Tuesday, September 1, 2009

NFL Attendance Problems?

In Sports Economics, we talked about did the recent lockouts in US sports have a clearly negative effect on spectator attendance at the stadium/ballpark. We concluded that the answer was no. In most cases average team attendance was lower after the strike/lockout than before the lockout, but the decline was not unusual as compared to the normal ups and downs of average team attendance over time. In other cases (the NHL) average team attendance increased after the lockout as compared to before the strike/lockout. I think you would be hard pressed to say that the lockout caused more fans to attend, and that is an important point. Just as it would be silly to say that the strike/lockout lead to an increase in attendance (in the norms of the ups and downs of attendance over time) it is just as silly to say that a decrease in attendance (in the norms of the ups and downs of attendance over time) due to a strike/lockout.

In class we talked about why attendance might go up or down over time, and a slumping economy is one reason to expect a decline in attendance, although I do not have empirical proof of this actually happening. But now I do have some anecdotal proof. USA Today just published an article stating that NFL ticket sales are slumping in some cities. This would be an area of future research for an enterprising sports economist - that is to take a look at average ticket prices by team, and local/regional economic indicators (unemployment, changes in housing prices - a wealth effect, etc.) and see if that is a better indicator of changes in overall ticket demand as opposed to a strike/lockout.

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