On Friday, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell blamed the struggles to sell out three of four wild-card playoff games on mistakes — but he didn’t specify what the teams trying to move the merchandise had done or failed to do.
On Saturday, Packers CEO Mark Murphy acknowledged that an outdated (and greed driven, though he didn’t call it that) policy forced a scramble to sell out Lambeau Field for a postseason visit from San Francisco.
“Shortly after our playoff game against the 49ers, we conducted a survey of our season-ticket holders, people on our waiting list and general fans to determine why we had trouble selling out the game,” Murphy wrote in response to a fan question. “We had a great response to the survey, and have just started evaluating the results. 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. . . . [I]n retrospect, I would say that we made a mistake in deciding not to refund the money to fans this year for playoff games not played. We learned from this mistake and will have a better policy in place next year.”
The current (and soon to be former) policy required season-ticket holders to pay for playoff tickets weeks before a playoff berth the Packers hadn’t clinched. If the Packers had failed to make it to the playoffs, or if they’d failed to play in the full allotment of home playoff games, the unused money would have been applied to the next year’s season-ticket purchase — amounting to an interest-free loan for the Packers organization.
The policy reached critical mass in 2013 because, at the time the postseason invoices were delivered to season-ticket holders, the Packers seemed destined to miss the tournament, given their struggles during quarterback Aaron Rodgers absence with a broken collarbone.
Regardless, the league faced three potential blackouts in wild-card weekend after having only two of 256 regular-season games not televised in the home team’s local market. It created an unexpected embarrassment for the league, and it created an inaccurate perception regarding fan interest in attending inherently compelling playoff games.