NFL Issues Ticket-Refund Policy in Case of 2011 Lockout
"We looked at it from the perspective of the fan who might be wondering, 'How can I send in my check or charge my credit card for these tickets if there's any uncertainty?' " said Eric Grubman, the NFL's executive vice president for business operations. "We wanted to make it easier for fans to buy those tickets without worrying what might happen."
Of course, fans are beginning to worry about what might happen as the NFL and the union remain far apart in negotiations on a new CBA. But Grubman said the announcement of the refund policy, which provides refunds for general-admission tickets but allows each team to determine its own refund policy for club seats, suites and personal seat license payments, was prompted by questions from individual teams as the season-ticket renewal season approaches.
"The clubs were telling us that, especially in this economy, they want their fans to know what's going on," Grubman said.
There have been some recent CBA talks, with a focus on the NFL's desire to expand the regular season to 18 games, but the two sides are not close to a new deal, and the likelihood remains that a work stoppage will occur once the current deal expires in March. NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith and several players have said many times that they believe the owners intend to lock out the players in an effort to get a more favorable deal, and the union said Tuesday it believes the refund policy announcement backs up their beliefs.
"This is consistent with what they've done since 2007 and only confirms their plans," union spokesman George Atallah said. "It's just step 24 out of 25 they're taking to prepare for a lockout."
Atallah was using those numbers to make a point, but the union does have an actual checklist of actions the league has taken that they believe supports their claims. Included among those are the league's hiring of attorney Bob Batterman, who spearheaded the lockout that cost the NHL an entire season and the negotiation of new TV contracts that require the networks to pay even if games aren't played. The union has challenged those TV contracts in court, claiming the owners are trying to use the guaranteed TV revenue as "lockout insurance" to allow them to last deeper into a work stoppage than the players can.
With that in mind, it would have been easy to understand if the league had misgivings about announcing the refund policy publicly. But Grubman said the league didn't discuss the PR ramifications of the announcement before issuing it.
"I think that issue is going to color everything the union says," Grubman said. "But we're going to do what's good for the fans, good for the game and good for business."