To the shock of no one who’s followed the team ever, the team announced Thursday afternoon that Sunday’s CBS broadcast against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Ralph Wilson Stadium will be blacked out locally, because it hasn’t sold out.
As you all know, the NFL this summer adopted a policy permitting teams to set their own percentage of ticket sales needed to lift blackouts as long as it was at least 85 percent. Of course, the Bills took a rain check on partaking at any level other than the full sellout.
To be fair, most teams did exactly the same as the Bills. In fact, only the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Oakland Raiders and Miami Dolphins set the 85% threshold while the Minnesota Vikings lowered their required capacity to 90%. Ironically (not at all) each of the four teams stunk up the field in 2011.
On an overall basis, it’s quite clear the Buffalo Bills are not like most teams.
With over 73,000 seats to sell, Buffalo is 11th in Stadium capacity. Add into the mix frigid December Western New York weather and far most importantly, their customary losing ways and it appears that Ralph Wilson not adopting new policy is almost a smack in the face to Buffalo fans.
The Ralph has an official listed capacity of 73,069, which at 85% means moving about 62, 108 tickets to have blackouts lifted. From what I’ve heard the club still has roughly 14,000 available for the Jacksonville game. Just to show off my impeccable math skills, if the Bills had 14,000 seats left then under the 85% rule they’d have 3,039 more tickets needed sold to have the blackout lifted.
I’m no marketing authority yet exceptionally confident some business (or multiple companies) would’ve stepped up to play hero—and engender a ton of positive exposure by purchasing roughly 3,000 tickets so the game could be televised to underprivileged Bills fans everywhere.
It gets worse. The team also announced that 10,000 seats still remain for the St. Louis Rams game while 15,000 are available for the season finale against the New York Jets.
Had Buffalo adhered to the 85% rule, the Rams game would already be locked in on television and with several weeks before facing the Jets, it’s highly likely that would be televised as well.
Bills fans without tickets or the financial means to purchase them near Christmas time are doubtful to see them on television at home again this season, and with the team at 4-7 and sports talk centered almost exclusively on ridding themselves of Chan Gailey and Ryan Fitzpatrick, how could Wilson demand fans buy up each and every ticket?
For the record, three more blackouts would climb the total to nine over the past three seasons.
“We are not going to participate in the relaxed-manifest rule,” Bills CEO Russ Brandon told the Buffalo News this summer. “We are a volume-based business, and for us to be successful, we need to keep our ticket prices low and sell a greater number of tickets.”
Translation: Despite the fact this team stinks nearly every season, we’re going to suck every last potential penny from a fan base that’s been more dedicated and fervent than this underachieving franchise has deserved since the turn of the millennium.
For those asking, it would cost the team money if they set the minimum capacity at 85%–which is exactly 100% reason why Wilson said no thanks. The home team has to give the visitors half the ticket revenue after 85% of the tickets have been sold, as opposed to 40% if they participated in the amended sellout rule.
Granted, 10% additional revenue on potentially thousands of ticket isn’t chump change to most—but it essentially is to tremendously profitable NFL franchises—even the Bills.
I understand the NFL is a bottom line business. Teams want to be able to sell out to capacity and give the home team a decided playing advantage on Sunday. They clearly want to do that without having to pay anything extra to the visiting team—I get it.
But it’s time this franchise started cutting a little slack to their ticket buying base. You can’t compare Bills fans to any other because there isn’t another base in the league that’s been forced to endure more than a dozen seasons of run of the mill, unsatisfactory, playoff-free NFL football.
Yet for the most part, fans continue to buy up tickets, quite possibly scared of potential strong-arm tactics that the team will someday be moved if they don’t. I wouldn’t call fans of the Bills hostages quite yet, but I sure as hell feel they’re taken for granted.
You need to look at it from a factual perspective, and the facts are simple,” Brandon also told the News. “This relaxed-manifest rule would not have affected the blackouts.”
I think he’s wrong. As stated earlier, there’s a big disparity between a company stepping up to buy 3,000-4,000 tickets for publicity as opposed to over 10,000.
Then again, maybe Wilson and Co. is really doing most of you a solid. I mean, who wants to watch this calamity of NFL football being played on television Sunday anyway?
This drifting, unmitigated disaster of a rant was brought to you courtesy of my disenchantment of the Bills Front Office—disappointing fans since 1999.