Despite the controversy over NFL players taking a knee, football is still very much a beloved American sport — regardless of which side of the aisle you’re on. During the 2016-2017 school year, participation in high school football amounted to 1.09 million people. And in 2017, the regular season games of all NFL teams were attended by approximately 17.26 million spectators. It’s safe to say that Americans love throwing around — and watching others throw around — the old pigskin. In some cases, perhaps they love it a bit too much. Fans of the eternal underdogs, the Buffalo Bills, have been known to take their antics to the extreme, especially when tailgating. Now, the team and local law enforcement are taking a stand to increase fan safety and overall enjoyment.
The so-called “Bills Mafia” is sometimes known for the shenanigans that go on in the stadium parking lot on game day, particularly for an act known as table slamming. It’s a reckless, alcohol-fueled act that has gone viral on numerous occasions. Fans body-slam each other into or jump through plastic folding tables, often breaking the tables and harming themselves in the process.
According to the Erie County Sherrif’s Office, excessive drinking is to blame for this and other problematic behavior during the season. Drunk driving is one of the three most common causes of car accidents in the U.S., but even when fans are staying put, their alcohol consumption has proven a problem. Not only is the ECSO outlawing the practice of table slamming, but they’re going to be cracking down on drinking, too.
Law enforcement is aiming to “eliminate excessive consumption of alcohol and checking for glass bottles,” as well as enforcing the Bills’ “Fan Code of Conduct.” This code contains rules on tailgating, safety, and respect; the stadium guide reads, in part, that “disorderly guests are subject to ejection from the parking lot premises, revocation or tickets, and/or criminal prosecution.”
The team has also implemented new policies for the bus lot. In the past, changes were made to the RV camper lot to improve the experience for all — and considering that nearly 30 million RV enthusiasts exist nationwide, those policies impacted numerous fans. But now, bus parking costs will increase from $60 to $100. In addition, bus permits must be purchased in advance and a $100 security deposit will be required to ensure the Fan Code of Conduct is followed.
According to the Bills’ Vice President of Operations and Guest Experience, Andy Major, they hope the changes “can make the fan experience better for charter buses and all the other people… trying to have a good time and then make it safer and overall improve the fan experience.” Major added, “We didn’t want to ban tailgating in the bus lot and we thought this would be the next best thing to try and help the fan behavior there.”
Whether paying a couple of extra hundred dollars more for bus parking and the threat of eviction will make a difference in rowdy Bills fans has yet to be seen. But for the good of the game, many are hopeful that attendees can tone things down a bit.