SBD/Issue 80/Sports & Society

Pro Sports Teams, Leagues Feeling Impact Of Economic Downturn

NLL Buffalo Bandits Continuing To Draw
Capacity Crowds Despite Down Economy
While a few pro sports teams "defy the economic logic of the times," franchises across sports are "weighing pricing and other options in an attempt to retain season ticketholders and attract new business," according to Seth Livingstone in a sports-section cover story for USA TODAY. The apparent solution for sports is to "give fans what they want -- the most entertainment bang for their dwindling discretionary buck." Deb McAllister, President of the NLL Buffalo Bandits' Bandits Brigade fan club, said Bandits games represent the "most reasonable ticket in town." McAllister: "But the biggest thing is the atmosphere. A Bandits game is one big party with 18,000 people." UCLA's Anderson Entertainment & Media Management Institute Exec Dir Nelson Gayton "thinks a league such as the National Lacrosse League could be well-positioned." Gayton: "Today's non-major sport may be tomorrow's major sport." Livingstone notes women's soccer is "bucking the economy by relaunching a professional sport that failed to make money even after" the U.S. women's national team won the '99 World Cup. WPS Commissioner Tonya Antonucci: "We have to contain costs at the league, team and facility levels. We have to manage expectations and plans for slow, steady growth." But Livingstone notes "not every team and league are thriving." The AFL, which in December suspended the '09 season, said that it "hopes to emerge from its one-year hiatus in a more cost-efficient form in 2010." Acting AFL Commissioner Ed Policy: "The long-standing cliche is that the economy in sports is somewhat bulletproof. In our mind, it might be considered somewhat bullet-resistant, but this has been a bazooka" (USA TODAY, 1/14).

PBR Dropping Lowest Ticket To $10,
Though Tour Is Still Offering Some $300 Seats
HOLDING ON TIGHT: Livingstone reports PBR, "responding to the economy," has dropped its cheapest ticket "from $20 to $10 this year but still offers a limited number of $300 seats behind the chute." The tour "buys its TV time on NBC and Fox and depends heavily on sponsorship and ticket revenue," and one of PBR's advantages is its "ability to select dates and venues that might be attractive to a particular fan base or sponsor." PBR CEO Randy Bernard: "There are going to be pockets where the economy is worse than others. We try to stay out of those cities that are hit the hardest. You'll also see us a little less active in the summer. There are too many things people can do for free in the summer" (USA TODAY, 1/14).

DIAMOND DAZE: In DC, Thomas Boswell writes, except for "players coveted" by the Yankees or players like P Derek Lowe, who yesterday signed a 4-year, $60M deal with the Braves, MLB economics "may be changing." After the Yankees in December "distorted every perception" of the economy's impact on MLB by committing $453M in total to 1B Mark Teixeira and Ps CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett, the league's financial reality "has changed in the last two weeks." With the Yankees "sated, the truth of the economy's impact on baseball is arriving." Nationals President Stan Kasten said that he can "'only remember one other offseason when salaries backed up' like this." Kasten: "The single biggest factor is the economy. We will get through this, but a lot of teams are being as cautious, and as responsible as they can be, to weather this storm." Red Sox President & CEO Larry Lucchino: "The game is only starting to feel the (weak) economy. But the impact is going to be big. Some teams can still bid high for the best players. But everybody's watching to see how it plays out" (WASHINGTON POST, 1/14).

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