Fans Get The Shaft As Sides Squabble Over Money

Sports FanThe recent NHL (National Hockey League) and NFLRA (National Football League Referees Association) lockouts have proved one thing beyond a shadow of a doubt - fans always come last in labor disputes that involve the four major North American sports leagues.

The lockout of the NFLRA by the NFL has been a complete disaster. The owners thought that they could play hardball with the NFLRA by using replacement referees. The result? The NFL brand has been heavily tarnished and the league has become a laughingstock. That's right - the NFL fumbled this situation so badly that their nearly pristine brand has taken a savage beaten over the course of just three weeks. Fans of nearly every team are furious, players are outraged and owners are embarrassed. You know things are bad when both President Obama and Paul Ryan implore the owners and NFLRA to come to some sort of a resolution. Things reached a chaotic apex this past Monday after replacement referees botched a call at the end of the Green Bay/Seattle game.

The lockout of the NFLRA boils down to just one thing - money. The NFL decided to take a hard line with the NFLRA, despite the fact that the league is a multi-billion dollar machine. The average franchise value of a NFL team is approximately $1 billion, and the league as a whole brings in well over $10 billion in revenues every year. Despite these facts, the NFL decided to try to hammer the NFLRA into submission in order to save a few million dollars per year. The NFLRA didn't back down, confident in the fact that replacement referees would do an inferior job, and they were 100% right.

If the NFL truly cared about their fans, this situation would have been resolved months ago. Instead, they let ego and money get in the way of rational thinking.

Sports are an important part of the fabric of our society, and owners and players both realize this, using this as leverage in labor negotiations. This is why fan boycotts will never work - football and hockey and basketball and other sports are simply too integrated into the lives of people across the world. Not watching NFL on Sunday afternoon because of an organized fan boycott? Will never happen. Not having your friends over for Monday Night Football because of a boycott? Again - will never happen. Fans will continue to snap up tickets, television networks will continue to dole out billions of dollars, and the NFL machine will continue to silently hum along and generate billions of dollars.

This is why the NFL can lock out the NFLRA and this is why the NHL can lock out its players. Their dirty little secret is their knowledge that the fans will always come back.

Look at the NHL. They lost an entire season to a lockout less than a decade ago (2004-2005). Fans came back, and business is better than ever (league revenues increased from $2.3 billion to $3.3 billion in less than 10 years). Now, the league is locking out its players once again, certain in the knowledge that fans will come back, even if another year is completely lost.

Without fans, none of these leagues would make any money. There would be no ticket sales. Nobody would watch games on TV, which would mean that networks would not pay billions of dollars for broadcast rights fees. Nobody would buy merchandise, nobody would pay for parking, nobody would buy expensive hot dogs and beers.

However, owners and the players both know that the fans will always come back. In any league, you need owners, players, officials and fans, but the fans are always the ones who get the short end of the stick, while the owners and players laugh all the way to the bank.

Fans have all of the power and none of the power at the same time, and the fans are the ones who are made to suffer in every labor dispute of every major sports league. Fans have suffered as a result of the NFL/NFLRA situation, and fans will suffer thanks to the NHL's lockout of the NHLPA.

Filed under: General Knowledge

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