"It causes the person, hopefully, to think about what happened," said Leonard Bonacci, the Eagles' vice president of event operations and event services. "When someone is ejected from the stadium, it can't be seen as, 'Oh, I got ejected. I'll head back next weekend.' It's a big deal. And it really says something when you're impacting someone's experience so negatively that you had to be removed from the facility."
That was the intention of the NFL, which started an alcohol awareness program in New York and New England during recent years and has since expanded it to include all conduct. The course was designed by California psychologist Ari Novick.
Ray DiNunzio, the NFL's director of strategic security programs, said the course is not punitive but rather intended to be educational about the fundamental expectations of stadium conduct, socially accepted public behavior and the risks of overconsumption of alcohol. DiNunzio compared it to an infomercial, and the course does not need to be taken in one sitting.
The NFL has a policy for fan conduct that results in ejection for violators, including intoxication that prompts irresponsible behavior; abusive language that causes a bad environment; interference of the progress of the game; and verbal or physical harassment of opposing fans.
The Eagles do not provide specific statistics on security matters but said the number of violators has steadily decreased since the move from Veterans Stadium to Lincoln Financial Field in 2003. The NFL totaled just more than 7,000 ejections in 2011, according to DiNunzio. That's around .05 percent of the fans who attended NFL games.
"A very, very small percentage of fans will be impacted by this program," DiNunzio said. "Yet that small percentage of the fans can change somebody's game-day experience."
Before the policy was instituted, an ejected fan who was not permanently barred from the stadium or arrested would typically receive a letter detailing what happened. If the ejected fan was the guest of a season-ticket holder, the season-ticket holder would have a letter in his/her file. That process still occurs, although the online course adds another layer that keeps each NFL team's policy consistent.
"It makes sense. It's reasonable," Bonacci said. "The logic is reasonable, so let's give it a shot. It's too precious 10 times a year. If you're not doing everything you can to protect the fan investment, I think you're probably not doing your job."
This change will affect the few fans who are ejected, but the Eagles have other upgrades that could enhance the experience for all fans. Three specific areas of improvement are common gripes from fans: the traffic approaching the stadium, the security lines getting into the stadium and cellphone reception in the stadium.
Regarding traffic to the stadium, the Eagles are developing a smartphone application through Google Maps in which a fan can plug in where he is leaving from and his desired parking lot at the stadium to find real-time traffic information for the best possible route and how many parking spots are available. The team also invested in bike racks to close off streets and make pedestrian crossings easier to navigate. The Eagles have paid Philadelphia for a 20 percent increase in police officers on the street.
The NFL has also standardized the best practice for stadium security, so in order to expedite the process of entering the stadium, the Eagles have expanded the number of gates to enter Lincoln Financial Field. The security scanning takes 12-16 seconds on average, which could cause a bottleneck. The Eagles added two new gates, raised the amount of entrances from 99 to 138 and hired 40 percent more security personnel at entry.
Lincoln Financial Field also worked with cellular phone carriers to install digital antenna systems to improve the connectivity of fans that are checking their fantasy football scores and sending text messages to friends from the game.
"I think fans will see a dramatic improvement, no question," Bonacci said. "And if they haven't, you can send a text through to let us know where you're sitting and what's happening."
Contact Zach Berman at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow on Twitter @ZBerm.