Late last week I posted about Sportsfans.org and their work to get fans a voice in the escalating war between the NFL and the NFL Players Association. As a potential 2011 NFL Lockout sits on the horizon and the two sides continue to squabble, Sports Fans Coalition (SFC) has been working to get the attention of all parties involved. Although the advocacy group is still just developing, they're starting to get more and more press for their cause.
The New York Times NFL Blog (The Fifth Down) wrote about SFC and their goal of being brought in to the negotiating sessions as a witness on behalf of the fans. The group submitted letters to Roger Goodell and DeMaurice Smith stating:
We are not asking for a seat at the negotiating table - although we believe fans deserve one - but merely to be present in the room so that we may inform fans across the country about the state of ongoing negotiations and ensure that progress is being made towards an agreement that ensures a central consideration of fans.
As fans and taxpayers, we have invested over $6.5 billion around the country on NFL stadiums, in addition to the billions we have spent on tickets and NFL merchandise. We have transformed our urban centers with the promise that new stadiums would serve as an economic boon to the surrounding community. A work stoppage would be devastating to many cities, including local workers and businesses.
Although I find it nearly impossible to think the NFL and NFLPA would ever agree to this, I actually think it's a reasonable request. One could argue that major stakeholders are kept out of labor negotiations in a variety of industries throughout America. However, that doesn't mean that keeping people out is necessarily the best idea. The NFL exists solely because of the fans. While it's true the money comes from television, merchandise, and so forth, none of that would be possible if fans didn't want to watch the game.
Fans by jerseys, fans buy tickets, and fans watch the games on television.
I realize it's not quite so simple, but does it really need to be any more complicated than that? Why not let a representative of the average sports fan sit and observe the bargaining session. As the situation currently stands, the two sides go into a room and do whatever it is they do and all we really know is based off of leaks that the other side quickly denies.
I'm not saying this fan rep should be releasing financial figures and proposals exchanged at the bargaining table. Although I actually think that's just as reasonable, just being able to report back on the emotions involved and if the two sides are actively working to work out a deal could be of value. The fans may have a realistic view of what's going on based on the PR battle and the reports from both camps, but we'll never know for sure since information from either side is going to be slanted.
I realize this kind of wish is a bit of a pie-in-the-sky type of dream, but at least somebody is trying to do something about it. Even if it doesn't work, I don't see the harm in trying to get a voice for fans amidst the chaos.