Friday, 20 August 2010

Blacking Out

Is there a skill in the business management of sports teams? The Glazers obviously believe there is and that it's a skill they possess. Here's how they described themselves in the 2006 refinancing document:

The experience and success of the Glazer family in managing a sports club is well illustrated by its ownership of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Glazer family acquired the club in 1995 when it was, at that point, one of the worst performing teams in the NFL both on and off the field of play. Since ownership the Glazers have transformed the business immeasurably:
Sporting success: winners of the Superbowl in January 2003
Financial success: the attraction of new sponsorship and commercial opportunities
Stadium development: now home to one of the NFL's finest facilities [paid for with public money, not by the Glazers. Anders]
Sustained investment in the playing squad
Enthusiastic fan support; seven years of consecutive sell-outs and a season ticket waiting
list in excess of 100,000 people.

Well that was then and this is now.
The 2003 Superbowl win was the last instance of "sporting success", with two lost Wild Card playoffs the only other post season achievements since. Last year of course, the Bucs only managed 3 wins out of 16, their worst season since 1991.
Many Bucs fans blame the poor on-field performance on a failure to make "sustained investment in the playing squad" with the franchise spending way below the salary cap. This summer's lack of big names and reliance on a large numbers of rookies seems unlikely to change many minds on the subject.
Poor performance, under investment and a weak economy have all contributed to the complete evaporation of the season ticket waiting list (sound familiar?). Despite price discounting and the abolition of most seat deposits and long-term ST contracts, only 40,000 season tickets have been sold for the coming season (in a stadium seating 66,000).
As fans feared, the Bucs announced earlier this week their first "blacked out" home game for thirteen years, a preseason against Kansas City Chiefs. NFL rules say that games cannot be shown on local TV within a 75 miles radius of the stadium if the game is not sold out. It's an attempt to encourage fans to go the game (not totally unlike the English ban on the live broadcast of 3pm Saturday football). More blackouts during the main season look certain.
Last season several Bucs home games "should" have been blacked-out, but the club stepped in and bought up unsold tickets and declared the games were sold out. For whatever reason (is there ever a reason to do with the Glazers that isn't financial?), that isn't going to be repeated this year.
Is there a skill in the business management of sports teams? Judging from the Glazers' record in Tampa, United fans will hope it isn't a transferable skill....



Anonymous said...

ESPN reported in 2009:

"Gruden was a rising star when he was hired seven years ago to take over a team built by Tony Dungy, and led it to the Super Bowl win. But Gruden guided the Bucs to the postseason only two more times after becoming the youngest coach to win the NFL title in January 2003."

Dungy was snatched up by the Colts, who have been a very strong force in the NFL since (two Superbowls - won one). The Glazer's brilliant move brought a progressive decline to the Bucs.

Guesty said...

Interest on the PIKs up by 2% too

ja said...

When the Glazers fired the head coach a couple of years ago, they promoted an inexperienced assistant already at the club to take over. So who is it to be when Fergie goes - Phelan?

Anonymous said...

drewski said...

Building through the draft with rookies is actually just about the best way to reboot an NFL franchise. I'm not disagreeing with your points in general, but there's a little more nuance to managing a team in the NFL than you're giving the Glazers' credit for.

Their biggest problem has been constant instability in the coaching staff since Gruden was fired. They haven't had consistent football leadership, which has meant that they've been chopping and changing everything on the field every season - that lack of continuity is probably a bigger problem than who the playing staff have actually been.

Washington is a classic example of a team that overspends on "big name" players and gets nothing to show for it. The Buccs needed to gut the franchise, get in good young players and start building from the ground up. Which seems to be what they've finally done.

As for the ticket problems - it's not unusual in the NFL for rebuilding teams, especially those in smaller markets, to have trouble filling their stadiums. If the fans don't come back when/if the team improves, then there might be a problem.

The Red Devil said...

Don't worry Anders. Hopefully there won't be much longer to wait for the next quarterly accounts to be published and then you can get back to writing about football finance again.

finneh said...

Isn't it great how "neutral" fans constantly spout the Glazer commercial genius as a positive attribute to their ownership. Then when someone posts something, on their own personal blog, which evidences that they aren't in fact sports/commercial geniuses, it is suddenly out of the scope of what said person should be posting on their own blog. If one can't see how this post is linked with the theme of this blog, stop visiting it.

The Red Devil said...

@Finneh - Who ever said that the Glazers are commercial geniuses?

I think you've just made that up.

I was merely alluding to the fact that this story has nothing to do with football finances and Anders is probably feeling a bit starved of meat to get his teeth into and has merely added the story of a pre-season match for an American football team that wasn't a sell-out because he can't come up with anything better to write about despite the fact that there's always all kind of shit going on here in England about football finances.

I'll visit whatever sites on the internet I like, thank you.

Manchester United > Buccs.

Sell the Buccs, please Glazers.

Why eat burgers when you can have steak?

Anonymous said...

LOL, Mono-dimensional Anders at it again. Is there any other way to look at it or perhaps deluding the sheep is what the game is about. Dog eat dog world!!!

UTID said...

@ The Red Devil
Read the top of the blog where the words "trying to make sense of the Glazers, debt and football finance".

Then take a quick guess at which of the 3, Anders is writing about.

Clue: it's not debt and it's not football finance.

andersred said...

Spot on UTID. It's about the Glazers. I thought it was worth pointing out that their self declared "achievements" don't stand up to scrutiny....


OmahaCrab said...

Good post.

But personally I just don't get this whole issue with 'too much' television coverage. What is the point for example of this black out?

Surely if nobody is going to the games, it will force clubs to lower their ticket prices, and that is a good thing, no?

Can someone please tell me where I'm wrong?

Anonymous said...

Here is what Tampa fans think of the blackouts,No mention of the Glazers

Anonymous said...

If it weren't for the Glazers the Bucs would be playing in Cleveland or Baltimore right now Tampa Fans! So please put a sock in it! They are not that bad owners! Did they not make an offer to Albert Haynesworth and other top free agents out there in the past? They have always paid and signed their top picksw on time! Have they not? The Bucs needed to be rebuilt and they are going in the right direction in doing so!