From today's Globe and Mail

November 25, 2009
Football's hottest ticket isn't the Grey Cup
By Robert MacLeod
From Thursday's Globe and Mail

Sold-out Vanier game in Quebec City has few seats for fans of finalists from Queen's and University of Calgary

For the first time since a national university football champion was officially crowned in 1967, tickets for the Vanier Cup are so hot this year that, for a change, scalpers aren't getting burned. Officials for the two teams in the final, however, say they haven't been so lucky.

In what should have been a good-news scenario for organizers of Saturday's event in Quebec City between the Queen's University Golden Gaels and the University of Calgary Dinos, the title game is mired in some controversy after it was discovered that not enough tickets had been put aside to meet the demands of the finalists.

And, there are complaints that powerhouse Laval University, organizers of this year's event, was so certain that its team would play in the final that it only set aside enough tickets to accommodate one outside team.

"Unfortunately, Vanier Cup organizers allowed all of [the stadium's] 17,500+ tickets to be sold in advance of the Vanier Cup semi-final games this past weekend," said Michael Ceci, president of Queen's University's Alma Mater Society, earlier this week. "Provisions were not made by Vanier organizers to allow for teams participating in this weekend's final to have priority on ticket sales."

Both Queen's University and the University of Calgary expressed amazement that they are having to scrounge for tickets to provide to their supporters.

"One of our biggest challenges has been trying to get enough tickets for the people that are coming in," Kevin Boyles, the Calgary athletic director, said Wednesday during a telephone interview from Quebec City.

His comments were echoed by his Queen's counterpart, Leslie Dal Cin.

"I can tell you we've expressed our views to the CIS [Canadian Interuniversity Sport] and asked to ensure that the interests of the participating teams are taken care of and that has to be an absolute mandatory item of any bid going forward," Ms. Dal Cin said.

Laval University is holding the event for the first time, and organizers sold out the PEPS Stadium event out weeks ago - largely on the presumption that the school's own team, the Rouge et Or, should have no problem punching its own ticket to the big game.

Close to 18,000 people are expected, including about 5,000 who purchased standing-room-only tickets.

The nation's top-ranked Rouge et Or suffered a stunning 33-30 defeat on Saturday when it was eliminated from contention by Queen's in the Mitchell Bowl national semi-final.

"I think Laval had this whole thing set up expecting one visiting team, and they figured either us or Saint Mary's and about 200 tickets would do it," said Mr. Boyles, whose team defeated Saint Mary's Huskies 38-14 in its semi-final.

Gilles Lepine, the Vanier Cup committee chairman at Laval, denied that not having the Rouge et Or in the game created the ticket crunch for the outside teams.

"Our first mission was to fill the place," he said.

Both Queen's and Calgary were initially told that they would have to split an allotment of 200 tickets between them - or 100 for each school.

"You're kidding?" Ms. Dal Cin said was her initial reaction when she first learned her school would only be getting 100 tickets.

The Golden Gaels have attracted an average of about 6,000 to their past three home games.

As the university is only about a six-hour drive from Quebec City, Ms. Dal Cin said interest is high in Kingston for fans to purchase tickets and then make the trek to support the Golden Gaels.

"I'm quite confident if we had 400 tickets made available to us today we would sell those 400 tickets," she said.

Mr. Boyles and Ms. Dal Cin have been badgering the Laval organizing committee all week for more tickets, and the pressure has paid off.

As of Wednesday, Mr. Boyles said about 200 tickets have been made available to those Calgary fans planning to attend. Ms. Dal Cin said her school has secured the same for Queen's supporters.

In addition, Laval has also made available to Queen's an additional 1,000 standing-room seats that went on sale in Kingston last night.

"One thing we're unsure of is how some of our older alumni and community members will respond to standing-room-only tickets," Ms. Dal Cin said. "We'll see how that goes."

Fans outside of the province are also growing frustrated over the difficulty of booking hotel rooms in Quebec City for the game.

Desjardins Bank, the Vanier Cup's major corporate sponsor, is holding its annual meeting in Quebec City this week and most of the hotels are booked solidly through the weekend.

Mr. Lepine acknowledged that that local organizers might have been caught a bit off guard by the demand for tickets being so high from Queen's, whose fans won't have to fly to get to Quebec City.

"For next year, maybe the best thing is to plan to have a little bit bigger reserve [of tickets]," he said.

Mr. Lepine said the organizing committee is doing all it can to try to accommodate the schools, including making room for both the Queen's marching band and cheerleaders to take in the event.

It appears that ticket scalpers are reaping most of the benefit from all this: Wednesday on eBay, there were dozens of Vanier Cup tickets listed for sale at prices considerably steeper than face value.