Sunday, March 7

The NFL’s Blackout Policy – Corporate Necessity Or PR Blunder?

I was shocked to hear that the Saturday night, August 15th, preseason game between my local San Diego Chargers and the visiting Seattle Seahawks had become a victim of the National Football League’s ‘blackout policy’. It did not sell out is the given reason. There will be more to come from all indications due to the economic hard times we are in. The NFL cites its policy as providing better games for television with large crowds in attendance.

Hogwash! The real reason is plain old greed. The NFL’s object is to punish the home crowd if they do not show enough loyalty to buy all tickets to an NFL game, exhibition season or not! (The NFL has put out guidance that these games are to be referred to by all announcers and media persons as ‘preseason’ games and not the more truthful description of them as ‘exhibition’ football where the regular players are seldom seen. Instead, these games are ‘tryouts’ for rookies and unsigned free agents – pricey for what you pay to see, a ‘real’ football game.)

The NFL’s policy on televising local games not sellouts reads as follows: “To ensure an NFL club’s ability to sell all of its game tickets, and to make televised games more attractive to viewers through the presence of sellout crowds, the following policy is observed by the NFL: For a home game to be aired locally in the franchised market and in any secondary blackout market(s), the game must be sold out 72 hours in advance of kickoff. If the game is not a sellout by the 72 hour cutoff, both the home franchised market and the secondary markets of the carrying network will air an alternate game.”

Time was that season ticket buyers were given these ‘exhibition’ type games at no cost as a reward for buying a season ticket package. Not anymore as these faithful supporters must also buy – at full price – the two home games of each team’s ‘preseason’ as part of the deal. This amounts to tens of millions of dollars in extra revenue for the NFL.

Jim Steeg, a San Diego Charger front office official, explains the slowdown in ticket sales overall and the preseason dilemma as an economic problem vice one of a lack of fan enthusiasm for the game. “I think we’re just not immune to it,” Steeg said. “We’re sitting here in San Diego, with the U.S. economy, the California economy, the housing bubble, all that sort of stuff that we’ve got the eye of the storm here. That’s really what it comes down to.”

The NFL is committing an egregious public relations gaff in pursuing this policy in these difficult economic times when so many are hurting money-wise and simply can’t afford the considerable prices being asked now for pro football tickets. The reality is that there are fiscal priorities in today’s world.

But, since when was the NFL considerate of the fans who support them? Just this spring, in the midst of devastating news of economic collapse here at home, the NFL was seriously contemplating outsourcing the Super Bowl to London in the near future. That is, until word leaked out about this manifestation of uncontrolled gluttony to the public causing such an uproar that it required the NFL to back off on such a stupid idea.

The NFL, as recently as this past agen sbobet terpercaya in Detroit, has declined to retreat on its greed-based stance when Commissioner Roger Goodell said the league will not alter its blackout policy. Is this guy, the same perpetrator of the offshore Super Bowl fiasco, for real or has he become immune to the country’s hardships – especially the plight of the working people who provide the majority of the purchasing power to sell out NFL games?

Has greed overcome good old fashioned common sense and decency? It appears it has as Goodell’s intentions reflect those of the bonus-giving Wall Street moguls who are oblivious to economic fair play.

Let me be so bold as to offer this advice to Goodell and his self-indulgent staff: Consider the times as they are in our country where millions are unemployed, battling enduring economic hardships in paying their mortgage and other pressing bills such as putting food on the table for their family, and recognize that they may have to consider these factors before buying expensive – and inflated, overpriced – football tickets. Announce in no uncertain terms – unequivocally – that the blackout policy is suspended for this season in consideration of the economically hard hit fans who have loyally and financially made the NFL successful in the past. Announce that their support has been appreciated to the extent that the NFL recognizes the plight they are in and will not begrudge them a chance to watch their home team on television even if they can not go to the game for monetary reasons. Give the fans an NFL ‘bailout’ this season at least – the NFL owes them that.

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