It's early, it's Monday, and it's the offseason. That means it's a challenge to fin meaningful news regarding the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, or any team for that matter. One thing that's been beat to death is attendance and how terrible it's gotten at Raymond James Stadium. We can point to 3-13 or 4-12, we can point to no star power or cutting ties with Hall of Famers (hello Mr. Brooks) in the least respectful way possible. You could point to stadium concenssion screw ups, or just the blazing heat in the Tampa area and you'd be right on all accounts. But while we poke at the Bucs and Glazers for bad attendance, here's a news flash: Attendance is down league wide and has been for 4 years straight.
This excerpt is from ProFootballTalk, (article is here), btu it focuses on the league wide drop in attendance.
It translates to an average paid crowd of 64,698. That’s the lowest per-game number since 1998, when 64,020 tickets were bought per game for 240 total regular-season contests.
Repeated shrinkage over the last half decade underscores the challenge the NFL is facing. At a time when everything else regarding the sport is growing, the league has seen its paying customers steadily drop by more than 4.5 percent since 2007.
I found this pretty shocking given how popular football has become and how much exposure it gets. But then I started thinking, this makes perfect sense. The league is so accessible and has so many outlets covering it (SBN, ESPN, Fox, CBS, team sites, Direct TV, Cable etc) that you can get your fix in any number of ways. Ticket prices have gone up at a faster rate than the cost of living which means more out of pocket oney for the same product. This also doesn't consider the longer game times, more expensive concessions, parking, and the hassle of a 3 hour game eating up 5 hours of your day.
The biggest elephant in the room, which Goodell and the league almost refuse to address is the convenience factor. We all know the gripe, but let me lay it out in a simple manner. A family of 4 (two adults, two kids) going to a game requires parking, tickets, and concessions and probably some souveniers, which we'll ignore for now. This conservatively costs $200 bucks ($120 for tickets, $30 for drinks, $30 for food, $20 for parking). Those are close estimates and yes you can get scalped tickets or park farther away, but just bear with me. At home, two pizzas, a few two liters, maybe an adult beverage or two for mom and dad and you're maxing out at $50. That's $4 at the stadium for every $1 at home. Sure you get the "experience", which these days consists of one play followed by $30 seconds of boredom and God forbid if we start calling time outs. The ole sequence of touchdown, extra point, commercial, kickoff, commercial, three and out (punt), commercial gets old fast. In that scenario, about 2 minutes of game time go by but 20 minutes of real-time goes by. It gets slow and if your team is getting blown out (hell 2011 Bucs), it makes the games painful.
Alright, enough of that tangent, the fact is, football is popular, going to the games is not. There is little draw to go to a game when everyone owns an HDTV, has access to most games they want to see, and can enjoy their food, at their house for a reasonable price. People love the game but prefer the at home experience vs. the stadium experience. Goodell and crew think free wi-fi solves this problem. It doesn't. It will take fans out of the game (focused on mobile device, not the game) and still provides no incentive to go. Cheaper prices may help, but a 10% reduction doesn't do much.
A few years back the Dolphins owner, Stephen Ross, said he would give a certain amount of Kangaroo TV units free to any team who installed them at their stadium. These devices essentially allow you to watch other games, watch a feed of your game, check stats etc. This is far more compelling than free wi-fi, but no one took that chance. The league has to find some way to draw fans in. The rough economic patch didn't help the league, but the NFL needs to find something to draw fans to the stadium as opposed to drawing them to the TV.
So while we rip the Bucs and the lack of attendance, realize this is a league wide problem. Teams and the NFL have to right this ship and bring fans to the game. Our generation is already sold on football, but the next generation may not be if they can't find a reason to go to the game.