Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti acknowledged that growing discontent among fans — evidenced by the large number of empty seats at M&T Bank Stadium last season — is a significant concern.
“I think that’s the biggest one,” Bisciotti said Friday afternoon in his first public comments since the team’s season-ending 31-27 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals that left it out of the AFC playoffs for the fourth time in the last five seasons. “You get to the playoffs six out of seven years. You win a playoff game in all six of those years, which does not happen in the industry of football very frequently. So yeah, I’m worried. I was worried. We talked about it last year, and I think we talked about it two years ago, and it’s still a concern.
“There’s a lot of things to deal with. The one we can change right away is the experience, and we’re constantly working on that. There’s significant private investment in the stadium. Hopefully, that’s going to be part of the answer. … The problem is throughout the NFL, it’s not just here. So am I disappointed in it? Yeah, I’m disappointed in it. Am I concerned? Yes. If winning is what we need to do to fill the stadium up, that’s part-and-parcel with why we’re here. We’re here to win games, we’re here to succeed, and when we fail, the no-shows are a way of telling us that our fans aren’t pleased.”
Bisciotti said he has heard fans clamoring for a more exciting brand of football to be played and is working with the organization’s brain trust to bring that to Baltimore. But he also issued a cautionary note.
“New Orleans has a really exciting brand of football that went 7-9 three years in a row,” he said. “So it didn’t help them. Exciting doesn’t necessarily mean wins. We have been a defense-dominant team since I’ve been and since long before I bought the team, and we want to keep that because we don’t want people not to be scared of us. So we’re going to keep working on that, to keep scaring people.”
Bisciotti admitted that dozens of players’ decision to kneel during the national anthem played before a game against the Jacksonville Jaguars in London on Sept. 24 also played a role in reduced attendance.
“I think that it hurt and insulted a lot of our fan base and I understand that,” he said. “But I also am supportive of my players, and I think that was the only time that we ever did kneel. Is that correct? There’s been others on teams before and after that who continue to do it. Obviously, it was the night before that we got a tweet that I think basically challenged them. I wish I had known about it the night before. Would I have gone to the [team] meeting and given my two cents? I probably would have, and I may have been successful.
“So I was not pleased with it, but again, it’s going on throughout the league. So I don’t know if that affected attendance everywhere else. But I’m not going to put that on my attendance because we were talking about attendance last year before it happened. So I’m not going to say that is the main issue.”
After the Atlanta Falcons reported last week that fans increased their average spending by 16 percent in 2017 even though the team had reduced prices for food and nonalcoholic drinks by 50 percent, Bisciotti said he will consider lowering some concession prices at M&T Bank Stadium.
Although they are already under contract and would have to re-negotiate, Bisciotti said, “It’s something that I’d like to take a hard look at and come up with at least some select items that we can do.”
But Bisciotti also said he has not discussed lowering ticket prices.
“I think we’ve only increased twice in the last 10 years. So we’re a few years away from that,” he said.