 Investigates has heard from other fans who say the team refused to work with them during hard times.

On top of that, the former employee said, he was bothered by what he had to tell longtime season tickets holders when they would call, asking about upgrading to prime seats in the lower bowl of the stadium.

"We would tell them we didn't have PSLs available in the lower bowl when I was looking at seats -- thousands of them -- available," he claimed.

NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked about why ticket office staff would say that.

His response: "To maintain the value and the illusion that, hey, it's hard to get."

In fact, many of those were prime seats that often ended up in the hands of opposing fans. How that happened, he said, was a closely guarded secret.

"A lot of them were the first several seats right behind the benches," the former insider said.

In fact, NewsChannel 5 Investigates reviewed old game footage and saw opposing fans sitting in some of the areas that the source identified.

"They were reserved in the hold class for people in upper management," he said, "and we never actually saw who purchased those tickets or where they went."

Could those have gone to professional brokers?

"Absolutely," he answered. "Without a doubt."

But the interim Titans president said the team maintains "house tickets that have never been associated with or sold with a PSL."

"These seats are held for our own needs and always have been," Underwood explained. "Sale of these house account tickets to or though a broker is and would have been a violation of our policies."

Underwood added that he has no reason to believe that any of those house tickets ended up in the hands of any professional ticket scalper.

Still, multiple sources have confirmed to NewsChannel 5 Investigates that the team did use its access to tickets to help a broker out of Boca Raton to make money off of Titans games -- under the agreement that he would use a portion of his profits to buy tickets to hard-to-sell games -- all to keep the sell-out streak alive.

In some cases, other former employees said, Titans officials gave the broker tickets to sell and wrote them off the books as donations to the military.

Last week, the Titans wrote Metro Nashville a check for $120,045 for unpaid ticket taxes.

While Underwood himself has admitted there were problems inside the ticket office, he's also upset that the former employee showed documentation to NewsChannel 5 that, he argued, the man had no right to take.

Underwood calls it "theft," and he's now threatening legal action against the man.

"I have instead asked our outside legal counsel to consider and review the facts and circumstances involved in connection with the theft and to evaluate potential legal action against the perpetrators and possible referral to the appropriate law enforcement agencies," he wrote.

As for the former insider, he believes that the old management simply lost sight of the goal.

"The team lost sight of who was filling the seats right now in an attempt to keep the sellout streak going."

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