The Steelers beat the Chargers on Sunday in Heinz Field West. In a few weeks, the Packers will play the Chargers at Lambeau Field West. Two weeks after that, the Chiefs return to Arrowhead West.
You get the picture. And it’s an ugly one for the Chargers, who have no home-field advantage in a 30,000-seat stadium that is routinely overrun by fans of the visiting team.
On Wednesday, Commissioner Roger Goodell was asked whether the league has concerns about the Chargers’ long-term viability in Los Angeles.
“No, not for us at all,” Goodell said, via a transcript of Goodell’s press conference that was generated by the league. “We’re not seeing that as they’re approaching coming into their new stadium, either with the Rams or the Chargers.”
Goodell downplayed the issue of fans of the visiting team taking over a home stadium as a product of legalized, electronic scalping.
“I think that’s the reality of what you see in a lot of stadiums around the league,” Goodell said. “Secondary ticketing is a big issue now. We have certain teams that travel better than others — fans. Pittsburgh is notorious for that, by the way. You see that on a regular basis in markets. I think it’s in part, the technology, and the fact that tickets are available on a secondary platform and are more accessible than they have been in the past. So, I think we’ll continue to see more of that in many of the markets.”
In L.A., however, it’s not about people flying from Pittsburgh to L.A., although surely some do. (On the weekend the Steelers played the 49ers in San Francisco, there were plenty of Pittsburgh fans in full regalia at the local airport.) It’s about the market already having a baked-in base of fans that support teams out-of-town teams like the Steelers.
That’s a very real dynamic for a massive market that the league abandoned for more than 20 years. A full generation of kids grew up in Los Angeles without a local team to follow. So they picked other teams. With both the Chargers and the Rams back in L.A., fans of those other teams can periodically see them play in person. In a market the size of L.A., there are more than enough fans of teams other than the Chargers and Rams to make it hard for the home teams to have a true home-field advantage.
It’s far worse for the Chargers than the Rams. The question becomes whether the same percentages of fans of the visiting team will show up for Chargers games when capacity mushrooms from 30,000 to 70,000.
From the league’s perspective, they don’t care about the home-visitor fan ratio, as long as the stadium is full of people who will plunk down cash for overpriced food and overpriced beer and overpriced merchandise.
They just need to stock more options for the road team’s fans to buy, apparently.