While NFL owners and players continue to battle over how to divide $9 billion – and who among us hasn’t had to deal with that problem at least twice a week? – teams are employing a curious strategy to show how much they feel your pain.
They’re taking your money.
There are no football games being played right now. So in theory fans haven’t lost anything yet. But with the NFLPA decertifying as a union and the owners now in court, facing potential antitrust violations, it’s safe to assume that the April 28-30 draft (at least the joy of it) and free agency will be affected in some way. Games may be canceled. That uncertainty alone means fans are affected.
Nonetheless, teams are mandating payment for season tickets. New England is the most greedy team, mandating that fans pay for ticket packages in full by the end of March. Then again, the Patriots require the cash flow — they buy more video equipment than anybody else.
The most fan-friendly team: the New York Giants. They’re not asking for a nickel until a new collective bargaining agreement is in place. (It’s worth noting that collecting several thousand dollars up front for personal seat licenses in their new stadium last season eases the blow.)
Every other team has some policy that requires collecting money now. That includes the Falcons. They have different payment plans but all required the first payment to be made by Feb. 11 – which was three weeks before the CBA expired. Tickets must be paid for in full by June 1.
Granted, teams would refund ticket holders (plus an annual simple interest rate of 1 percent) for lost games.
But isn’t there something wrong with this picture? Is there any other business that requires you to pay for a product ahead of time, with no guarantee that the product will exist?
“That’s a fair question,” said Reggie Roberts, the Falcons’ vice president of communications. “We’re operating as if there’s going to be a season. We’re operating under the assumption there won’t be any lost games. If games are lost, then we have a plan in place.”
Roberts said the Falcons’ plan stems from the league’s recommendation. Kudos to the Giants for doing better than that. Everybody else gets a thumbs down.
I’ve contacted several Falcons season-ticket holders about the policy. Many didn’t have an issue with it, either because they believe a full season will be played and/or they have an affinity for owner Arthur Blank.
“I understand some people may not like the fact that they pay for a season that may not take place, but I’m really not one to complain,” Tony Blair said. “Blank has always done right by the organization, and that means a lot to me.”
But not all agree. One, who did not want to be quoted, expressed discomfort about having already paid the family’s $3,600 bill in full.
Another, Tandy Turner, was more to the point.
“I honestly don’t think I should have to pay for tickets and not know if they’re even going to play a game this season,” he said. “To be honest, this whole lockout has kind of left a bitter taste in my mouth. The way I look at it, the economy is already awful. There are so many people out of work. Yet we find a way to save up and pinch pennies to afford these tickets and buy our hats and jerseys, and these same players and owners who make millions of dollars kick us in the gut and have this lockout. “
Well said. Throughout these CBA talks, there have been comments from both sides about how their concern for fans rises above everything else. Of course, that’s not true. Winning the battle is.
Nobody should have to pay while this is going on. Season ticket deposits are not paying salaries right now, they’re paying legal bills.
By Jeff Schultz