SBD/Issue 232/Leagues & Governing Bodies

McKay Indicates NFL Preseason Format Likely To Be Reviewed

McKay Says NFL Preseason
Format Will Be Revisited

With Falcons QB Mike Vick and Jets QB Chad Pennington suffering serious injuries this preseason, Buccaneers GM and NFL Competition Committee co-Chair Rich McKay "anticipates that after the 2003 season the league likely will take another hard look at the issue of whether there are too many preseason games," according to Leonard Shapiro of the WASHINGTON POST. McKay: "The last time we discussed it was four years ago, and a survey I sent around to the coaches was firmly in favor of four (preseason games). Will it be talked about again? It will depend on whether the coaches and the owners want us to talk about it. But these issues do get revisited." Shapiro notes the NFL "estimates the preseason generates about $350[M] of its total $4.8[B] annual gross revenues. The bulk of that figure comes from ticket sales and local broadcasting deals." Every NFL team "now includes mandatory purchase of two preseason home games with its regular season ticket package. ... They also sell those games to local television, with teams earning millions more." The Steelers get $1.2M per game, and the price "jumps to about $5[M] for a network game as part of the league's broadcast package." Pilson Communications President Neal Pilson, on the scenario of playing an 18-game regular season if only two preseason games were played: "If the networks had 18 regular season games, that would be more valuable to them. ... I'm sure the league will look at it as it searches for more revenue streams in its next broadcast contract." NFLPA Assistant Exec Dir Doug Allen added, "We're willing to look at any model that makes sense. We understand there's a cost attached to it. If you shift two games to the regular season, you're talking about a different equation" (WASHINGTON POST, 8/26).

REAX: In DC, Michael Wilbon: "The NFL Competition Committee ought to be meeting right now to draw up various scenarios, one that doesn't put players at risk and cheat fans by making them pay NFL prices for exhibition scrimmages. ... The beginning of this season has already been reduced by the loss of [Vick and Pennington], two players who bring casual fans to pro football." Ravens LB Ray Lewis: "Do you think right now if the Falcons owner had the chance he'd trade those two games of ticket money for a healthy Michael Vick? Do you think the Jets owner ... would give up the two home games the Jets have this month for a healthy Chad Pennington? ... What industry doesn't cover its biggest asset?" (WASHINGTON POST, 8/26). In San Diego, Tim Sullivan writes Bengals President Mike Brown "argues that making preseason games part of the season-ticket package is essentially the same marketing strategy newspapers employ in including the classified ads and the comics in the price of the news product." Sullivan: "[Brown's] being disingenuous. One difference between the NFL model and [a newspaper] is that the failure to purchase today's paper does not disqualify a reader from buying tomorrow's. Another is that Beetle Bailey is not held out of some editions because they don't matter as much" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 8/26).

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