As it turns out, the Panthers aren’t inviting espionage by charging admission to a practice that used to be free, thanks to a heretofore unreported rules change.
While previous attempts to charge fans to attend practice were offset by the fact opposing teams could send scouts to take notes, that’s no longer the case.
The league office told PFT that the rule was changed before the 2014 season, preventing such spying.
The policy now prohibits clubs: “from attending another club’s practice session regardless of whether or not there is an admission fee. Unless permission has previously been received, club personnel or their representatives are prohibited from attending another club’s training session, including, but not limited to, practices, scrimmages or joint practices.”
So the Panthers decision to charge five bucks to attend a practice in Bank of America Stadium which has always been free doesn’t harm them from a competitive standpoint.
(A cynic would also point out that it clears the decks for teams to charge small fees for practices now, since there’s no reason not to other than furthering the impression they’d do anything for a buck.)
Since the Panthers are donating the proceeds to the team’s charitable foundation, some of the perception problem was diminished anyway. They decided to start ticketing the Fan Fest practice after a crowd of over 55,000 overwhelmed them in 2015, leading them to give out free tickets last year, when around 40,000 showed up.
All the Panthers practices at Wofford College in Spartanburg, S.C. are free and open to the public.
Washington charged fans to attend training camp in 2000, and the Cowboys sent a scout to take notes. The Vikings considered charging to attend their camp before owner Zygi Wilf waved off the plan after public complaints.