Fri | Sep 22, 2017

Champs expensive? Says who?

Published:Friday | March 18, 2016 | 3:00 AM
Shanice Love celebrates after a record-breaking throw in the discus at Champs 2016 on Wednesday.

The perennial grumblings about Champs have resurfaced. The grouse is essentially the same: the difficulty of getting grandstand tickets for Saturday.

When demand is this disproportionate to supply, there is always going to be a major problem. This year, there is a new reason to complain. Many patrons are upset about the increase in the price of tickets, which range from as high as $1,500 for bleachers, up from $1,000, to $4,500 for the grandstand, up from $3,500. But are the tickets really expensive? Expensive for who?

I beg to differ. While the common man sees Champs as a nice annual entertainment package, ISSA must see it as strictly business. In every business, the owner seeks to price his good or service so that he can maximise his profits. It's as simple as that.

In settling on price, one wants to find that happy, sometimes elusive, medium where you get as much from each customer without leaving them disgruntled to the point where they no longer want to buy from you. The more in-demand your product is, the higher you might be able to raise prices.

The demand for Champs tickets is well known. The stadium holds somewhere close to 30,000, and by a conservative estimate, I feel that maybe five times that number would love to get in, certainly for the final day.

With that kind of demand, which business operator would not want to maximise profits? The mechanic, the barber, the patty maker, the radio station that sells air time, all charge based on how badly their service or good is desired by the public. The mechanic who has developed a reputation for quality service will be more expensive than his peers. The greater his reputation for quality, the more you have to shell out to get him to attend to your car.

The more the public feels that one patty shop produces patties that are better-tasting than another patty shop, the more they will be willing to pay extra for it. ISSA is doing nothing that any other entrepreneur wouldn't do. The notion that Champs tickets are too expensive becomes an absolutely moot point if the stadium is full tomorrow. It is not individuals who determine what is too expensive. That is a function of the market. If the stadium is full on Saturday, Champs is clearly affordable to the people who really want to go.

As every student of capitalism knows, it is the market that determines the value of a product. There is no intrinsic value in anything, really. As long as enough members of the Jamaican public feel that there is enormous value in sitting and watching our best high-school athletes parading their skills, they will pay the price to go in.

The man who buys an $80,000 cell phone doesn't see it as expensive. Or, to put it simpler, he feels that the features are worth the dollars he is shelling out. What the saturation point is, nobody knows. The invisible forces that drive a market are impossible to predict, and ISSA, at this point, are is well within its right to believe the public hasn't reached saturation point yet.

So ISSA is doing nothing wrong. The crowd in the stands tomorrow will be the acid test of whether their price hike makes good business sense or not. I've heard one argument that ISSA should keep the prices down because it's a students meet. It's not true. Champs may be said to be a meet done by students, but it's certainly for the PUBLIC, in the same way that schoolboy football is. Besides, not every business makes a distinction for teenagers. The man who sells patties, for example, will charge students and adults the same.

So let us stop blaming ISSA. The acid test will be the size of the crowds tomorrow. I feel, despite the price increases, that the stadium will be just as full, therefore, we should even brace ourselves for another round of increases soon!

 - Orville Higgins is a sportscaster and talk-show host at KLAS ESPN Sports FM. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.