NFL Fans Ache From Their Favorite Teams

I normally write about the New York Jets and their fans.  The decisions the Jets organization makes and how it affects their season ticket holders.  The way fans prepare for home games and how they celebrate on the black top.  But now all football fans stand together.  Banded by our desire to watch the sport we love to only be shut out by a dispute between the players and their employers.

What you’re about to read focuses on give and take. So often is the case when professional sports franchises and money are involved, the customer winds up on the losing end.

The National Football League might not give its fans a single game this year. That hasn’t stopped almost all of its owners from taking money from their most loyal supporters.  We all remember what happened in 1987.  The owners still made money then in a makeshift season while fans suffered the first few games.

As if we needed another example of gang greed there’s this knee slapper: All but one of the NFL’s 32 teams is requiring season-ticket holders to submit deposits for next season, even though there might not be a season.

Only the New York Giants, the team of the late Wellington Mara, who long ago sacrificed for the good of the game and the welfare of the league, seems to understand that pay-for-play is the only plan that makes sense at this moment.

The late Leon Hess, former owner of the New York Jets, also had the same feelings.  He sent a letter to all season ticket holders saying he would not raise ticket prices until his team turned itself around on the field.

The Giants soon will send a letter to their 21,000 season ticket accounts, almost all of which have multiple ticket holders, saying that the team doesn’t think it’s right to take deposits while owners and players are firing insults over Twitter on how to share $9 billion in annual revenue.  The Giants are making themselves stand out from the other teams by showing a heart.

“Our season-ticket holders have made a significant financial commitment to our organization over the course of the last couple of years,” said Pat Hanlon, a spokesman for the Giants, who, along with the Jets, share the $1.6 billion New Meadowlands Stadium in New Jersey. “We just felt, given the circumstances, that it was the right thing to do and the fair thing to do.”

Doing Right

What we have here is something rarer than a Jets Super Bowl parade. We have a professional sports team showing more than a single shred  of concern for the customer, not only saying the right thing but doing it.  There is rarely seen in professional sports.  Something more team owners need to show to their season ticket holders.

Hanlon, a good company man, did his best to portray the other clubs kindly by saying what’s best for the Giants isn’t necessarily what other teams should do.  But it still shines a bad light on the others if only one team does the right thing by its fans.

“Each team has to operate within its own personality and its own way of handling its business,” he said.

Unfortunately, most professional sports teams have a default personality of greed. There’s no excuse for taking the deposit. Not that the NFL didn’t try to invent one, of course.

League spokesman Brian McCarthy said clubs believed there could be “operational issues” to not having season tickets renewed. You know, like getting commitments and processing payments in a short time after a settlement.  But with the layoffs it shows they really did not need those payments to keep their operations afloat.

Refund Policy

The Giants, according to Hanlon, have no such worries.  No Giants season ticket holder has never wanted their season tickets.

“The process we’ve established has addressed those concerns,” he said. So let’s get this straight: The Giants can solve the problem but the other teams can’t. Right.  Is this a case of greed or precaution?

It gets worse.

The NFL in November, anticipating a possible labor mess, disclosed its refund policy in the event of a lockout. The league mandate states that teams must issue full refunds no later than 30 days after final determination of how many games will be played during the 2011 season.

The league, however, allowed teams to set their own policies on whether ticket buyers should receive accrued interest on their deposits.  Which makes sense.  If the teams hold onto your money and make interest on it, the season ticket holder should be owed that accrued interest.

Let’s use the New England Patriots as an example. The Patriots in recent weeks sent three letters to their season ticket holders. The first was from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who outlined management’s side of the labor stalemate. The second came from Patriots owner Bob Kraft and his son, Jonathan, the club president, echoing much of the commissioner’s message.

Interest Due

And then the season-ticket renewal package arrived, requiring full payment by March 31. New England’s refund will include interest calculated at an annual rate of 1 percent. A check of bankrate.com shows that certain Banks offer a 1.08 percent return on a six-month certificate of deposit. It’s absurd that a team, like the Chicago Bears, which won’t give fans interest on their deposits, could make even a penny. It’s not about the money, which to someone with enough disposable income to buy tickets is negligible. It’s the principle.

The New York Jets are asking for 50% due by April 1st.  With PSL money still due later this year, the Jets still feel they need to hold onto the money rather than be on the same side as the Giants.  In the battle between the New York football clubs from the corporate offices, the Giants won this round.

It’s no surprise that the Giants are the only team making such a gesture to its fans. The team’s chief executive officer is John Mara, the oldest of his father’s 11 children. It was Wellington Mara who championed revenue sharing, even though it meant less for his team.  It shows in the fact the Giants used to have a 50 Years Club for season ticket holders who had season tickets for 50 plus years.  They cared about their long standing fans and still do, in a way.

Right and fair. Two important words. Just like give and take.

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