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Rick Stroud, Greg Auman and Matt Baker

No vote by NFL owners on blackout capacity changes



Despite some buzz this week about NFL owners taking up the issue of reducing stadium capacities for the purpose of reaching sellouts, it turns out the issue was not broached at Tuesday's meeting of team owners in Rosemont, Ill.

That means current rules that require NFL teams to sell out "non-premium" seats 72 hours prior to kickoff to avoid local television blackouts will remain in effect -- for now. NFL spokesman Dan Masonson said this week's meeting was dominated by labor-related issues as owners and players attempt to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement, meaning there was not ample opportunity to discuss rule proposals.

This is a matter of particular interest for local Bucs fans, who were unable to watch any of the Bucs' eight regular-season and two preseason home games on television in Tampa Bay and its surrounding areas. The Bucs were the only team in 2010 to have all of its games blacked out on local television.

League officials have discussed the prospect of allowing teams to reduce stadium capacity through the use of tarps or other means that presumably would cover entire sections and make sellouts easier to achieve. Even if a vote had been taken this week and the measure approved, it's unclear whether this is something that could have been undertaken immediately. Teams have already sold a number of season tickets for seats that fans specifically selected, meaning some would have to be relocated if certain sections were made unavailable.

In any event, with no action thus far on this issue, its very possible the current blackout rules will remain in place and this issue will be decided at a later time.

Whenever a vote occurs, passage would not come as a shock. The NFL has been allowing this very practice in Jacksonville since 2005. The Jaguars during that season began covering nearly 10,000 of their stadium's 76,877 seats. The market's history of challenges with selling tickets was the basis for the NFL's decision to allow the move. Plus, the original capacity is much larger than that of some of the league's other stadiums.

In Tampa, Raymond James Stadium's capacity -- including premium seating -- is approximately 65,000. The Bucs have not said whether they would take advantage of the rule if it was implemented.

[Last modified: Thursday, June 23, 2011 5:27pm]


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