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Soccer Hosts Can’t Prove Funny Numbers Theory

(CN) - Ticketmaster does not have to face claims that it underreported how many seats it sold to a soccer match between rival Mexican teams, a federal judge ruled.

Club Escapade 2000 Inc. produced the 2009 game at the University of Texas, El Paso, between Mexican Primera Division rivals Cruz Azul and Club America.

It claimed the Sun Bowl Stadium game was "extremely popular," that traffic was backed up on the highways, and news outlets reported an attendance of 20,000 to 40,000 people.

Club Escapade president Nereo Tavira estimated that 25,000 people were there, and early estimates from the school were allegedly similar.

But after first telling Tavira that the Ticketmaster computer system showed that 24,457 tickets were sold, the school representative later said she had been mistaken and that 11,306 tickets were actually sold.

In a March 2011 federal lawsuit, Club Escapade said that Ticketmaster had tampered with its system. On the eve of the match, a Ticketmaster audit report allegedly said 14,408 tickets were sold. That number suspiciously dropped to 11,098 the next day, though no ticket purchasers had demanded refunds or exchanges, according to the complaint.

The event producer also says its digital imaging expert examined video footage of the match and concluded that attendance was as high as 24,311.

After the court dismissed Club Escapade's fraud claim in November, Ticketmaster moved for summary judgment on the remaining claims of breach of contract, negligence and conversion.

Club Escapade then withdrew the contract claim, leaving U.S. District Judge Kathleen Cardone to dismiss the two other counts March 30.

The conversion claim failed because there is not proof Ticketmaster concealed ticket proceeds. "Plaintiff has no evidence to make that conclusion - i.e. to pin responsibility on defendant," she wrote. "Rather, it is equally likely that there were more people in the stadium because one of the many employees at the venue wrongly sold tickets and did not report those sales to either defendant or plaintiff. Or perhaps, more people were in the stadium because of lax security or counterfeit tickets. In sum, plaintiff's evidence that it was entitled to the property and that defendant exercised control over it is too tenuous for a reasonable jury to find in its favor."

The negligence claim failed because Cardone said "no reasonable jury could find that it is more likely than not that defendant breached its duty to accurately account for all tickets sold."

Club Escapade itself admitted to returning 4,243 tickets on the day before the event, nullifying the argument that the fluctuating audit reports for both days were suspicious.

"In other words, the only reasonable inference to make from this evidence is that defendant properly took account of plaintiff's return, and thus properly accounted for all tickets sold," Cardone wrote.

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