NFL Springs Leak … Monday Cup O’Chiefs

The National Football League has a problem.

OK, it has more than just one, but professional football has finally banged its head against an economic ceiling. The real world has intruded into the NFL and its bank accounts and revenue streams.

People have said “enough.”

If you doubt me, then consider this number – 30,413.

Saturday evening at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa the Chiefs and Buccaneers played a pre-season game. The paid attendance was announced by the Bucs as 41,386 fans. That alone was a joke. Anyone who was there knew that number had no relationship with the number of actual butts in actual seats.

That number, the total of people who walked through the turnstiles was – 30,413.

It was the smallest crowd of pre-season Week No. 2, but there were other games that drew something less than sellouts. Up in Toronto, the Buffalo Bills took their game against the Indianapolis Colts to the Rogers Center. Announced paid attendance was 39,583. There were 55,702 fans inside Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati. Up the road in Cleveland, 58,250 fans paid to see the Browns. Both numbers were far less than the capacity of either stadium.

There was a time when the NFL would wake up every morning and be millions of dollars richer than when it went to bed. It was the golden goose of professional sports, dropping golden eggs on everything that it touched.

Fans flocked to the stadiums and they paid big money for tickets, concessions, NFL affiliated clothing, etc. Teams charged premium, regular-season ticket prices for games that ultimately were nothing more than intra-squad scrimmages.

Thirsty for entertainment and desirous of the NFL game, fans spent their hard earned wages on 10-game season ticket packages where the cost of attending the meaningless pre-season games in August, was the same as December games where potentially there was a spot in the playoffs on the line.

Those days are gone. NFL fans have pushed back on the robbery that was charging premium prices for very non-premium exhibition games.

They certainly did last week in Tampa. The game was blacked out for live television in the Tampa-St. Petersburg area. The Buccaneers didn’t even try to use the threat of a blackout to sell more tickets. They just said early last week that there was going to be a blackout.

Just ahead will be the same problem at the New Arrowhead Stadium. It’s less than a week before the first home pre-season game and the only way the Chiefs-Eagles game this Friday night is on live local TV is if the Hunt family decides to buy enough tickets to qualify under NFL regulations for a so-called “sellout.”

We don’t know right now what the actual sellout number is for Arrowhead. The renovation has changed the actual capacity of the stadium. Then, there’s the accounting hocus pocus league teams are allowed to do when they “blackout” seats. This is what Jacksonville has done in the last few years where they take out of circulation certain tickets. Once they declare those seats dead before the season, then they stay dead. They can’t be sold at a later date, even if there is a demand.

In Jacksonville, they actually take a tarp and cover over those seats that are dark. That’s probably not going to happen at Arrowhead. Instead the Chiefs are likely going to pick out a row of seats here and there, and a bundle of seats in another area will be unavailable.

Just days away from the first game in the season-ticket package, it’s easier to find out the launch codes for nuclear weapons than it is the actual number of season tickets the Chiefs have sold. All we know is this – the number is far from a “sold out” level. How much and often the Hunt family will reach into their pockets to make up the difference for local television remains to be seen.

Last year it took nine games before they said “no mas” and the final home game against Cleveland was blacked out. This year, they will have to make a decision in just a few days whether the Chiefs-Eagles get live television coverage.

Professional football is headed towards an off-season of financial turmoil as the owners and players battle it out on a new collective bargaining agreement. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has been banging the drum for an 18-game regular season, taking two of those pre-season games and turning them into weekends where the outcome actually counts for something.

The expanded schedule is based on a single premise – more money. That won’t come from the fans, but will come from the TV networks. The fans are already paying regular season prices for pre-season games.

NFL owners and players need to tread carefully in the coming months. The biggest reason there were just over 30,000 fans in the Raymond James Stadium fans last Saturday night was the stature of the participants. The Chiefs and Bucs were two of the worst teams in the league for the ’09 season.

All around the country, fans used to pay money for meaningless games played by bad teams. But now the fans are pushing back.

No mas!


  • BENGALS – signed S Marvin White, last with the Lions; signed OL Chris Rodgers; released injured OT Andrew Mitchell.
  • BILLS – placed WR Marcus Easley on the injured reserve list (knee), ending his season; placed OLB Danny Batten on the injured-reserve list (shoulder) ending his season.
  • CHARGERS – OT Tra Thomas announced his retirement.
  • FALCONS – traded OL Quinn Ojinnaka to the Patriots for undisclosed compensation.
  • LIONS – signed G Noah Franklin.
  • PATRIOTS – acquired OL Quinn Ojinnaka from the Falcons for undisclosed compensation. Ojinnaka will serve a one-game suspension in the opening weekend due a batter charge filed against him by his wife.
  • RAMS – signed WR Danario Alexander; waived WR Brooks Foster.
  • REDSKINS – signed FB Carey Davis, last with the Steelers.
  • SEAHAWKS – signed WR Brandon Jones, last with the 49ers; OT Russell Okung’s ankle sprain will keep him out of action for two to four weeks.
  • VIKINGS – placed WR Jaymar Johnson on the injured-reserve list (broken thumb).

