NFL Fans to Owners: Stop Forcing Us to Pay Full Price for Meaningless Preseason Games

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In most businesses, it’s smart to cater to your customers, offering them exactly the product they want while excluding extras that are unnecessary and add little value to the proposition. Football works differently. Tickets today are often sold in packages, with fans forced to pay for seats at games they don’t care about just for the privilege of being allowed to spend their hard-earned money on tickets to the games they actually want to see.

On the college football scene, many teams now fill up the stands by selling tickets in two-packs, in which one of the home games features a less-anticipated matchup. Wanna see Penn State host Michigan? OK, but you’ll have to buy tickets to the game against Eastern Michigan at the same time.

In the NFL, fan gripes center on the unnecessarily long preseason. NFL season ticket packages include not only a team’s eight home games, but two preseason games as well—and fans hate having to pay full price for these games, which don’t count, rarely feature top talent, and are valued in the marketplace at a tiny fraction of regular season matchups.

Complaints about the NFL preseason are commonplace. Last spring, for instance, after the NFL announced the schedule for this fall’s preseason games, Pete Prisco of CBS Sports voiced the widely held opinion that “fans are getting ripped off” by being charged full price for pointless games featuring many players that will never be seen on a regular season NFL squad. “Either greatly discount the preseason tickets, giving plenty away to underprivileged kids, or do away with two games,” Prisco recommended.

(MORE: College Football Encounters Its Biggest Rival: The Couch)

Bolts from the Blue, a blog covering the San Diego Chargers, recently published what’s become an annual post around this time of year, bashing the NFL for being greedy and pleading with team owners to “come to their senses and stop charging regular-season prices for meaningless exhibition games of lesser NFL talent.” Twitter, of course, is filled with comments from average fans and ESPN bloggers alike that declare the preseason “meaningless.”

Almost everyone acknowledges this perspective concerning the preseason. “I hear from fans consistently that they want to make every NFL event more valuable,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said during a spring meeting with team owners. “They see the preseason as being less valuable to them because they don’t see the best players and the games do not count.”

To NFL owners and the league as a whole, however, the preseason certainly means something: more revenues, thanks to TV contracts and sales of tickets and concessions at the games. The easy reply is that no one is forcing these fans to buy anything. But many fans indeed do feel that because full-priced preseason tickets are a non-negotiable part of buying season tickets, they have no choice but to pay up. And they are paying exorbitantly more than what the tickets are actually worth. A quick look at preseason ticket prices on the secondary market—where plenty of seats to the upcoming Falcons-Jaguars game were selling for about $5, for instance—indicates how much fans think of the games taking place before the regular season.

At least one NFL owner says that fans are looking at the situation all wrong, however. Last week, Jim Irsay, owner of the Indianapolis Colts, posted a series of Tweets making the case that season ticketholders should view their purchase as a single package, and that if there’s something meaningless, it’s the prices listed on the tickets. “Tic prices shouldn’t even have a tic price on individual tics. The 10 home game tics have varying value,” Irsay explained. Because some tickets are worth more than their face value, while others are worth much less, Irsay says, the pricing is fair and “it balances out in the end.” In the grand scheme, he told fans, “U R NOT paying full price for pre-Season games.”

“Sounds like a used car salesman,” Indianapolis Star columnist Bob Kravitz wrote in reaction to Irsay’s comments. “There is no defending the NFL rule that forces teams to charge full freight for preseason games. It’s an absolute scam. It’s price-gouging at its worst. But here’s Irsay trying to defend it, and doing so for reasons I can’t even begin to fathom.”

(MORE: The Major League Baseball Team That’s Made Fans — And an Entire City — Feel Like Suckers)

One might suppose he was doing so because he truly believed in the pricing system, and he was attempting to argue what a terrific value a season ticket package represents, preseason games and all. But they’d be an even better value if preseason tickets weren’t forced into the mix, like a car dealership strong-arming customers into buying an extended warranty, paint protection, or some other add-ons that drivers don’t want because they feel like they are not worth the money and are just plain (yep) meaningless.

31 comments
RobertKim
RobertKim

Here's an idea. Instead of complaining about paying high prices to go to games, just stop going to games. Duhhhhh.

jjazznola
jjazznola

They would actually grow the sport if they offered pre-season tickets at low prices and gave them away to schools and foreigners. It would bring in new fans by the droves. Attendance has been in decline in many cities. Part of the reason is probably that people feel that are getting ripped off having to buy the extra 2 August games. Lots of people go on vacation and are not even around to go to them.

buffalo.barnes102
buffalo.barnes102

This seems to be the Season of my discontent. Roger "Goody-Goody" Goodell has stripped the game of any interest or action and seems intent on wringing every last shekel out of the game. Pay money to watch a bunch of rookies shove each other around between stacks of beer and car ads? Not bloody likely! Spend 3 HOURS on a sunny Sunday afternoon sitting on a couch being force fed even MORE commercials while grossly overpaid prima-donnas run out of bounds with no one even near them? Maybe they can just move the game from live action on the field, to a CGI version where people can get hit without really getting hurt. In any case, the thrill is gone. 

