Why Personal Seat Licenses Are Killing Football for the Average NFL Fan

Amelia AhlgrenContributor IIIApril 18, 2012

BALTIMORE, MD - JANUARY 15:  Fans of the Baltimore Ravens cheer prior to the start of the AFC Divisional playoff game against the Houston Texans at M&T Bank Stadium on January 15, 2012 in Baltimore, Maryland.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images

Consider yourself a die-hard NFL fan? Then take heed, stadium-goer, the prominence of the personal seat license is threatening your livelihood.

For reference, ownership of a personal seat license (PSL) guarantees the rights to a particular seat in a stadium.

That is, owning a PSL puts you first in line to purchase a ticket for any public event at the stadium in your particular seat—including NFL season tickets.

Personal seat licenses arose as a means for teams to generate capital for projects like building new stadiums.

By inventing an additional cost hoop for season ticket-holders to jump through, PSLs effectively shift the financial burden of stadium-building from the team onto the fans. 

Broken down quite simply, a personal seat license is the dumbest purchase you will ever make: a payment that allows you to pay for something else you want. But in at least 15 NFL stadiums, it is a necessary purchase if you want to spend eight glorious days of the year rooting for the home team.

As you can imagine, PSLs create an enormous hurdle of affordability for the average-income NFL fan.

When the New York Giants and New York Jets announced that they would be instating seat licensing in then newly-constructed MetLife Stadium, reactions were poignant.

According to the New York Times, 43-year-old Russell Ash whose family had owned season seats since 1961 bemoaned the move, "I’m not going to lie, I make a very average salary; you’re talking about a third of my salary going to a Giants season ticket…It’s like a cold slap in the face."

Future of NFL fans at live games?
Future of NFL fans at live games?Rob Carr/Getty Images

Worse, the Sports Business Daily reports that the right to buy season tickets at Cowboys Stadium could set you back $150,000.

And if you're hoping that prices might ease up in the future, don't count on it.

In markets with successful football franchises, PSLs have seen unrivaled growth in value.

At Heinz Field, the cost of seat licenses have increased, on average, by 736.35 percent from the stadium's inaugural football game in 2001 through November 2011.

By comparison, the S&P 500 yielded a measly 2.3 percent return on investment during that same period.

So while average NFL fans struggle to navigate a sputtering economy, those living high off the hog are driving the cost of watching live football higher than the nosebleed section.

The sanctity of NFL fandom won't prevail under these conditions.

As much as sprawling catches and big hits (the clean kind) and monster throws are a part of the NFL, so too is that dude who parades around crazed and half-naked with the team logo painted on his gut—or better yet, shaved into his chest hair.

By pricing the heart and soul of the NFL out of the stadiums, we will witness the live NFL fan transform from a die-hard raucous guy whose team loyalty never falters into a tame, groomed, refined gentleman inclined to turn in for the afternoon should he find the October nip unpleasant.

You may as well give up now and rename your stadium "Churchill Downs" as PSLs have become the unrelenting trend.