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The cost of being an NFL fan

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Football fans are truly dedicated to the sport. That’s likely why each NFL team is worth $4.14 billion on average. Some die-hard fans spend more than others, and some teams have a larger, more intense fan base, but any NFL fan is likely to spend something each year to support their favorite team.

Let’s examine the many costs associated with being an NFL fan — from the cost of attending one of the 272 games to the price of merch, to the costliest teams to be a fan of.

Cost of attending an NFL game

When you attend an NFL game, you’ll be greeted by a roaring stadium filled with other fans there to celebrate, drink cold beer and eat delicious food. All of that comes with a price, though, and a steep one at that.

The fans that spend the most on tickets alone are those of the Las Vegas Raiders with an average ticket price of over $600. An analysis by PicksWise found that Raiders fans who attend home and away games spend a grand total of $3,450 each year supporting their team.

Some NFL fans pay less, though, thanks to cheaper tickets, concessions and merchandise. For example, following the Buffalo Bills for a season would cost $2,762, according to the same Pickswise study.

NFL game ticket prices

As with most expenses, NFL ticket costs increase each year. In 2012, the average ticket price for an NFL game was just $190. In 2021, however, the average ticket is a much higher $457.

Why have prices shot up so much in just nine years?

There are a number of reasons, one being simply supply and demand. American football is an extremely popular sport and makes up a major part of the entertainment industry, so NFL tickets are going to continue going up so those within the industry can make more money. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic likely affected ticket prices. Since fans couldn’t go to games for over a year, demand for the sport increased.

To get a sense of current ticket prices, let’s look at both the most and least expensive NFL teams.

5 most expensive NFL teams

NFL team Ticket price estimates
Las Vegas Raiders
  • Cheapest seats: $220
  • Best seats: $4,000
San Francisco 49ers
  • Cheapest seats: $130
  • Best seats: $1,800
Green Bay Packers
  • Cheapest seats: $120
  • Best seats: $2,000
New England Patriots
  • Cheapest seats: $80
  • Best seats: $1,000
Philadelphia Eagles
  • Cheapest seats: $145
  • Best seats: $800

5 least expensive NFL teams:

NFL team Ticket price estimates
Indianapolis Colts
  • Cheapest seats: $50
  • Best seats: $450
Los Angeles Chargers
  • Cheapest seats: $80
  • Best seats: $800
Jacksonville Jaguars
  • Cheapest seats: $60
  • Best seats: $1,000
Cincinnati Bengals
  • Cheapest seats: $90
  • Best seats: $400
Arizona Cardinals
  • Cheapest seats: $45
  • Best seats: $400

Merchandise

Buying an NFL jersey of your favorite player can give you a sense of comradery with your fellow fans and shows your team pride. But you may be surprised to learn how expensive these jerseys can be. For example, official Pittsburgh Steelers and San Diego Chargers merchandise retailers list adult jerseys starting around $130, while Cincinnati Bengals jerseys start around $100.

Additional costs: food, travel and parking

Buying tickets and team paraphernalia are far from the only costs associated with being an NFL fan. For starters, when you’re at the game, you’ll likely buy food and beverages — it’s a part of the experience! One of the most expensive concession stands at the Washington Commanders’ stadium charges $14 for a beer. A hot dog can also be pricier than you’d expect, coming in at $8 at the Raiders’, Rams’ and Chargers’ stadiums.

And don’t forget the cost of getting to the game itself. If you’re lucky enough, the most you’ll spend on travel is a tank of gas. However, some teams’ fanbases cover a large geographical area — like the New England Patriots. Someone in Northern Maine has to travel a much farther distance than someone in Massachusetts, since the game is out of state.

When you get to the stadium, you’ll also pay for parking most of the time. Many of the teams have separate tickets you’ll need to purchase to park in the stadium lot. And if you want to stay in a hotel near the stadium, be prepared to pay a pretty penny.

How to reduce the cost of attending an NFL game

With so many costs associated with simply going to an NFL game, how can someone who doesn’t want to spend thousands of dollars possibly keep costs low? Well, there are quite a few steps you can take.

Watch NFL from home

If you’re looking for the ultimate way to save money on NFL games, watch from home instead. If you do things right, you could have a whole experience in your own living room or backyard. Hosting a tailgating party from your home ensures you save on travel, beer and food, and you won’t have to pay hundreds for tickets.

There are numerous options for watching the game through streaming or cable. Here are some of the more popular options:

  • Peacock – You can watch Sunday night football with a Peacock Premium membership. You’ll pay $4.99 per month for this service.
  • NFL RedZone – From the NFL network itself, you can add RedZone to your cable network. How much you pay will depend on your cable network.
  • YouTube TV – If you have a YouTube TV account already, which costs $64.99 per month, you’ll have access to the NFL network.
  • Amazon Prime – With Amazon Prime video, you can watch your local Thursday night football games. Amazon Prime costs $139 per year or $8.99 per month for Prime Video only.

If you’re attending in person

Use a credit card with good rewards or cash back to maximize your savings. The best credit cards offer cash back or points on purchases, so you can swipe knowing you’re getting a little something in return. Some credit cards even reward food, ticket or travel purchases at a higher rate. Check out Bankrate’s list of the best credit cards for football fans.

  • Buy tickets last minute. In general, you’re likely to get the best price if you buy a ticket about seven days before the game. Since the stadium is trying to sell the most tickets possible, they discount any they have left a few days before the game. These aren’t going to be the best seats in the stadium by any means, but you could potentially save hundreds.
  • Attend a home game when an unpopular NFL team is in town. Some teams are more popular than others. The Patriots, Cowboys, Packers and Broncos are all well-known names. If these are your teams, stick to hometown games where the opponent is a less popular team, such as the Jaguars or the Bengals.
  • Avoid spending money on stadium food. Stadium food is marked up substantially. Eat before or after the game, somewhere a little farther from the stadium.
  • Avoid buying jerseys or memorabilia in the stadium. Buying any team gear should be done outside of the stadium. Again, jerseys will be marked up simply because they can get fans to buy jerseys there on game day. There’s no difference between a stadium jersey and one you buy on the team’s online shop.
  • Book your parking passes online ahead of time. If you want to find parking at the last minute, be prepared to park far away and pay a premium. Booking ahead of time guarantees you a spot where you want, and is likely to be a little cheaper.

The bottom line

NFL fans often spend thousands each year supporting their favorite NFL team on tickets, streaming services, jerseys and travel to get to games. If you plan ahead, there are ways to get cheap NFL tickets and have a more affordable experience. But if you’re looking for the cheapest option, skip the in-person games and opt for a streaming service. Or at the very least, make sure you buy your tickets at their cheapest, right before the game.

Written by
Christopher Murray
Contributor
Christopher Murray is a personal finance writer for a number of reputable sites including Bankrate. Six years ago, Christopher started as the single staff writer for a budding finance blog, He worked his way all the way up to Senior Editor. Ultimately, the freedom that freelance writing brings was calling and he decided to go back to writing full-time.
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