The Staggering Cost of a Night Out with the NFL

The Staggering Cost of a Night Out with the NFL

A San Francisco 49ers fan cheers his team on against the Washington Redskins.

Why you should care

Because rooting for a loser is painful enough.

You’ve taken the plunge: plunked down your cold, hard-earned cash on tickets to an NFL game. But that’s just for starters. There’s also parking, programs and hot dogs, and, heck, why not a giant foam finger or two? Then you watch your team get clobbered, and there’s another expense: beers to wash down that regret.

Halfway through the NFL season, more than two-thirds of teams have losing records. For fans, not winning is bad enough. But it’s goes beyond the psychic cost — it’s the price they pay for such futility. Especially fans of the San Francisco 49ers, where …

It costs $640 on average for a family of four, including tickets, food, drinks and programs, to attend a game, the highest rate in the NFL.

That’s according to the Fan Cost Index by Team Marketing Report. Buying a ticket for a 49ers game this season is one of the worst investments on a per-win basis in the NFL. The average ticket to see the 3-6 team costs $117. Why so much? For one thing, shiny new Levi’s Stadium just opened in 2014, and ownership is trying to make up its $1.2 billion price tag. Second, food and drinks are notoriously more expensive in California. (The 49ers did not respond to requests for comment). Of course, not every fan spends like the new survey’s theoretical family, sports economist Michael Davis points out, making him a bit “skeptical” of its bottom line.

The 49ers Faithful are at least getting to see the team’s rare wins; all three have come at home. Fans of some other teams are really seeing their wallets get sacked. The Detroit Lions ($79 average ticket price; one win at home), San Diego Chargers ($84.55; two wins, both at home) and Dallas Cowboys ($110; two wins, only one at home) give fans the least bang for their buck. The best value in the league: a $71 ticket to see the Cincinnati Bengals, 8-0 this season with four home victories. (These prices don’t include the cost of a seat license, the fee a season-ticket holder pays for the right to buy tickets, which can cost tens of thousands of dollars.)

The average NFL ticket price is now $84.83, nearly three times that of the average major league baseball ticket, and through October, all but four teams were averaging at least 90 percent capacity. How do they do it? “The scarcity of games is probably the No. 1 factor,” Davis says, though the league’s popularity also helps. Football also has a limited number (16) of regular season games, which keeps more squads competitive through season’s end. So fans, as you spend, consider: Commissioner Roger Goodell made at least $35 million in 2013. So at least one NFL fan is rolling in dough, even if you are not.

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