For a few days late in the Packers 2013 season, Green Bay Packers President Mark Murphy had to feel stunned if not down-right shell-shocked. The Packers, along with the playoff bound Bengals and Colts, could not sell out their stadium for a possible home playoff game.
Since 1960 the park enjoyed an NFL record 319 straight home games sold out at venerable Lambeau Field. To top it all, the Packers were now facing the embarrassment of a home TV blackout.
Policy Irritates Fans
At the heart of the problem was an ill-conceived policy that required season ticket holders to purchase all possible playoff tickets in advance. Should the team not play any or all of the games, the money remitted would be applied to next year’s season tickets. Take it or leave it. As it turned out, many season ticket holders chose to “leave it.”
The Packers petitioned the NFL to grant an extension in which to sell out tickets and avoid a TV blackout. Unheard of and unprecedented in modern times for the Green Bay Packers.
Eventually the team did sell out but not before soliciting those on the 80,000 plus waiting list, begging corporate sponsors and offering the tickets to the public at large. Murphy vowed to never let it happen again.
“I would say that we made a mistake in deciding not to refund the money to fans this year for playoff games not played,” Murphy later wrote fans on the Packers official web site. “We learned from this mistake and will have a better policy in place next year.”
The team conducted a survey of its season ticket holders and fans to get to the bottom of the issue and fix the problem. “We had a great response to the survey, and have just started evaluating the results,” Murphy wrote. “I anticipate that we will make a number of changes and adjustments based on this feedback from our fans, including offering a “pay as we play” type of option for playoff games. With current available technology, we should be able to use this type of method as an option.”
NFL Commissioner Weighs In
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, perhaps as dismayed as anyone over the embarrassment of a non-sellout at one of the league’s most attractive venues, weighed in with his own thoughts.
“Those were mistakes that were made by us, the NFL, and our clubs,” Goodell later said. “What we have to do is recognize that technology has changed and that we have to use technology more efficiently and more intelligently to make sure we don’t put our fans in that kind of position.
Green Bay, as an example, sold close to 50,000 tickets over a five-day period, including New Year’s Day. We shouldn’t be in that position, and that’s on us, and we have to fix it, and we will. But that is not an indication in any way of the fans’ passion.”
Technology Helps the Sell Out
This year, Packers season ticket holders (your humble writer included), were offered another option in addition to full payment up front. The “pay as we play” option that Murphy envisioned earlier was offered. The technology sighted by Murphy and Goodell required that subscribers supply the Packers with credit card information. Only when the Packers qualified for a home game was the credit card charged the appropriate amount due. Simple, and as it turns out highly effective.
The result, announced this week, was that between the Green season ticket holders (Green Bay) and the Gold season ticket holders (Milwaukee), the game was an early sell out.
For Murphy it was mission accomplished. Fans were happy, the team was happy and the NFL could rest much easier knowing that one of its showcase franchises got it right this time.
Secondary Market Strong
A quick check of the on-line secondary market revealed plenty of tickets available for the January 11 game at Lambeau Field. Prepare yourself to pay top dollar if you plan to attend the game. Ticket prices in the bowl range from about $175 for upper level nose bleed seats, to more than $600 at mid-field. Local brokers expect a surge of interest. With the opponent being the Dallas Cowboys, demand is expected to soar and prices will surely rise.
What a difference a year makes.——————
Jeff Albrecht grew up just north of Green Bay and was lucky enough to attend some of the Lombardi Era classic games, like the 1962 championship and the Ice Bowl. Jeff went on to play HS football in the Green Bay area and College ball at UW - Stevens Point. Jeff is retired but still does some writing for his local paper. Jeff is a writer with AllGreenBayPackers.com and you can follow him on twitter at @pointerjeff .