Since 1973, the NFL has maintained a blackout policy that states that a home game cannot be televised locally if it is not sold out 72 hours prior to its start time. As of Thursday afternoon, the Green Bay Packers still had 3,000 tickets left to sell and had been granted an extension to 4pm on Friday afternoon by which to sell them.
For those of you who are still worried that the team may not sell out, keep something in mind that has been the case for many years: While we may never officially hear about it, most teams have sponsors lined up to buy all remaining tickets and avoid the blackout. The Packers surely have that in place, if needed.
Still, talk of a blackout is not something the Packers faithful are used to hearing or seeing in the news. As long as I can remember, the Packers have had a waiting list for those wanting season tickets that is said to be as long as 25 years.
With the addition of another 7,000 seats at Lambeau Field this past offseason, that list got slightly shorter and offered additional opportunities for fans to get into one of the most historic venues across pro sports. The Packers currently own a streak of 319 consecutive sellout games, with 301 of those being regular season contests. I’m here to tell you that the streak will continue and to have no fear.
Interestingly, the Packers have two local markets: Green Bay and Milwaukee. This means that a television blackout would affect a large portion of the state’s viewing audience, if it got to that point. Again, it won’t. When was the last time that we saw a true TV blackout in a local market? If the Jacksonville Jaguars can tarp thousands of seats in the name of advertising and remove them from the stadium count, I think the Packers can easily fill one of the league’s few Mecca’s.
With regards to obtaining playoff tickets at Lambeau Field, typically the Packers send out an invoice to their season ticket holders to give them first option to buy playoff tickets. It makes sense that they would get first crack at them and that is how it is done with all professional sports. The team’s timing wasn’t the greatest this season, however, as they sent out the invoices the week following the Packers embarrassing 40-10 loss to the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving.
At that time, the Packers were 5-6-1 at that time and still uncertain about the return of quarterback Aaron Rodgers. The team’s chances of making a playoff appearance were looking slim and many simply chose to decline what seemed like a long shot. Ergo, many tickets left to sell once the Packers won the division last week.
On Wednesday’s Green & Gold today radio show, hosted by Jason Wilde of ESPN Milwaukee, there was much discussion about why there were so many available tickets to begin with and still, just three days before the game. One listener, who is a season ticket holder, gave the most comprehensive explanation that, to me, makes the most sense as to why so many tickets were unsold.
Before I get into this explanation, keep in mind that I’m paraphrasing and as some of you are ticket holders, please do correct anything that is off.
He stated that season ticket holders are given the option to pre-purchase playoff tickets (up to 4 per account). In the past, one could buy tickets for the wild card, divisional or championship rounds and if the Packers didn’t have a home game, the team would issue a refund, minus service charges.
Now and somewhat recently, the team has changed their policy and if a ticket holder wants to buy playoff tickets, they have to buy them for all three rounds of the playoffs. This is the case whether the Packers have a chance of hosting a game or not. The caller used the example of 2010 when the Packers were the sixth seed and had no chance of hosting any playoff games. If ticket holders had opted to buy playoff tickets, the only option they would have had with the money they paid was to apply that towards the following regular season’s tickets.
This ticket holder referred to these changes as the “de-Harlanization” of the Packers. His reference was back to when Bob Harlan was President and CEO of the Packers and whereby the team’s playoff ticket policy used to be perceived as fan-friendly. Now they seem most concerned with generating more revenues. The business side of sports will always gravitate in that direction, when they can, but it is a good point that this fan made.
He also stated that the payments for the following season’s tickets are due by the end of March now where they used to be due in June/July. With the holiday shopping season approaching and the team in a slump without their starting quarterback, all of the stars aligned to make the appeal of Packers playoff tickets a virtual zero.
So as much as some want to raise questions about how faithful Packers fans are, how great the “at-home” experience is or how cold it is going to be on Sunday (a high of -5), those are at the bottom of the list of reasons why tickets still remain for this game. In fact, the Indianapolis Colts and Cincinnati Bengals were also granted extensions and have a few thousand tickets of their own to sell.
This raises many questions about why the most popular sport in the United States would have trouble selling tickets to what are supposed to be their most meaningful games. Perhaps football isn’t the most popular sport in the US? Discuss!
Jason Perone is an independent sports blogger writing about the Packers on AllGreenBayPackers.comFollow Jason Perone: