ESPN reported this week that NFL players and owners are close to agreement on a rookie wage scale and are poised to complete negotiations. If both sides finally reach a settlement before July 19 when they will be required to negotiate with Judge Arthur Boylan, the court-appointed mediator, they avoid legal remedies.
By a reaching an agreement millions of NFL fans across the U.S. will be the eager beneficiaries of training camp practice, preseason games and a regular season schedule.
Perhaps fans have been mostly overlooked while deep-pocket owners and players jousted throughout the spring and summer, but they should have been primary.
Fans pay the bills and should always be first.
Fans are a diverse group, no doubt, and more of them viewed NFL in 2010 than ever before. Failed negotiations could have dented those brisk viewing totals.
Still, it’s not certain if all will follow NFL in 2011 as they did in 2010.
Not every market had full sellouts in 2010 and the turbulent economy won’t be helpful to boosting future ticket sales.
To avoid a local TV blackout the NFL requires teams to sell out games 72 hours before kickoff and had 23 games not televised in local venues during 2010.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers had the dubious tally of eight home games not televised in 2010 owing to poor ticket sales.
The Buccaneers need their fans and those fans like all supporters have varying degrees of fervor.
Fans are generally rabid and avid, steady and regular or casual.
Rabid and avid fans are the dudes and ladies that collect an abundance of memorabilia, know every stat and have a mouthful of opinions at any given minute. They don’t give two minute warnings.
Regular and steady fans are those who follow the sport, buy tickets and t-shirts and support the home team no matter what. They just don’t jump up and down a lot, or cheer or boo until the game is on and plays are working or not.
Casual fans are fickle. They can watch NFL or not watch it. If it’s a close exciting game they will observe. Often when their home team starts winning, they join other fans in rejoicing, but not always.
The NFL and the Buccaneers aren’t likely to lose neither rabid or avid fans nor many of the regular and steady fans, but they are always at risk of losing the casual fan.
Had the NFL season been delayed casual fans might have moved on to other sports like NASCAR, NHRA, IZOD IndyCar, or MLB—all with long seasons.
With a settlement done and games on the horizon it’s up to NFL and teams like the Buccaneers to develop market programs to help and promote fan participation. Discounts and parking deals go a long way with strained consumer budgets.
It’s better to have a full stadium obtained by reducing ticket revenues than to have a sparsely attended venue collecting the same revenue with fully priced tickets. Fans can’t buy stadium concession food and beverages at home.
When the economic and legal needs of multimillionaire owners and players have been settled, it’s time to turn some focus to loyal supporters.
Two realities need constant attention.
Fans make it all happen. Casual fans can vanish.
Some information derived for this report came from National Football League media sources.