After an off-season of drug, domestic violence, and child abuse issues with players and owners, the NFL this week announced a stricter behavior policy . . . for fans.
Starting next season, fans ejected from a game will be banned from entering any other NFL stadium. Ejections can occur for a number of reasons including unruly behavior, excessive intoxication or interference with the game, and can be received in-venue or in stadium parking lots. The first league-wide Fan Code of Conduct was released in 2008, though it’s up to each franchise to enforce the rules.
According to Ray DiNunzio, NFL Director of Strategic Security, 8,000 fans were ejected last season, an increase from the estimated 7,000 ejections during the 2011-2012 season, the last time the NFL made serious modifications to its Code of Conduct. Shortly before the 2012-2013 season, the NFL announced that ejected fans would be required to pass an online course through Fan Conduct Class, an external website managed by the AJ Novick Group, Inc. that also offers MLS fan conduct classes. Fans are required to pay for the courses themselves.
There are significant challenges with enforcing a league-wide ban. A ejected fan could buy a ticket for another stadium through the secondary market, meaning teams are not alerted to his or her presence. To that end, the league hopes stadiums will elect to deploy in-venue cameras to track spectators and quickly identify security situations. It may also want to consider coordinating with established secondary ticket markets to alert venues when banned fans buy tickets, though that probably won’t stop all fans from finding other methods to purchase tickets. In the meantime, the NFL’s updated policy hopes to streamline the sharing of information and even photos of ejected fans.
Updating the fan policy now creates a poor image in the wake of a rash of player and owner scandals. The NFL requires spectators to refrain from “verbal or physical harassment of opposing team fans” or else face “ejection without refund and loss of ticket privileges for future games,” yet it can’t seem to properly punish players accused of domestic violence – Ray Rice, Greg Hardy – nor an owner arrested for possession of a controlled substance – Jim Irsay received just a six-game suspension after pleading guilty to operating a vehicle while intoxicated.
You can follow Nick on Twitter at @Nick_Zobel.