SBD/September 6, 2012/NFL Season Preview

Improving Gameday Experience Remains A Goal Of NFL; League Looks To Grow Attendance

Goodell discusses ways to raise level of fan experience at NFL games
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell yesterday held "an hour-long session with fans from all 32 teams" prior to the Cowboys-Giants season opener, and fans "asked repeatedly about a range of issues tied to their experiences at the game," according to John Affleck of the AP. Among the topics were "cheaper tickets for exhibition games, when starters sit." Goodell said that "preseason is a big issue among fans." Goodell: "I hear that almost No. 1." Regarding the possibility of more cold-weather Super Bowls after MetLife Stadium hosts the game in '14, Goodell said that he "wants to see how the game goes at the end of next season." But he "didn't rule out a cold-weather Super Bowl." A Bengals fan "suggested moving the site of the NFL draft around to various cities." Goodell indicated that the league "is happy with New York as the home of the draft but there had been discussion about moving the second night to a different place." Goodell responded to a question about the NFL's social media plans by saying that it is "a key component of improving the fan experience on game days" (AP, 9/5).

GET HIM TO THE GATE: In L.A., Walter Hamilton cites a recent report by N.Y.-based CovergEx Group as indicating that NFL attendance "has slipped 4.5% in the last five years, including 3.2% last season." Despite the league's "enormous popularity," the "stolid economy is taking a toll on upper-income men, who make up a large part of the NFL's fan base." Also, ticket prices "remain high for winning teams." But while attendance is "down from a record 67,738 in 2007, attendance at an average NFL game last year was still a very healthy 64,706" (L.A. TIMES, 9/6). SI's Steve Rushin notes NFL attendance has decreased every year for the last four seasons "as TV ratings flourish." But those years "have also seen the nesting home viewer become even more entrenched, entitled, inert." The NFL needs game crowds "to provide the home viewer with ambient sound -- a sitcom-laugh track of roars and boos -- and to serve as human set dressing: 60,000 seat-fillers." There are "amenities that the NFL has introduced, or hopes to have in place soon," to enhance the in-game experience such as free Wi-Fi in every stadium. These efforts are "being done in the vain hope that being at a game can be made to fell as lifelike -- as vivid, nuanced and authentic -- as not being there at all" (SI, 9/10 issue).

ANGER MANAGEMENT: ESPN’s Darren Rovell noted all 32 teams this season for the first time are "putting their collective foot down with a new rule that says if a fan is ejected for fighting they can never come back, until ... they apologize and complete a four-hour online anger management course.” The program was created by psychotherapist Dr. Ari Novick, who said, “Fans believe that they can behave any way they want as soon as they enter the stadium, as if normal social rules and social etiquette no longer applies.” Rovell said there were approximately 7,000 fans “ejected from NFL games last season alone" and wondered whether a class could "really stop” the violence in the stands. Novick: “Many fans have stated that they’ve learned things that they wish they would have learned years ago. So we’re actually very pleased with the feedback that we’re getting from fans” (“GMA,” ABC, 9/2).
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