Everything from "price" to "weather" to the "short notice" that fans are given to the date & time of the games has been offered up as to why the NFL had such a hard time selling playoff tickets in 3 of the 4 games last weekend. But are these legit scapegoats?
Price has rarely been a sole factor in keeping devoted fans from buying a single game NFL ticket – especially in Green Bay where tickets are harder to come by than spotting a Pinta Island tortoise driving a 1931 Bugatti Royale Kellner Coupe down the street. And the "freezer bowl" is a clear indication that weather isn’t a huge deterrent either – especially for Indy who plays indoor.
So what gives?
The primary reason why the NFL had such a difficult time selling tickets for the playoff games seems to be their new playoff ticket policy that they have imposed upon season-ticket holders.
Under this new policy, season ticket holders had to pay in advance for at least 2 playoff games (at the highest-price seating available), plus handling fee. Then, if your team got eliminated, the $$$ you laid out for the tickets would eventually be applied to your season tickets next year as a credit.*
So, the NFL was demanding that hard-working fans give them a huge pile of money up front. Then they held onto that money for months drawing interest. Then, at a later date, the money would get credited to your next season’s tickets (or refunded) without the interest, of course.
Essentially they demanded an interest-free loan from fans for the right to watch a playoff game.
For example, let’s say you’re a season ticket holder in Detroit, and it’s mid-season and you get a letter in the mail for playoff tickets for your 1st place Lions. You want 4 tickets, and let’s say they are $125 each. And remember, you have to purchase at least 2 potential home games.
4 X $125 x 2 = $1,000
So you sell a kidney and put off buying your kid’s braces to scrape up $1,000 which you send to the NFL in October for your playoff tickets. But your team doesn’t get a home playoff game, and that $1,000 you struggled to come by is now just sitting in the NFL’s coffers. Finally, in February you get your season ticket renewal in the mail, and the NFL offers to apply your $1,000 to your 2014 season tickets, (or return it to you, if you insist).
Essentially, you essentially gave the NFL a $1,000 interest free loan for a few months.
Not surprisingly, not a lot of fans are happy with the NFL’s latest tactic to extort money from them.
And as a result, not as many fans pre-ordered playoff tickets.
And as a result, we saw thousands of remaining tickets at 3 of 4 playoff venues with only a few days before kickoff.
On a side note...
Let’s say there are 32 NFL teams, and if 25,000 playoff advance tickets were ordered, and let’s say those were $125 each. That’s a cool $100 million of the fans’ $ that the NFL gets to sit on for part of a year. Assume they invest it and get 6% interest. From October to Feb, they just made a whopping $2 million off of your hard earned money. But here’s the kicker – even if they made millions off the interest free loan they demanded from their fans, they still aren’t above blacking out games if they don’t sell every last ticket.