The Golden Goose
When the Carolina Panthers first came into the NFL in 1995, they brought with them a Golden Goose. The great goose did not lay golden eggs, but it did lay stacks of millions of dollars. The new franchise gave the goose a name, and that name was Permanent Seat Licensing (PSL).
In order to get a season seat assigned to you for the newly developing team, you had to buy it for thousands of dollars (has now gone up to $3,000 to $8,500) plus other costs. Those “other costs” required you to buy season tickets to every home game the Panthers played, and at the full going rate. No special rates were given to the licensed owner of a seat. Every year the PSL owner had to buy every ticket to every home game. If they didn’t buy all the season’s tickets for their seat, then they lost their investment money as well as their PSL rights. Then their PSL rights were resold by the organization to the next sucker on the waiting list. With the Golden Goose of PSL seating, the income for the Panther franchise was guaranteed. Win or lose, the monetary profits would always be there.
The stadium where the Panthers play was totally paid for by PSL members well before 75% of the seats were licensed out, and even before the stadium was constructed. The rest of the PSL money was gravy. If you’re an owner like Jerry Richardson, you just can’t beat a deal where the fans themselves bought him a new stadium. The fans were so generous they also ended up giving him tens of millions of additional dollars as well. It is truly great to be King, but it’s even greater to own an NFL franchise where the fans pay all your up-front money and let you ride the waves of the free dollars cascading into the team accounts. Each and every year that Golden Goose just keeps on laying and laying stacks of easy money.
The NFL copycat league, copies the cats PSL seating.
Once the other NFL teams saw how easy it was for the Panthers to have the fans pay for everything from a new stadium to manual pencil sharpeners, the carbon copies of the PSL blueprints came flooding out of their Xerox machines. There are now 14 teams with some facsimile of the Carolina Panther PSL business model. To add insult to injury, in addition to the fans having to use their own money to back the teams play, there is another seldom talked about hidden downside for the fans. That downside is a happy team owner who gets complacent and negligent. Many exceptional PSL franchises are just that – exceptional, and they are exceptions to the complacent owner franchises. So it’s not fair to paint every PSL team with the same broad brush.
What happens when an owner has more concern for his own image and that of the NFL’s, than he does for his own team’s fans.
The cause of the problems with the Panthers having so many bad teams goes way back to the very origin of PSL Ownership. The constant money flow, which was assured by those who bought into the PSL scam, allowed the ownership to simply put the franchise on cruise control. All they had to do was hire a team president, a willing accomplice as general manager, and a head coach to run things and then just sit back and relax. Disengaging one’s self from one’s business has allowed owners to use their time to ponder their superior business acumen, while simultaneously laying the groundwork for a possible NFL Hall of Fame legacy. A true league guy to be sure, even puts the NFL shield on the 50 yard line instead of the team logo. Such lofty goals and heights of accomplishments leave little time to worry about a losing football team, even if it is his own.
A willing accomplice as general manager
Without PSL seating, Marty Hurney would have been fired years ago. As General Manager, Marty Hurney is a walking disaster when it comes to building a winning franchise. He talks a good talk about rebuilding the franchise but when it comes to actually doing it, he can’t walk the walk. Under Hurney’s management the Panthers are continually saying every year that they are “in a rebuilding year” (post falling flat on their face). Year after year you hear the same excuse and it simply is not true. The Carolina Panthers are not currently rebuilding. They lead the entire league with most money given to the 24 opening day starters – $4.963 million per player. They are simply defending a legacy of incompetence with more lies and promises of better teams to come. Better teams never come with Hurney directing the franchise because he continually spends far too much money for “star players” and then has to scrap the bottom of the players list to fill out the roster and still be under the spending cap. The only reason Marty holds on to his job is because he understands and carries out “The Big Picture” concept of owner Jerry Richardson. The big picture rationale says that, since the Panthers are already financially sound, it’s better off for that shield that adorns the middle of the field at Bank of America stadium, if lesser affluent teams win the big bucks that goes along with post season play.
Profits will always be there
Whether the PSL owner goes to the games or not, he pays the same as if he went. Therefore the profits are always assured. It really didn’t matter if the team won or lost, it didn’t have any affect on profits, other than possible minor loses in food and beer sales at home games. Even a drop off in shirt sales and other Panther paraphernalia seldom occurs. When you have the only game in town, you don’t have to worry about delivering anything of value. All you have to do is fill the common folk with promises and wild dreams and they’ll follow the sound of your clarion battle-cry …..”Are you ready for some football?” The fans do truly love the game so much that, like Pavlov’s dogs, they’ll start foaming at the mouth when they hear those magical words.
With no financial incentive, for the owner of a team with PSL licensing, to ever put out a good product there seldom was one for many teams. The guaranteed built in profits kept the ownership too busy counting profits to worry about silly things like having a winning team. The business of the PSL teams in the NFL is about making money, not having winning teams. They leave the worrying about winning teams to those franchises with a conscience for their fans, or without a Golden Goose. There are many exceptions of other PSL owners who do put out a good product. Fourteen of the leagues thirty two teams, now have PSL at their stadiums. The last place, for the last two years running and still counting, Carolina Panthers are the only team in the NFC South with PSL seating.
Most owners, you would think, would be so appreciative that they would do absolutely everything in their power to “pay it back” to the fans. You might imagine the owner would go all out to provide a legacy of winning teams for the fans. Unfortunately a tradition of winning is not the case with the Carolina Panthers due mainly to the PSL making it unnecessary to win in order to be successful on the business end.
The business side of the NFL and “The Big Picture”
Jerry Richardson is not known to be one who’s especially appreciative to anybody for all the money he has amassed. He is a cold unemotional business man, and business men always only think about profits to be made and how best to make them.
In a strictly business approach, “The Big Picture” soon became clear that it would be more financially beneficially, long term, for the Panthers to be excluded from the upper tier of winning teams. It’s hard to understand the logic of this unless you look at the big picture. You see, the overall health of the NFL depends upon each of the 32 teams being financially sound. So it’s just good business to have more financially successful teams in order to “grow the pie” to every nook and cranny of the populated US. This way all teams can benefit from the more lucrative TV contracts and other NFL incomes that are valued by the number of people watching the games nationwide.
Some of the smaller NFL teams do struggle to fill their stadiums without benefit of the PSL seating’s Golden Goose money flow. The Panthers however don’t need to worry about filling the stadium for financial reasons. The profits are always there whether there’s 75,000 in attendance or 7,500. Should the Panthers have a great year and make the playoffs, they would cut one of the financially challenged teams out of the windfall of post-season profits. Those profits that could just balance the books of weaker teams and keep them financially healthy.
Don’t you agree that an owner who would forgo the happiness of his own fans, for that of another team’s fans, should be inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio? Or is it unethical?