Philadelphia Eagles fans at large who want to catch a glimpse of their favorite team will have only one day to do so during training camps. And they’ll need to bring their wallets, too.
The Eagles announced that they are opening only one practice session this summer — on Sunday, Aug. 4 at Lincoln Financial Field. Admission for that event is $10, which is not a lot, and the money will go to a noble cause: autism research. But it certainly puts a major damper on the average fan’s ability to see the team up close in a non-game setting, which used to be a rite of summer.
The team’s other practice sessions at the team’s facility during camp, which opens on July 25, only will be open to select guests: namely high-level season-ticket holders, corporate partners and some charitable organizations.
This is not a sudden change
For years, the Eagles held camp at Lehigh University, which was a beautiful setup for fans. Sure, it required a drive from downtown Philly, but admission was free and most if not all of the sessions were open to the public without much restriction.
It was one of the NFL’s most highly attended training camps in the unique setting of a quaint college town. Most teams have moved away from that type of setup over the past decade and beyond.
When the Eagles moved away from Lehigh and to their own NovaCare Center facility in 2013, team president Don Smolenski said: “We never would have done this without the ability to have ... open practices for our fans that are free to all the public.”
It appears the team’s thinking has changed on the matter. In fact, it appears things have been trending in this direction with the Eagles for a few years now.
The team opened four training-camp practices in 2013, followed by three in 2014 and two open practices the past four seasons prior to dropping to one paid session this upcoming camp.
Credit to the Eagles for their terrific work on autism research and care. They’ve raised a ton of money — more than $3.5 million at the Eagles Autism Challenge last month alone — and clearly are making it an organizational priority to continue that drive. We salute their efforts on what appears to be a great cause.
But there certainly has to be a better way for them to open the doors for the team’s practices to the general public more than just one day a year. Some teams will practice at a local high school or college for a day. Others open up the vast majority of their sessions and do a really good job with player autographs, community involvement and keeping the interest of kids with other activities.
This trend could grow around the league
Will other teams follow suit? The Eagles certainly aren’t known as the most secretive or unwelcoming team in the NFL, so they’ve made what appears to be a drastic step in the wrong direction in terms of fan engagement. The sad reality, however, is that it wouldn’t shocking to see other teams follow suit.
The Eagles are a model franchise in a number of ways, and you could argue that only a handful of other teams could be considered better run than they are. But this is a negative development that we’re sad to see happening for what used to be one of the most fun times of year: watching your favorite team practice as a reminder that you still can occasionally get close to it once in a while as the excitement of football season hangs in the hot, summer air.
Those chances are starting to dry up, it appears.
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