It’s the economy, right? It has to be the economy. What else could possibly keep fans from paying $150 per ticket, $35 to park, $9 for a beer, and $4 for a pretzel? The second coming of the Great Depression has to be the reason NFL attendance could drop to its lowest levels since 1998, right? It could be that. It also could be that people are tired of ticket costs increasing while the in-home experience is on the rise.
Eric Grubman, the executive vice president of NFL Ventures and Business Operations, told the USA Today that he predicts league-wide ticket sales will drop 1%-2% this season, with season ticket sales slipping a whopping 5%. It’s the third straight year ticket sales have declined since the NFL set a record high back in 2007.
We know some of our fans are struggling. We don’t need to see the statistics,” Grubman said. “We know people who buy our tickets are having trouble making ends meet. Some of them are having trouble finding jobs. That works its way into the equation.”
I’m not going to be naive and say the unemployment rate has nothing to do with a decline in attendance, but I will say it’s convenient for NFL franchises to continue to hike ticket prices and blame it on the economy when they can’t sell out their stadiums. The rise of high definition television at a more affordable cost has certainly inspired more fans to park their butts at home instead of spending $500 to take their families to a game. Owners like Jerry Jones — with his obnoxious video board that he refuses to raise — have certainly tried to address that problem by making the in-stadium experience comparable. Robert Kraft followed suit with the installation of a bigger, better video board at Gillette Stadium in the spring.
The NFL tries to address the issue of fans staying at home to watch games by blacking out local television broadcasts if a team cannot sell out its home games. Just ask the Tampa Bay Bucs. More than twice as many games were blacked out last season compared to 2007 and 2008.
Somehow, despite the attendance issues, the average ticket price rose 3.9% to $74.99 last season. Clearly, the owners are making enough money and don’t care. Maybe they should improve the tailgating experience and more fans will pony up the dough. Who am I kidding? They’ll keep raising prices, hope everyone hits the lottery, and continue to ride out the economic downturn. Heck, maybe I’ll even get my Patriots season tickets from the mile-long waiting list if the trend continues.
NFL: Attendance likely to fall for third straight season in 2010, to lowest level since 1998 [USA Today]