DanBruce
DanBruce

Hate to break it to you pro football fans, but the regular-season games are meaningless, too. In America, sports is the opiate of the masses.

kj_nm
kj_nm

I'll take it one step further - the average NFL game now lasts over three hours, even though actual play is less than 15 minutes. All the umpire discussions and other delays are a means to throw in more TV commercials. To sit in the stands after paying premium prices and wait and wait for the next play is abusive. I stopped watching football years ago, too boring. Instead, I pay extra for cable TV to watch British soccer, the most watched sports league in the world, where no game lasts longer than two hours, including half-time break. There's a reason why 1/3 of the teams are now owned by Americans

SukeMadiq
SukeMadiq

I agree, you buy a full season worth of tickets, instead of getting a discount you are forced to buy preseason games at full price.

BSchleprock253
BSchleprock253

@TheNewsChick from 1 fan to another, Stop going because they're exactly that Meaningless games. They have no effect on the regular season

LuanneG
LuanneG

@thejimjams I've said that for years. I'd rather have them jack up regular and reduce preseason.

DeweySayenoff
DeweySayenoff

They're taking their business play book from the cable companies.

grmeyer
grmeyer

@TheNewsChick seems like the right ratio should be multiply the ticket cost by fraction of game the starters play ;)

Piquerish
Piquerish

@thejimjams FORMER NFL fan - do what you will. I stopped watching the jockocracy YEARS AGO.

brenro12
brenro12

Stop going. Pro sports have gotten out of hand.

mandycat
mandycat

Sorry, fans.  Anyone who spends mega-bucks to watch a bunch of overpaid, juiced-up thugs playing kid games for the enrichment of equally loutish team owners (who have probably already dipped into the tax payer's pocket) gets no sympathy from me.  

Suck it up.

schroeder.cary
schroeder.cary

They could always raise the price of regular season games and not include the pre-season games.

JimStarowicz
JimStarowicz

What's this, do they think they get their football for free or on the cheap like their wars that they cheer on but don't pay for, especially the long lasting results of!!!

jjazznola
jjazznola

So according to you all entertainment is meaningless?

jjazznola
jjazznola

If there was more actual playing time the players would be getting hurt more. Maybe you haven't noticed but it's much more violent than your football. Millions of Americans disagree with you.

CSU81991
CSU81991

@kj_nm Finally, another soul who also saw that football (exciting or not) is ONLY 15 or so minutes of action. I actually noticed that back in 1982 when I went to my first, and still only, professional game with my dad. We both were beyond bored and left before half-time

I get tons of c**p for loving baseball and am consistently told how boring and slow it is with no action. If one looks at baseball as you look at football there is more action (proven by various studies including Bill James) in a baseball game (by a lot) than football.

To those about to bash me, hold up for a minute. On TV I enjoy football (though with the new concussion issue,at lest new in general I'm more than ever about watching the pro game and don't watch anything below) but I can't stand football live (same in college. I never enjoyed going to the games while in college because even when not on TV there was so little action and so much time in between. I get it in horse racing but not football)

I do enjoy football at home where I can do other things or listen to the announcers but there really is no action.

SukeMadiq
SukeMadiq

@JimStarowicz 

What are you rambling about?  Besides all taxpayers pay for wars whether they were for them or not.

JimStarowicz
JimStarowicz

And you can take bet, and win, the ones making the most noise, like TIME, are the ones that don't think those working the games are worth more for their labor and good service but the players and owners, rest of the execs, are really worth the multi millions they take to their vaults!!!

MaxHeadstone
MaxHeadstone

@jjazznola I disagree with your assessment of more playing time equals more injuries.  Yes, more plays equals more opportunities for injuries.  But, the basic rule of athletic types is "speed, strength, or stamina" pick two.  The NFL has completely taken stamina out of the equation with all the opportunities to recover from short efforts.  It's easy to see that modern NFL athletes have little stamina when offences increase the tempo. 

  Perhaps, in the short term, more plays would equal more injuries.  But, in the long term, a quicker tempo would give a greater advantage to smaller players with more stamina and would at least lead to a decrease in the severity of injuries.  Also, with the NFL crackdown on violence, they could use a little sprucing up of the entertainment value and though I generally hate the Eagles, I hope Chip Kelly is successful with his bumblebee offence.

DanBruce
DanBruce

@jjazznola I relax by sleeping. Otherwise, I try to find ways to be productive insofar as helping to make the world a better place and help others find ways to do things that will do the same. You are correct, though, I would not be described as "fun," but most people who know me consider my life meaningful, and I consider it enjoyable. With age comes contentment, and, at the end of the day, I find I have that, and I would not swap it for all of the "fun" in the world.  I've tried both. Contentment is superior.

jjazznola
jjazznola

Exactly. Hey Dan, what do you do for fun and to relax? You must be a lot of fun!

cjh2nd
cjh2nd

@DanBruce @jjazznola 

that's one opinion. to most of us, entertainment improves our quality of life, making it an important aspect of daily life