CLEVELAND (AP) - The Cleveland Browns are teaming with a year-old Web site, whose main sports business is in Europe, as their partner for reselling tickets to home games.
The Browns' partnership follows other professional teams that are bypassing their primary ticketing company, Ticketmaster Inc., which has sued the Cleveland Cavaliers for using another company to resell tickets.
Beginning with Saturday's preseason game against Kansas City, Browns fans can buy or resell tickets at viagogo.com.
The site charges a 15 percent fee to the seller and 10 percent fee to the buyer. In return, viagogo pays the Browns a flat fee to be the team's secondary ticketing site - an arrangement that most professional teams are entering to generate extra revenue and to help unwanted tickets get used.
"An empty seat can't buy any beer, nor can it root for the team," said Eric Baker, founder and CEO of viagogo.
Baker co-founded StubHub Inc. then left in fall of 2004 and took his ticketing expertise to Europe where viagogo works with major soccer clubs such as Manchester United and Chelsea.
The Browns are the first American sports franchise to partner with viagogo. They have a multiyear contract with the site, but Baker wouldn't specify how many years.
"Our goal is to make as many seats in Cleveland Browns Stadium available to Browns fans as possible, and this marketplace will give season ticket holders a safe and authorized method to sell their unused tickets," said Michael Keenan, Browns senior vice president of business operations.
The deal does not prevent Browns ticket holders from selling tickets on other Web sites, like the Cavaliers' Flash Seats, which requires season ticket holders to register.
Ticketmaster sued the Cavaliers and Flash Seats last month in U.S. District Court in California asking the court to rule that it has exclusive rights to handle all the team's ticket sales.
The team responded with a federal lawsuit of its own, accusing Ticketmaster of coercively seeking to enforce its primary-ticketing contract with the Cavaliers, saying that the contract prohibits the team from doing business with Flash Seats.
Ticketmaster did not return a phone call seeking comment on the Browns' deal with viagogo.
Last week, Sean Moriarty, president and CEO of Ticketmaster, released a statement saying the Cavaliers lawsuit attempts to deflect attention from Ticketmaster's contract to serve as the team's exclusive primary and secondary ticketing company.
"After accepting a large upfront payment from Ticketmaster for these rights, the Cavaliers breached their contract by establishing a ticketing arrangement with another ticketing company, Flash Seats, which not coincidentally is owned and controlled by Cavaliers' ownership," Moriarty said.
Cavaliers general counsel Jason Hillman said that Moriarty's statement misrepresents the team's contract because Ticketmaster's advance payment was not tied to secondary ticketing.