7 Responses to “NFL Springs Leak … Monday Cup O’Chiefs”

  • August 23, 2010  - johnfromfairfax says:

    Thanks Bob. What you report should be a warning for both the owners and players. If they are foolish enough to delay the season significantly the fans should let them know that the sport is not sacred. I’ve said before and will repeat that I’ve been a football fan my whole life but if they do something like change revenue sharing significantly (as some of the owners want) and thereby alter the competitive balance of the game I will not spend another dime on the sport and will find other things to do in its place.

  • August 23, 2010  - Chuck says:

    With all my heart I don’t think you can judge what a teams attendance will be by the preseason games. I was a season ticket holder for 3 years in the Arrowhead Club and never went to a practice (whoops preseason game) either. Truthfully I dislike preseason games because of what happened to Maurice Legget on saturday night. A meaningless game and perhaps a very serious injury. Those two things should never be in the same sentence.

  • August 23, 2010  - Tim says:

    18 games would dilute the game! Keep football season in football. Baseball is now ridiculous! These sports shouldn’t overlap each other so much. Besides, if they go to 18 games they’ll need to expand rosters, etc. Do we really want regular season games in August or late Feb.? The owners & players need to get real.

  • August 23, 2010  - Ernie says:

    We are season ticket holders since 79. My wife and I attend all 10 home games. We’ve lived in So Cal for 20 years now and saw our share of LA Rams/Raiders/Chargers but there is no place in the NFL like Arrowhead. I would prefer turning the last two pre season games into regular season games that “count”. However I do find the preseason games “fun” in the sense that you never know what’s going to happen after the starters leave the field; sometimes exciting, sometimes dull as the players try and earn a roster spot. But in today’s world four full price practices don’t make sense to keep fan interest. Either way we’ll be there. Go Chiefs!

  • August 23, 2010  - Albert says:

    I think it was Pete Rozelle back in the 60s or early 70s who came up with the idea of the “preseason.” He started calling these games “preseason” rather than “exhibition” games to build attendance for what was then a six game preseason schedule. That also allowed the NFL to start charging full, regular season price for these games. I’m not in favor of the 18 game season. It’s going to water down games, expand rosters, throw off all the records and without a salary cap allow some teams to horde players while other teams will play mostly scrubs (wonder which direction the Chiefs will go?). The NFL should just admit that the preseason games are practice games with the purpose of finalizing the rosters and getting teams in synch. Either charge less for these games, or don’t worry that they’re not sold out. Baseball does fine with its exhibition games played in Arizona and Florida. The NFL should just recognize that some practice games are needed.

  • August 23, 2010  - RW says:

    On the pricing of tickets for a 10 game home schedule. Amortize the pre-season games. Example: If a team wants $120/game or $1200 for seat per season, charge $10/game for the two pre-season games and $147.50 for each of the regular season games. Same $1200 bucks which includes a price increase for the regular season but the pre-season games are now priced for what they are.

  • August 23, 2010  - Tracy says:

    The financial misery foisted upon the country by the poobahs of Wall Street and Washington will raise its ugly head in the countdown from now until the lockout date. Some owners borrowed mightily to buy a team and so are more susceptible to financial pressures than those, like the Hunt family, who have been in the game since the inception. The cost of new and renovated stadiums also loom large on their balance sheets.

    The years when annual increases in ticket and parking prices were tolerated by season ticket holders are likely long gone. The bigger worry for the NFL–both the owners and the NFLPA–is the health of the cash cow known as the broadcast rights. In the past, the networks have paid a premium to televise the games–it brought a certain panache. Fox jumped in and upped the bidding a number of years ago because it felt that broadcasting NFL games would add to its resume. But what if the networks find severely weaker demand for ad time? Right now the old standbys–car companies, beer companies, pharmaceutical companies, insurance companies–remain strong but an economy in the toilet could flatten profits and weaken that demand.

    Meanwhile, the players, who put their bodies on the line every game, want more. A combination of factors–sky high bonuses to unproven rookies, nutty spending by the likes of Dan Snyder, etc.–have raised their expectations and their demands. Who can blame them?

    Roger Goddell has a tough job on his hands; Snyder and Jerry Jones alone are enough to bring on insanity. If he can bring about an agreement upon which both sides agree, he should be drafted as an ambassador whose job description is peace in the middle East.

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