The California Interscholastic Federation will raise sports fees the next two years in response to declining attendance at high school championship events, and the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association may soon follow suit.
According to northjersey.com, the NJSIAA may discuss as early as this Wednesday ways in which the association can compensate for the revenue being lost through attendance declines.
Currently, all of the schools in the NJSIAA pay a yearly membership fee of $2,150. There are also fees for playing in different leagues. For example, it costs $4,290 to compete in the Big North, and $335 to compete in the Super Football Conference.
The NJSIAA used to have a system where only teams that were .500 or better made its state tournaments. Now, enough teams get into the tournaments to fill out a 16-team first-round bracket. The fee is usually $80 to participate.
Legislation brought forth by state assemblyman John Burzichelli (D-Gloucester) and enacted in January 2010 limited the amount of money the NJSIAA can charge for membership fees and tickets for state tournament events. The Burzichelli legislation is great for school budgets — they always know what it costs to play — but less so for the NJSIAA.
"We're nine years in now to these fixed-revenue sources," NJSIAA finance director Colleen Maguire told northjersey.com. "Now, I'm starting to look at ways we can solicit some increases to the other championships, the annual dues and entry fees. The entry fees definitely need to start increasing. We lose a lot of money there."
The NJSIAA has eight sports that annually lose money. For six of them, there is no admission charged.
One way to boost revenue may be to move some tournament games away from neutral sites. Last year, the NJSIAA brought the sectional finals for football back to local schools. However, while this helped increase energy levels and crowd size, it introduces competitive advantages for the host team. There’s also been some suggestion that the NJSIAA may find a way to broaden its ability to stream events.
The financial future of high school sports concerns Maguire. "It's definitely a concern of mine," she told northjersey.com. "Because I don't see the [attendance] trend reversing. The fact that our ticket prices are fixed by law, that is what it is. There's no changing that and that's not a concern of mine anymore. Now my concern is shifting toward finding other ways to increase our revenue to keep up with increasing costs."