The QB Blast: Less Camp Access Is Sound Business

July 10th, 2010

Ex-Bucs QB Jeff Carlson


Former Bucs quarterback Jeff Carlson (1990 & 1991) writes The QB Blast column here at Joe is ecstatic to have him firing away. Carlson is often seen as a color analyst on Bright House Sports Network, and he trains quarterbacks of all ages locally via his company, America’s Best Quarterback.

Late June and early July is always the slowest time of the year in the NFL, and without a question or controversy about the starting QB, interesting news is seriously lacking on the Buccaneers front. This gives us a chance to look at a couple of other issues that we may otherwise skip right by.

It was announced recently that there would only be a few training camp practices open to the public in the first week of camp. Is it good business to limit fan access to training camp?  In a word, I say, ‘Yes.’

Economics 101, the law of supply and demand, says that to increase demand supply must be reduced.

When the Rays signed a TV deal to broadcast almost every one of their 162 games on local TV, did they reduce the demand to see one of the best teams in MLB live?  I think so.  I know for my family, we follow the Rays closely and watch nightly, but we rarely attend games (due to multiple reasons). If the games weren’t on my 60-inch high definition screen, I guarantee we would go to more games.

How many more? I’m not sure, because spare time is probably the biggest hindrance from attending.  My guess is that I’m in the majority on this issue, as watching games with today’s television technology is much more enjoyable than my view at the game usually is and no cowbell in my ears to worry about, either.

The experience of attending games live is more about tradition and sharing that experience with my children than anything else. Do the Rays make more money on ticket sales or TV revenue?  I don’t know the answer, but empty seats are dollar bills slipping through the owner’s fingers every game.  Broadcast ad revenue, on the other hand, can be added through more sales, but most of those potential sponsors have made their spending decisions before the season starts. To be sure, teams in every sport (even the Yankees) need both TV and ticket sales revenue to flourish.

The NFL shares certain revenues between teams and the majority of the salary cap is from national television contracts. If you are a fan and don’t have easy access to the Buccaneers, aren’t you more likely to spend real dollars and attend a game?  Not as many of us remember the days of just seeing the Bucs on their away games and not at all in the preseason.  They have already realized sponsor dollars from NewsChannel 8 as a “Pewter Partner,” so the preseason will be “on the air.”  So keeping training camp a little more exclusive is a small way of driving up demand for their product. 

Let’s also not forget that it costs real money to “host” fans at One Buccaneer Place for training camp. While the Bucs can make a few bucks (pun intended) hawking their logo gear, they must employ many people to handle the crowds, so fewer open practices equals fewer expenses, and in this economy everything counts.

Is the public entitled to free training camp? Thousands show up to watch practice for free, but how many would show up for practice if it cost $5?  What about $10?  How many companies give their products away for free? Some do, but usually only to drive demand if the product is good enough.

The Washington Redskins started charging for training camp a few years ago. They ultimately ditched that concept, but just like the Bucs, they are only scheduled for eight open practices, including a “fan appreciation day.”  The New York Giants are charging $5 for parking during their time at the University of Albany.  The New Orleans Saints, fresh off their Super Bowl victory and with interest at an all-time high, will welcome fans to watch practices all the way to the end of August, while the Bucs close access after the first week of camp.

What does the team gain for opening even one practice to the public? There is certainly some goodwill as players sign autographs for fans after practice, but all Bucs fans just got an easy opportunity to do that at “FanFest.”

How much access is too little, too much or just right?  Economists and followers could spend plenty of hours over that one.  How much real money do the Glazers spend on “FanFest?”  This is another free opportunity for fans to get close to the players, coaches and cheerleaders and is an expensive venture for the owners (underwritten by sponsors I’m know, but those dollars could be put elsewhere if they chose).

I know they try to sell season tickets during the event, but I doubt they are even breaking even on that trade.

So I write all this to say we should be grateful that even some practices are open and free, because it might not be that way forever. … Maybe when the team improves its competitiveness on the field and the demand for tickets goes back up, the supply of free training camp practices will actually increase. 

Hey, can anyone remember when TV used to be free?

7 Responses to “The QB Blast: Less Camp Access Is Sound Business”

  1. J3m Says:

    Terrific analysis. I used to visit camp in otown and really appreciated it. Fans of the team will go whenever and wherever possible…we should enjoy the opportunities given and stop complaining. It’s just camp

  2. Flemming Says:

    Nice thought and probably very wise, but just open the doors Glazers. I loved going over on the weekdays before work. Even to just watch them catch punts or run footwork drills. The Bucs should open the doors. They don’t always have to entertian. …It’s not like they don’t have security all over the complex anyway.

  3. RastaMon Says:

    back in the day all you had to do was drive your pick up along the fence line,amid the cabbage palm and palmetto, climb into the bed and watch as long as you wanted….

  4. Joe Says:

    An addendum to Jeff’s fine column:

    One reason many if not most NFL teams do not charge for training camp is that per an NFL rule, if a team charges admission to a training camp, it also must allow other teams access to tape/film of the same practice. That’s why the Redskins stopped charging. Financially, it was a major success as each practice was like a street fair or carnival.

    Football coaches by nature are obsessively paranoid. They see black helicopters and IRS agents around ever corner. Just the thought of allowing practice video to be shared is enough to induce seizures among many coaches if not an outbreak of hives.

    Think about it: There’s gold in them thar hills to charge for training camp. If NFL teams can rape fans for $8 a beer and $20 (in many cases, far more) for parking, you think they’d pass up easy money to charge fans to watch a practice?

    Of course, there’s always a chance this rule can change. As Jeff suggested, enjoy the free practices while you can.

    Jeff, this was a dynamite column. Thank you.

  5. Louie the HATER! Says:

    Just exactly what demand are the Bucs trying to increase by reducing the supply? Do they really think this is going to motivate more grateful fans to show up on game day? I’m no economist, but I don’t think it’s going to work like that. In fact in the short term, I think it could have the opposite effect.

  6. Kyle Says:

    Enjoyed the column, but I have one comment for Carlson. A baseball game is always better in person, especially at the Trop where the views are awesome. You can see so much more of all the things that make baseball baseball. TV never compares. THat’s one thing I like about the dome. You can just focus in on the game and never worry about the weather or planes, etc. …Liking Great sites Joe.

  7. Joe Says:

    Thanks for the compliments Kyle!