Now the NFL and Lions are yanking a home game off local television because those same fans won't fork over an average $62.40 for one of Ford Field's 65,000 seats or more than $365 to bring their family of four to the game, according to Team Marketing Report. In the league's and team's eyes, fans are getting a discount on tickets that cost 5% more last season and 1% more the season before. Perhaps fans would see those cuts as more of a bargain if they even came close to erasing the 12.5% price hike the team implemented before its winless 2008 season. It would also help if the team hadn't already put fans in Detroit and Wayne County on the hook for a healthy chunk of Ford Field's $430 million construction.
"If the Detroit Lions hadn't built Ford Field -- this giant facility -- and put it on the backs of taxpayers and then charged them a fortune and then blacked out their games, then maybe you would have a stronger fan base at the games," says Brian Frederick, for Washington-based advocacy group the Sports Fans Coalition. "Maybe you would have a better following and a little more enthusiasm that would result in a better product on the field."
While on-field product has been a problem during stretches of the Oakland Raiders 11-game blackout streak and the 80 blackouts of the team's 124 home games since moving back from Los Angeles in 1995, the Raiders' 59-14 drubbing of their AFC West Rival Denver Broncos makes this week's blackout a mild surprise. Sure, they haven't won more than five games in a season since 2002 and have gone 89-147 since returning to Oakland, but they are within striking distance of the division-leading Kansas City Chiefs and their first playoff spot in eight years. Oakland's economy and futility weary fan base, however, aren't making any concessions to the visiting Seattle Seahawks. Perhaps the story will be different when the Chiefs come to town in two weeks.
The Chargers, meanwhile, are starting to wish they'd scheduled a few more games against the New England Patriots, who provided San Diego with its only sellout two weeks ago. Despite gaudy offensive and defensive numbers, the Chargers are 2-5 and have blacked out three of their four home games at Qualcomm (QCOM) Stadium this season. While Chargers fans have organized a group called Stop Charger Blackouts to keep the team on television, Frederick says the real blame for Chargers blackouts lies with team owner and America's 365th richest person (worth $1.1 billion) Alex Spanos, not fans spoiled on five straight postseason visits."San Diego wasn't expecting to be terrible, and then they had their first two games blacked out," Frederick says. "I haven't taken a franchise from $74 million to $907 million like Alex Spanos has. That seems like all the more reason why he would want to sacrifice short-term games for long-term development." -- Written by Jason Notte in Boston.
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