Ticket holders can choose one free ticket, along with round-trip airfare and hotel accommodations, to any Super Bowl as compensation for having to watch the game on televisions inside Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
An alternative offer made two days ago, of $2,400 plus a ticket for next year’s Super Bowl, still stands. The NFL has progressively increased compensation to those fans who were inconvenienced at the game on Feb. 6, having initially pledged a $2,400 refund, or triple the tickets’ face value.
“We are ultimately responsible for the fan experience and we want it to be the best it can possibly be,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said yesterday in a statement.
The fans couldn’t occupy their seats in temporary bleachers because workers didn’t finish installing handrails for the game, which the Green Bay Packers won 31-25 against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The NFL fell 766 people short of breaking the Super Bowl attendance record of 103,985, set at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, in 1980.
“We felt in the middle of the week that it was going to be a problem,” NFL Executive Vice President Eric Grubman said of the temporary seats at a news conference on Feb. 7. “We did not feel until game day that we had an issue where there was a distinct possibility that we wouldn’t be able to accommodate fans.”
The NFL said the make-good tickets to next year’s Super Bowl can be resold. Those for any Super Bowl Beyond 2012 aren’t transferrable, since the offer will be personalized in the ticketholder’s name.
Goodell said the NFL is conducting a complete review of the Super Bowl seating “breakdowns.”
“It was obviously a failure on our behalf and we have to take responsibility for that,” Goodell said.
Ronn Torossian, chief executive officer of New York-based public-relations firm 5WPR, said the seating situation is a “disaster” for the NFL.
“What should be the highlight of the year for the NFL really has turned out to be a nightmare,” Torossian, a crisis- management specialist who has represented celebrities including Snoop Dogg and Pamela Anderson, said in a telephone interview. “They need to be cognizant of it. In the world of PR and the world of brand, little things often snowball.”
The NFL and Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones are also facing a lawsuit from Cowboys season-ticket holders who say they were promised prime Super Bowl seats and instead were given folding chairs with obstructed views. The NFL, the Cowboys and Jones are accused of breach of contract, fraud, breach of good faith and violating Texas’s deceptive-trade-practices law.
The plaintiffs seek more than $5 million in actual damages, which can be tripled under the state’s trade law, in addition to unspecified punitive damages. NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy and Cowboys spokesman Brett Daniels declined to comment on the lawsuit.
The Super Bowl seating issue comes at a time when the NFL is potentially facing an even bigger challenge -- negotiations with the NFL Players Association on a labor contract.
In Pittsburgh’s locker room after the Super Bowl, Steelers offensive lineman Jonathan Scott said many NFL players have already started preparing for a lockout, one that may jeopardize the 2011 season.
“The best thing to be done in terms of fan appreciation at this point is to settle this (labor situation) as quickly as possible,” Torossian said. “When you’re talking about big business, the effects on a brand last a while.”
The next Super Bowl is scheduled for Feb. 5, 2012, at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
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