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Fans voice concerns over NFL 'in-game' experience

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By Eric Edholm

NFL fans come in all shapes and sizes. They are different ages. They have different habits, from how they eat and drink to how they get to games to what they are willing to pay for tickets.

But they almost universally, based on Pro Football Weekly’s small sample study, want one thing: better connectivity.

PFW spoke to more than two dozen NFL fans who go to games — most of them current or former season-ticket holders — in several NFL cities and asked them about the game experience, what they like the most and least about it.

Their answers varied on some themes, echoed on several others, but on no subject were they more in lockstep than on being connected to the outside world (mostly to the rest of the NFL) with their smart phones and mobile devices.

Plainly put, they want better connections.

NFL attendance peaked in 2007 and has dropped off nearly five percent since then. Although the NFL remains in strong shape with massive TV contracts anchoring the league’s finances for the next decade, the league has recognized the sinking gate numbers and knows that the at-home experience (high-definition televisions, multiple games at once, better comfort, etc.) sometimes trumps that of the stadium.

The league is seeking to find better ways to improve that experience, and as NFL executive vice president of business ventures and CFO Eric Grubman told PFW in a wide-ranging interview last week, it is well aware of fans’ concerns over connectivity issues.

We voiced many of the fans’ concerns and thoughts, which helped shape our interview with Grubman, and we now are paring down many of those comments here. PFW has chosen comments from fans and lumped them together by topic — some of which, frankly, surprised us.

Some of their comments read like they are straight from the mouth of a league spokesman. Others accurately reflect the growing trend of fans who prefer the amenities of their own home, furnished by the incredible technology the league and networks afford. It appears to be an accurate tug and pull of the league’s fan base right now.

We used quotes from the following respondents:

Lisa Pfeiffer, 40, Ravens season-ticket holder from 2004-2008.

Robert Amberg, 60, 49ers season-ticket holder from 1976-1982 and 2006-present.

Adam Siegel, 31, Steelers season-ticket holder since 2002, but tickets have been in family since Pitt Stadium days in early 1970s.

Chris Jensen, 26, Bears season-ticket holder since 2010 (2012 is his first year as a PSL owner).

Ernie Rupp, 43, Chiefs season-ticket holder from 1987-2005.

Rodney Knuppel, 29, Rams first-time season-ticket holder this year.

Michael Davis, 42, Steelers, had tickets since 1992.

Paul Theoret, 37, former season-ticket holder for Bills, 2008-2009.

Adam Goldstein, 37, Falcons season-ticket holder since 2001.

Travis McDonald, 28, 49ers season-ticket holder for two years, from San Jose.

Brian Elliott, 39, on waiting list for past 15 years for Steelers season tickets, goes to the majority of games.

Chris Jones, 27, Jaguars season-ticket holder since 2010.

Jon Kazanjian, 38, attended nearly all Patriots home games in the past 10 years, but is an official season-ticket holder for first time in 2012.

Christian Ferris, 38, has gone to most of the Seahawks' home games in four of the past five seasons.

 

Here is some of what they said on the following issues:

Better Internet/cell-phone connectivity

At home vs. in-the-stadium experience

Fan behavior at games

High cost of going to games

Other assorted issues

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