SBD/February 8, 2011/Events and Attractions

NFL Officials Admit They Knew About Seating Problems Ahead Of Super Bowl

Officials thought they had a good shot of fixing seating problems ahead of game
NFL officials yesterday said that the league "knew of a potential Super Bowl XLV seating fiasco by the middle of last week," but "didn't alert fans to complications with temporary seating at Cowboys Stadium ... because they felt they had 'a very good shot' at getting the problems fixed and because they didn't know who exactly might be affected," according to a front-page piece by Benning & Farwell of the DALLAS MORNING NEWS. Officials said that about 1,250 ticket holders "were relocated or forced to watch Sunday's game on television monitors because the final installation of railings -- as well as the tightening of stairs and risers -- was not completed in six sections of temporary seats." NFL Exec VP/Business Operations Eric Grubman: "We made a judgment that it was the right course of action to bring the fans in, rather than to discourage them or create a sense that they wouldn't have the information necessary." Benning & Farwell note another 2,000 fans "were delayed in getting to their seats because of the installation problems" with the railings. NFL officials said that the delays "were not related to inclement weather and that the problems had nothing to do with an ultimately unsuccessful push for a Super Bowl attendance record." Meanwhile, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell yesterday reiterated that North Texas "did an 'outstanding job' and that the region would be a strong contender for future Super Bowls." Goodell noted that the league was going to "conduct a 'thorough review' of the situation and that the problems were 'the responsibility of the NFL.'" Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones in a statement yesterday said that "'manpower and timing issues' were the reasons behind the incomplete installations, and he apologized to fans who were affected" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 2/8). Arlington Fire Chief Don Crowson said of the unused seats, "We were hopeful work would be completed, but it was not. When it became apparent the stairs were not going to be completed, we told the NFL those seats were not going to be in use" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 2/8).

BUCK STOPS WITH NFL: North Texas Super Bowl Host Committee President & CEO Bill Lively said the "buildup and preparing the region for the Super Bowl is our responsibility," but the "week of the game belongs to the NFL." Lively: "The game is theirs. The stadium is theirs. We have no responsibility or authority" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 2/8). Grubman said the league "felt in the middle of the week" that the temporary seats were "going to be a problem." Grubman: "We did not feel until the game day that we had an issue where there was a distinct possibility that we would not be able to accommodate fans" (USA TODAY, 2/8). Goodell said that it "would have been difficult to notify fans earlier because it was unclear initially how many seats, or which ones, would be affected" (WASHINGTON POST, 2/8). Meanwhile, Jones in his statement said of the displaced fans, "We deeply regret their Super Bowl experience was impacted by this error, and we share that responsibility with the NFL." Jones: "Our collective goals all along were to ensure that more than 103,000 people would be able to have an enjoyable game day experience on Super Bowl Sunday, while also being a part of an event that ultimately produced the largest television audience for any program ever" (USATODAY.com, 2/7).

SORRY WE HAVE INCONVENIENCED YOU: USA TODAY's Sean Leahy noted Goodell yesterday "apologized" for the ticket fiasco and said that the league would invite the displaced fans "to next year's Super Bowl." Goodell also "pledged to reach out to the affected fans." Goodell: "We'll be working with them and reaching out to them. We'll be bringing them to the Super Bowl as a guest of the NFL next year" (USA TODAY, 2/8). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Albergotti & Eaton noted the league "plans to compensate about 2,000 other fans who were 'inconvenienced in some way,' including delays getting seated." However, the league "won't cover disgruntled fans' travel expenses" (WSJ.com, 2/7). Meanwhile, in Philadelphia, Les Bowen notes Goodell "lauded league employees for giving up their seats and those of their family members to cut down on the number of displaced paying customers." But a NFL source said that the employees "were given no choice," as they "received an early afternoon e-mail instructing them to return their tickets." The source said that the employees instead "watched the Super Bowl from a tent on the stadium grounds" (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 2/8).

NOT DOING ENOUGH: A PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE editorial is written under the header, "Super Fraud: The NFL Owes Seatless Fans Far More Than Promised." The Steelers and Packers "were not directly responsible for the incompleted seats," but they "must use their clout to pressure the NFL to make these fans whole by covering all costs, plus a premium paid for their disappointment, humiliation, pain and suffering." The NFL offered the displaced fans a triple refund of $2,400, but the "sum of $50,000 per ticket would not be too high." The editorial: "The NFL must prove with a fair compensation package that a ticket for a seat to any of its games guarantees a seat -- and that this is the kind of personal foul that will not happen again" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 2/8). A MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL editorial states the compensation provided to the fans is "not enough -- not when fans had to fly to Dallas, put themselves up in hotels and pay for their meals" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 2/8). In San Diego, Nick Canepa writes, "What's $2,400? I assume most of these people didn't arrive game day. If you stay in a hotel, you must do so at least four nights, at over $200 a copy. You had to travel to get there. You had to eat" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 2/8). CBSSPORTS.com's Clark Judge: "Irate fans will want more, and, frankly, you can't blame them. ... If I'm the NFL I go beyond that and pay for meals, flights, accommodations, whatever expenses those 400 persons incurred this weekend" (CBSSPORTS.com, 2/7). CNBC.com's Darren Rovell wrote the NFL "did the best that they could for a situation that needed immediate crisis management." But some people "don't want to be at next year's Super Bowl if their team isn't there," and some fans "still didn't get the [experience] that they were promised" (CNBC.com, 2/7).

ANOTHER BLOW TO FANS: In N.Y., William Rhoden writes under the header, "League's Greed Left No Room For The Fans." The seat fiasco "provided a perfect ending to a strange week of unexpected blizzards and miscalculations by the usually precise NFL." Rhoden: "You can disrespect fans only so much before they turn on you. A few more episodes like what happened in Arlington, coupled with a nasty lockout and the newly fashionable permanent seat licenses, and the NFL empire could begin a decline in popularity" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/8). In Boston, Ron Borges writes, "For as much as the league talks about the fans, most of the time it pilfers from them." Cowboys Stadium, with a "regular capacity of 80,000, allegedly expandable to 110,000," had problems "because the business of football was more concerned with breaking the all-time attendance record than whether it was feasible, or wise, to try" (BOSTON HERALD, 2/8).
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