When the NFL season officially begins, the Chargers will have their first season in Los Angeles after more than 55 years of playing in San Diego. The Chargers are the second team to move to the city in as many years, after the Rams moved from St. Louis in 2016. Both teams likely moved to improve on weak attendance figures. Last month, the NFL approved the Oakland Raiders’ planned move to Las Vegas in 2019.
The National Football League is a business, as are its franchises. While fans hope that owners prioritize winning and a relationship with the fan base over anything, management’s priority first and foremost is to sell tickets. Winning tends to fill seats, which might partly explain the poor attendance in Oakland, San Diego, and St. Louis.
The NFL is the most popular American sport, and while viewership is down, pro football franchises typically do not suffer from attendance issues that plague some other sports. For example, in over 10 MLB teams at least one-third of seats on average were empty at home games in 2015. In the NFL, there is still a fair amount of variation between teams, and poor attendance, and poor attendance can drive owners to take their business to markets where they believe they will find greater success.
While a number of highly popular teams regularly fill stadiums beyond the listed capacity, others average less than 90% capacity at home games, This can be concerning considering that each team only hosts eight regular season home games. Ticket prices are from TicketIQ