POLITICS OF SPORTS BUSINESS
New York Giants season tickets have been treated like family heirlooms for more than a half-century but those days are apparently over. The Mara-Tisch Giants are having problems selling a small portion of seats at the New Meadowlands Stadium. The Mara-Tisch Giants franchise is facing the same problem as Woody Johnson's Jets franchise is and both organizations are attempting to iron out the wrinkles — selling all of the seats in the new building.
There just are not as many companies and individuals who are ready to fork out money for a personal seating license and then pay for tickets as the owners thought when they first conceived renovating the old Giant Stadium or building a new Jets facility on the west side of Manhattan back in 2005.
Neither of those events took place and eventually the Mara-Tisch group and Johnson came together and decided to build the new stadium in the Meadowlands.
The problem is that Giants and Jets loyalists cannot keep up with the prices. Money concerns trumps fan loyalty and fans cannot swing the finances to attend a game in the numbers that Mara-Tisch-Johnson in the fashion that the football team owners expect.
Johnson cut prices on his seats. Mara and Tisch are going in a different direction and sell some individual tickets not under the Personal Seat Licensing umbrella.
Personal Seat Licensing (PSL) is nothing new. Donald Trump, as the owner of the New Jersey Generals in the United States Football League, thought the junkyards across the street from Shea Stadium in Flushing would be an excellent location for a "condo" football stadium. In 1985 and during the USFL-NFL Antitrust Case in 1986, Trump was talking about building a stadium with seats available in the same arrangement as Trump Tower in Manhattan. You buy the apartment and then pay rent on it. Trump's notion was that people would pay a license for a "condominium" seat — he thought he could get away with using that ticketing plan for about 2/3s of whatever capacity that stadium would be — with people paying a premium to buy a seat which was theirs over a specific length of time and then paying face value for tickets.
There are a number of people who have been cited as the "inventor" of PSLs but PSLs did come to the National Football League in the early 1990s when Charlotte sports executive Max Muhleman persuaded the owner of the expansion (Charlotte) Carolina Panthers, Jerry Richardson, that a good way to help finance a privately funded stadium in Charlotte would include having season ticket holders paying a licensing fee to "own" a seat through a licensing mechanism and then buy the ticket for an event.
The Muhleman idea apparently was successful in Charlotte and various forms of the Muhleman idea have been adopted by other National Football League franchises.
Big time sports, whether it is the NFL, Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association, Major League Soccer, the US Open, the National Hockey League or the college sports industry — specifically college football — has become an elite, luxury item and as the prices for tickets have gone up and up and up, a lot of die hard fans have become couch potatoes and watch games from the privacy of their living rooms or bedrooms for the most part on cable TV. That is another major source of sports revenue.
Sports owners want customers not fans as one very prominent sports owner pointed out in an exchange in 2002.
"Nothing comes from the fan. Support comes from customers," the owner said. "Big difference. Fans scream on talk radio. Customers bring their kids, their families, their wives, their dates, their companies, their business partners. They have lives and don't talk to the radio talk show hosts."
Customers also will use valet parking, dine in stadium/arena restaurants and buy merchandise. The die-hard may have a jersey but the die-hard doesn't want to pay top dollar for a ticket for every game and would rather brown bag it to a game than dine in expensive in-venue eateries. Customers produce added revenue for an owner; fans are more useful in front of a TV. The bigger the number of fans watching a game on TV, the better it is to get more advertising money.
One time George W. Bush White House spokesman Ari Fleischer was working as a consultant for Major League Baseball a few years back and in 2008, Fleischer said sports needed more and more money and that the big rollers had to shell out more money for luxury seating so that the average fan could witness a live game once in a while.