How far will fans go to get their football fix? That is the question that the NFL is faced with after Super Bowl 2012 marked the first time in football history that fans paid to watch media day. Over 7,000 spectators looked on as throngs of reporters interviewed the two Super Bowl teams in Indianapolis.
The event’s success is leading to speculation that the NFL might also sell tickets to its annual scouting combine February 22–28 in Indianapolis. At the combine, more than 300 college football players are invited to work out for scouts, coaches, and player personnel staffs to help determine if players will be selected in the NFL draft in April.
Fan capacity to media day at Lucas Oil Stadium was limited to 7,300. Tickets were offered online by the NFL at $25. They quickly sold out and found their way to the secondary market. Some buyers paid more than $350 for tickets, the Indianapolis Business Journal reported.
Despite the success of media day ticket sales, NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said last week in Indianapolis that he knows of no plans to offer tickets to the scouting combine, which is held annually at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Aiello told CBSSports.com that crowd noise would be a deterrent to players working out and a distraction to talent evaluators. The combine is televised by the NFL Network.
While combine ticket sales might not happen later this month, John Mara, co-owner of the Super Bowl champion New York Giants, didn’t rule it out in the future.
Because of the scouting combine, the free agency period in March, and the draft and summer training camps, the NFL has extended beyond the regular season and playoffs. For some fans, the NFL has become a 12-month obsession.
“I think it’s worthy of discussion,” Mara told reporters as he observed the fans in the lower level of Lucas Oil Stadium at media day. Fans were given small radios with earpieces that allowed them to tune into six channels that featured notable players, Giants coach Tom Coughlin, and New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick being interviewed by more than 2,000 print, online, and broadcast media members. The interviews were also shown on the stadium video board.
“Our trouble at the combine is trying to get as many players as possible to actually go through the drills,” Mara said. “Whether [media day] would encourage that or not, I don’t know. If there was a feeling it would encourage it, then maybe it would be discussed.”
Some top NFL prospects skip or limit their participation in the combine to hedge against a poor performance dropping their stock in the draft.
In addition to selling tickets to media day, the NFL also sold tickets for fans to tour Lucas Oil Stadium in the days leading up to the Super Bowl. Tickets ranged from $15 to $30 depending on the day of the tour. The League offered free tickets to a fan gallery where people could observe the NFL Media Center at the JW Marriott Hotel in Indianapolis.
A USA Today poll asking fans if they would pay to watch the combine showed 65 percent said no.
The NFL also offers free tickets to its marquee off-season event, the draft in April at Radio City Music Hall in New York. Seating is very limited, demand is high, and many fans line up the night before for wristband distribution in order to secure ticket. The 2012 draft is April 26–28. The NFL offers draft packages, which include admission to all three days and VIP extras, starting at $499.