With a labor contract secure and player safety improving, it’s time for the NFL to focus on the fans.
The other day, a friend of mine told me he is giving up his Chargers season tickets after having them for over 15 years. I asked why and told me it’s because he can no longer tolerate obnoxious fan behavior, tailgating isn’t fun anymore (with enforced restrictions, limited access to bathrooms) and his new HDTV experience at home is like being at the game.
Maybe it’s time to refocus on the fan, the in-stadium experience, and clean up the issues that irk the average fan.
Roger Goodell has a tougher job than people realize. He has to keep 32 owners/bosses in check, take bullets for them and be the bad guy, police over 2000 players and coaches, and maximize profits without compromising the game. Now he is saddled with concussion lawsuits and urgency in making the game safer. He has to do all these things while not compromising the integrity, the character and the excitement of the game. The bottom line is that he has to keep the fans wanting to keep coming back and consume every aspect of the game, whether in-stadium or watching it on any electronic platform.
Revenues and TV viewership keeps going higher so the commissioner and the league are doing a lot of things right from a business standpoint. However, there are still several areas that still irk fans that I have spoken to.
1) Charging fans full price for pre-season games: Anyone who’s ever been a season ticket holder knows that this is one of the biggest rip offs in all of sports. The pre-season product doesn’t match up to the regular season product and there should be an adjustment made. There’s really not a lot fans can do about this but something should be done. And it’s not getting rid of two games in trade for an 18 game season. I’d like to see one pre-season game limited to only rookies and players with less than three years experience.
2) Obnoxious fan behavior: Being an agent I get to visit a lot of stadiums and I will admit fan behavior has improved somewhat over the last two decades but it still has a way to go. Inebriated fans that project their alcohol induced aggressive antics toward opposing fans or their neighbors must be weeded out. There is no way that a father or mother should be intimidated to take their 8-year son or daughter to a game.
3) Limited access to games on TV/Blackouts: In the efforts to turn the NFL Network, well, into a serious network, the league is hammering square pegs in round holes to make this work at the expense of the fan, not just other networks. If you don’t have DirecTV or the NFL Network, an a la carte system for watching the game you want is still elusive. However, it looks like this could be changing soon, unless of course the NFL wants you to pay a premium for the NFLN. I think most fans, especially displaced fans will pay for an a la carte game, but let’s make it simple to do without them having to drill holes in the roof for a satellite dish or sit in a sports bar that serves crappy food.
4) Access to Super Bowl tickets for the fans of the team playing the game: Every year somebody calls me pleading for help in getting Super Bowl tickets for their family member who has been a die-hard fan their whole life and wants to go the game. I’ve been to about ten Super Bowls and most of the people there care more about the party than the teams in the game. The after market price for tickets (anywhere from $1,500 to $5,000) is not affordable for the average fan. Most season ticket holders sit through numerous wretched seasons and when their team finally starts winning they get shut out on access to Super Bowl tickets. There should be a bigger allotment and/or lottery for the season ticket holders whose team is in the game. With about twenty thousand tickets being resold in the secondary market, and some even by owners themselves, there are enough inventories available for the most deserving fans to get tickets at face value.
5) Tax Subsidized stadiums controlled by the owners: I am actually for tax subsidized stadiums but only if they are controlled by the taxpayers and benefit the taxpayer before the owner. There are some markets/owners who were given a stadium and the right to control ticket prices, parking, and in some cases the concessions. That’s having their cake and eating it too. Unfortunately, most of the cheapest known owners were the ones who benefited the most and have shared less with their fan base by continuing being cheap on securing top talent and passing on some profits back to the fan attending the game (i.e. more reasonable parking, ticket and food prices).
I would love to hear more beefs from the fans as to how the owners and Commissioners office can improve your fan experience. Trust me, they actually do listen.
Follow me on Twitter: @Jackbechta