Win-Win for Raiders and Oakland
by Glenn Dickey
Nov 03, 2005

HE RAIDERS and Oakland and Alameda County politicians have resolved their differences over marketing, with the Raiders taking it over. The litigation issues have been eliminated, except for the case now under appeal in Sacramento.

And, to think it only took them 10 years to reach this point. Will wonders never cease.

Without this settlement, the Raiders were like a one-legged man in a race where everybody else had two legs. There can be no questioning Al Davis’s desire to win but the relative lack of revenue – the Raiders rank near the bottom of the league, maybe at the very bottom, in total revenues – seriously hampers his efforts to put a winning team on the field because it also has an impact on scouting.

This agreement also puts pressure on the A’s to build a new park, so the Coliseum can be a one-sport facility. The current arrangement doesn’t work for either team. The A’s suffer because of “Mount Davis,” and the fact that the field is torn up when football games are played there during the exhibition season. The Raiders have to work out schedule conflicts with the A’s, which are intensified when the A’s make the playoff.

Credit for this settlement should go to Ignacio De La Fuente, president of the Oakland City Council, and Gail Steele, chairman of the county Board of Supervisors, who brought the Raiders to the table. This, not incidentally, is why I support De La Fuente in the Oakland mayoral race. He knows how to develop consensus on issues. Ron Dellums’ entire career has been as an advocate for a cause. We need people like that in politics, but not in a governing position.

Credit also goes to the Raiders, who were willing to set aside their usual “us against the world” attitude to work on these issues. Now, they can begin to attack the numerous marketing issues without constant confrontation with politicians.

THE RAIDERS have been the only team in American professional sports which does not market its own tickets. There was a reason for that: Their experience when they moved to Los Angeles.

For the last dozen or so years they were in Oakland in their first era, the Raiders had a very easy sell. Each spring, they’d send out a letter to season ticket holders, and almost all of them would renew. So, they only had to sell a few more season tickets to ensure sellouts for every game.

It was quite different in Los Angeles. With a stadium seating more than 90,000, it was very difficult to sell season tickets. Only about 30,000 of the seats in the L. A. Coliseum are between the end zones, and that was their season-ticket base. Crowds varied widely, 90,000-plus for the really big games, in the 30-40,000 range for lesser games. I figured one time that in their first five years in Los Angeles, the Raiders game average was only slightly more than their average in Oakland, with a stadium seating less than 53,000 at the time.

Because of that example, politicians took ticket selling away from the team. Mistake No. 1. Then, they wildly overestimated the appeal of the team and put together a marketing campaign that scared people into thinking they had to put in multiple ticket applications, so what was thought to be more than 60,000 season ticket applications actually turned out to be about half that. Mistake No. 2. Then, the politicians decided to make the Personal Seat Licenses for only 10 years, hoping to re-sell them for a windfall profit after that. Mistake No. 3 – and the biggest one of all.

The Law of Unintended Consequencs came into play here. If the PSLs had been lifetime, as they’ve been every other time they’ve been used, there would have been some incentive for people to continue to buy them in years after the opening one. But, their value kept declining with each year, so that didn’t happen. With only 31,000 sold, roughly half the capacity of the remodeled stadium, people soon learned that they could buy tickets to even the most popular games, so few games sell out. And, people who bought PSLs, fumed to see people near them who had only to buy a ticket for that game. If the PSLs had been retained, it’s likely that fewer than half of them would have been sold next season.

NOW THAT the Raiders have control of their marketing, they need to do something to curb their out of control fans.

There’s plenty of support for the Raiders in the East Bay. I live in Oakland and, whenever I get out, whether it’s shopping, going to the library, attending concerts, I hear from people who care deeply about the team. I also hear from readers who feel that way.

But many of these people also tell me that they no longer go to games because they’ve been verbally assaulted by fans from the “Raider Nation” who seem to take pride in their outrageous behavior. I can sympathize with that. I’ve had beer poured on my car and vulgar stickers applied in the Coliseum parking lot at games.

Davis needs to address this issue himself. He’s revered by these people, and a simple statement that he welcomes their support but hopes that they can behave in a way that is not offensive to those around them would make a big change in attitude. By not saying anything, he is tacitly encouraging these hooligans.

It would be nice, too, if the NFL would finally reconsider its outmoded policy of local television blackouts for games that are not sold out. The original rationale was that blacking out games would force people to buy tickets, but we’ve certainly seen how well that works, haven’t we?

The blackouts hurt KPIX, which could sell much more local advertising if they had the Raiders home games. It doesn’t take money from the Raiders directly, but it deprives them of a great marketing tool. It’s a lose-lose situation.

EVEN IN THE wake of this agreement, Davis couldn’t resist making a veiled threat about the team’s lease, which expires in 2011, with a statement that “We’ll see how this goes in the next five years.”

The reality is that the Raiders aren’t going anywhere. Davis has always felt that the only two cities that really counted were New York and Los Angeles. He took his shot at Los Angeles, and when he moved the team back to Oakland, he left behind alienated politicians and decision-makers who don’t want him back. The Giants and Jets are getting a new stadium, in New Jersey, so there’s no opening there. Where’s he going to move the team? San Antonio?

The Raiders have the fans here, if Davis would just concentrate his efforts on pleasing them instead of threatening here. This agreement gives him a chance to do that.

What do YOU think? Let me know!

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