ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WIVB) - Diehard Buffalo Bills fans can get an early look at their favorite team next month.
Tickets will soon go on sale for training camp night practice on August 11th. The tickets will be available at participating Noco stations starting Wednesday morning. Several Tops stores will begin selling the tickets on Saturday. Meantime, local lawmakers and the Bills are trying to make changes to the NFL's new blackout policy.
Congressman Brian Higgins is taking another stab at making the NFL's new looser blackout policy work for Bills' fans. The fine print in the new blackout guidelines is working against small market teams, like the Bills, and Higgins wants to sack those disincentives.
While TV dollars have been driving the NFL for more than 20 years, individual owners get to keep most of the money they collect at the gate. The blackout rule was set up to encourage the fans to come to home games, and if it is not sold out, no television.
But a growing number of football fan clubs and lawmakers have been pushing the league to loosen the blackout restrictions, and the Commissioner did. But Bills officials say the new rules would cost the team about a half million dollars a year and Higgins wants the new rules to help, rather than hurt small market franchises, such as the Bills.
Rep. Higgins said, "And ask those owners who started this issue, to make it possible for smaller market teams to lift the blackout rule without any financial consequences."
Under the new rules, teams have the option of going with an 85-percent threshold. But those that do would have to share their gate receipts that exceed 85-percent with the rest of the league for all their home games - not just those that don't sell out. That's a penalty.
"In other words, they have to reimburse the visiting team for an amount of money each time they lift the blackout rule," Rep. Higgins explained. "Why not hold them harmless so there is no economic penalty for doing so?"
Higgins co-signed a letter to Commissioner Goodell along with two U.S. Senators, asking Goodell to consider fine-tuning the new rules, which Higgins predicts will be a moot point as the league becomes more dependent on TV and advertising revenues.
"You look at the changing economic model, the blackout just doesn't make sense. I'll tell you something, you mark my words, in five years there won't be a blackout rule because the economic model is changing, and continues to change," Rep Higgins argued.
The Buffalo Fan Alliance also seems to like Higgins ideas for downsizing the blackout rule. We did call and e-mail the Buffalo Bills to get their take, but so far there has been no response.
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