The Las Vegas Raiders opened their $1.9 billion home, Allegiant Stadium, just ahead of the 2020 NFL season, but fans were barred from games for another 12 months, due to COVID-19. When fans did return in 2021, they paid a hefty price.
The Raiders generated the NFL’s highest ticket revenue during the 2021 season, according to three people familiar with the league’s financial results who were not authorized to speak publicly. The team brought in $119 million in net gate revenue from general seating and club seating (luxury suites are excluded).
The results were conveyed to the 32 teams in the league’s annual box office report, which details net ticket revenue, tickets sold and visiting team’s share (VTS). Representatives from the NFL declined to comment. The Raiders did not respond to a request to comment.
While the revenue amount was the most in the NFL, the number of Raiders tickets sold ranked 25th in the league. Allegiant Stadium is one of the NFL’s smallest venues at a capacity of 65,000; only Chicago’s Soldier Field (61,500) and Arizona’s State Farm Stadium (63,400) hold fewer fans.
The Raiders were able to benefit from the buzz of the NFL’s arrival in Vegas through their ticketing strategy. The club held back blocks of single game tickets, and when prices skyrocketed on the secondary market, the Raiders captured some of that upside through dynamic pricing with their remaining ticket inventory.
The San Francisco 49ers finished a tick behind the Raiders at $117 million. The Niners got a boost when it raised season ticket prices by $20 on average and included many concessions items within the price of the tickets—alcohol and premium items, like burritos and barbeque, are excluded. The plan was intended to launch in 2020 but was pushed to 2021 by the pandemic.
After two trips to the NFC championship game over the last three years, the 49ers raised ticket prices for 2022. The increase should push gate revenue near $130 million and tops among all NFL teams.
The New England Patriots, Los Angeles Rams, New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys ranked three through six on ticket revenue, per the NFL report. The Giants were the only club in the top six to miss the playoffs last season.
The Cowboys sold the most tickets, as they do almost annually, but their lower ticket prices kept gate receipts outside the top 5. Yet, America’s team generates the most total revenue in the sport, thanks to their sponsorship, luxury suite and merchandise revenue. Additionally, the Cowboys are the NFL’s most valuable team at $6.92 billion.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, the Detroit Lions generated the lowest net ticket revenue in the league last year at $51 million, just behind the Washington Commanders, who ranked No. 31. The Jacksonville Jaguars had the next lowest, followed by the Cincinnati Bengals and Arizona Cardinals.
The newly re-branded Commanders, which ranked last in the NFL for tickets sold, faced bombshell accusations from a former employee in April that they withheld ticket revenue intended to be shared with other teams. The team strongly denied those allegations. “Those revenues are subject to independent audits by multiple parties. Anyone who offered testimony suggesting a withholding of revenue has committed perjury, plain and simple,” per a statement from the team.
NFL bylaws require teams to share 40% of ticket revenue with its member clubs. The teams can deduct certain expenses from the shared total and get waivers from certain obligations that are tied to new stadium construction. The VTS pool rankings look much different than the net gate receipt ones, based on those waivers. The Patriots, whose Gillette Stadium opened in 2002, shared the most revenue at just over $29 million, while the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks ranked second and third. The 49ers were 19th with a VTS of $18 million.
Every NFL team received $20 million for its share of VTS in 2021.
The Baltimore Ravens (8th) and Cleveland Browns (12th) both ranked high on tickets sold but fared much worse by net receipts, due to lower pricing. The Ravens ranked No. 21, and their AFC North rival was No. 24 on a dollar basis.
The box office report highlights the disparity between the Giants and Jets. They both play home games at MetLife Stadium, but operate at different financial realities, with the G-Men outdueling Gang Green $110 million to $82 million in a year both clubs won just four games. The Jets ranked 23rd for net receipts.
The Texans, which also won only four games, joined the Jets among big market clubs in the bottom half of the league, as they ranked 17th by net receipts. Then-Houston QB Deshaun Watson sat out the season after requesting a trade and being accused of sexual assault by 22 women at the time.