The traditional reason why fans aren’t represented directly in the negotiations is that “the market regulates itself.” In other words, if the league is screwing over fans, then fans simply won’t go.
Of course, I don’t think I need to remind anyone about the consequences of what can happen when “the market regulates itself.” The disaster of the housing market proved the possible faults in this method all too well.
And just like so many of the big banks, the NFL isn’t doing anything technically illegal. They’re just creating a market for people who like to immerse themselves in pro football. If people legally pay, can you fault the league for trying to make a profit?
Yet when left to their own devices, what exactly has the NFL done?
They’ve exploded their revenue tenfold in twenty years. In 1989, the NFL reported that its revenue was $970 million. It reached over a billion dollars for the first time in 1990.
In 2009? It totals over $9 billion. And the money hasn’t just come from the vaunted television contracts.
Twenty years ago, the average NFL ticket was between $20-$25. The average price today runs at about $70-$75. And ticket prices aren’t the only thing that has skyrocketed.
In 1990, the average league hot dog price was $1.85. Now, it’s $4.40.
Draft beers were $3.04. Now they’re $6.80.
What about the stadiums? 21 new stadiums have opened since 1990. In nearly every single case, a majority of the money came from public financing.
And just in case fans debate the merits of a new stadium, there are just enough historical examples of teams simply picking up and moving that it discourages any serious challenge. (The cases of the Cleveland Browns, Houston Oilers and Baltimore Colts serve as reminders.)