The relationship between the Green Bay Packers and their fans has been one of the most special in all of professional sports.
Instead of one deep-pocketed owner running the show, the Packers are literally owned by the fans. Each owner has stock in the team that gives them voting rights at the team’s annual shareholder meeting each summer at Lambeau Field.
The team has over 360,000 shareholders that can call tthemselves NFL owners. Of course that many people can’t oversee the Packers’ day-to-day operations so that’s where the president and CEO, currently Mark Murphy, comes into play.
You would think that such a unique ownership structure would create the strongest bond between a team and its fans in the history of the NFL.
In the past it certainly has, but in this modern age of the NFL, the relationship between the Packers and their fans is not as harmonious as it has been even going back just one decade ago.
In fact, you could argue the Packers and their fans have a broken relationship and not everything is well in Packerland. The team and its fans could even use some “couples therapy.”
It’s time to face the truth: the Packers don’t care about their fans as much as they used to. The same, to be fair, could be said about the other 31 NFL franchises, but this realization will sting particularly hard for Packers fans given the ownership structure of the team.
The NFL is a money making machine. Profit is what makes the league go round and after the lockout in 2011, the league knows fans will watch no matter what they do or change. They’re shaking their moneymaker for all it’s worth.
The same could be said for the Packers. The team’s decision making process is no longer driven by the well being of the fans but rather that of the almighty dollar.
Some of the decisions have been truly mind boggling as well. Look at the sudden decision of the Packers to do away with Fan Fest, a multiple day gathering at the Lambeau Atrium for fans to mingle with players both past and present as well as other activities.
The team cited declining attendance as one reason for it’s demise (the 2011 event was canceled due to the lockout) but at $85 a ticket, there was a reason many people stopped showing up.
Then there is the reduction in size of the NFL Draft party at Lambeau Field. There used to be a HUGE gathering in the Lambeau Field Atrium with large TVs set up and tables so fans could bring their laptops and follow along with draft coverage.
Now the past two seasons have seen a small and cramped gathering at Curly’s Pub in 2013 (I was there) and no “formal” gathering this past spring. For a team that has primarily relied on building its roster through the draft, you’d think the Packers could do better than that.
The Packers also are lacking in their online and social media presence. Packers.com is often touted as having the highest traffic of any other official team website in the NFL. Well that’s all fine and dandy, but where is the interaction or the creativity?
“Ask Vic”? Has anyone read his column on a consistent basis? All Vic Ketchman brings to the table is incendiary headlines and condescending words towards fans. This doesn’t drive interaction. It drives bottom-feeding and trolling. The comment sections on his articles are trolls trying to out-troll each other many times.
Even the Packers’ Twitter account could use some energy. Look at the Baltimore Ravens or the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings and tell me the Packers couldn’t do a better job. How much fun could the team have with it’s fans given the ownership structure and the rich history of the team?
So what has caused the Packers to fall out of touch with their fans?
It starts with Murphy. By saying the Packers have lost touch with their fans is not a condemnation of the job Murphy has done. He has largely stayed out of the football side of things and let Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy do their jobs. He is to be commended for that.
However, Murphy is a businessman first and he doesn’t seem to be on the same charismatic level that his predecessor Bob Harlan was. That could be one driving force behind this sudden gap.
Another could be the direction of the league as a whole. Roger Goodell has shown a tendency to put profit ahead of the good of the game at times (example: the new TV contracts while the actual at-the-game experience for fans continues to suffer) and perhaps Murphy doesn’t want to fall out of favor with the commissioner.
Whatever the case may be, the Packers aren’t doing a very good job embracing its passionate fan base. The on-field product is fantastic but the off-field presentation leaves much to be desired.
I don’t have all the answers but getting rid of “G Force” would be a positive first step.
The Packers are the most unique organization in professional sports. It’s time for the team to treat their fans the same way and look at them as something other than just fat wallets.——————
Kris Burke is a sports writer covering the Green Bay Packers for AllGreenBayPackers.com and WTMJ in Milwaukee. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA) and his work has been linked to by sites such as National Football Post and CBSSports.com. Follow @KrisLBurke