Dolphins Could Soon Have Less Fans In Seats
By Brian Miller
There is a growing feeling throughout the NFL that the days of blacking out home games is coming to a close. That’s not good news for a team like the Miami Dolphins. The Dolphins have trouble selling out their home games in part because of bad play and in part due to nice weather. Regardless of the reasons Sun-Life Stadium rarely gets to full capacity.
Earlier today the FCC unanimously voted to end the blackout restrictions for NFL games. The vote came after pressure from the group Sports Fans Coalition. The vote does not mean that games will be immediately lifted from blackout but it does mean that a clearer path has been established.
The NFL began blacking out games locally in 1975 every time the home team failed to sell out all “non-premium” tickets 72 hours prior to kick-off. Over the last two seasons the NFL has eased some of the restrictions on what is deemed to be a non-sellout and have allowed teams to “purchase” remaining tickets at a discounted rate in order to have the games broadcast locally. That is something that the Miami Dolphins have taken advantage of in the last two seasons. If the use of blackout restrictions is lifted, Stephen Ross will save himself some money.
The unsold tickets that are bought up by the team are often donated. Those who receive the donated tickets fill up the stadium the question is if people are not given donated or free tickets will there be less fans or even people in the stadium? It’s very possible. Currently NFL clubs can opt to buy the remaining unsold tickets at .34 cents on the dollar. That is the portion each team must pay the visiting team. In the playoffs there is no discount on the tickets unsold.
The vote by the FCC as stated will not eliminate blackouts as the NFL has that agreement with the networks through their contracts however the networks can now opt to broadcast the games if they so choose. Previously the FCC had a policy in place that allowed the NFL to blackout those games. Now that has been eliminated and the NFL will now likely put pressure on the networks to abide by the now non-government backing of their agreement terms.
Profootballtalk.com points out that a next step could come in the form of a push against federal legislation that would in effect eliminate the NFL’s anti-trust exemption if the NFL doesn’t abandon the blackout of games. A bill was introduced last year and if it becomes law, says PFT, blackouts would immediately cease.
On that double edged razor are two future possibilities. Teams could opt to raise ticket prices to cover increasing costs with dropped attendance or they could opt to decrease ticket prices in an effort to bring fans out of their homes and into the stadium. The Miami Dolphins are already trying to lure fans with pre-game festivities in and around the stadium on game day. Another option could be to raise season tickets slightly and then offer all unsold tickets at large discounted rates.
In Miami there could be less fans in the seats on the horizon if indeed the blackout rules are lifted. It’s still possible but unlikely that the Dolphins could donate the unused tickets since they would no longer be forced to do so. So will fans opt to stay home and watch the games as most do now or will this have an impact at all on the fans in Sun-Life Stadium? What are your thoughts on this?