LOS ANGELES — With more than 400 major league games already called off because of the coronavirus outbreak, the league 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 onto those tickets. The decision clears the way for teams to announce refund policies for the games.
The change comes one week after MLB and all 30 of its 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.
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.”
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 2020 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.
“While many businesses across this country have acted lawfully and ethically by providing consumers with refunds for events that will never occur during this pandemic, sometimes at the risk of bankruptcy, it remains notable that America’s pastime — baseball — is refusing to do right by its fans,” the lawsuit reads. “As stadiums remain empty for the foreseeable future, baseball fans are stuck with expensive and unusable tickets for unplayable games in the midst of this economic crisis.”
In a normal year, the regular season includes 2,430 games. More than 400 have been called off, through the ones scheduled Tuesday. 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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