Consumer advocate Ralph Nader announced yesterday plans to make the voices of sports fans heard in what he called "the rising crescendo of fraud and fast-buck artistry" in professional and amateur sports organizations.
Talking of the organization that will begin operating Nov. 1, Nader told a press conference here, "The players have their organizations, the clubs have theirs and it's time the fans had their organization."
Christened FANS (Fight to Advance the Nation's Sports), the nonprofit organization has start-up loan of $10,000 from Nader, who will serve as chairman of the advisory board. Nader said he will not participate in policy-making decisions.
Peter Gruenstein, a Washington lawyer and former bureau chief of the Capitol Hill News Service, will be executive director. Gruenstein said he expects FANS will need between 10,000 to 20,000 members, each paying annual $9 dues - the average cost of a football ticket - to break even.
Releasing a 10-point Fans' Bill of Rights, Nader and Gruenstein said FANS will represent the interests of sports fans "before the leagues and players associations, individual owners, the broadcast media, Congress and other federal bodies, state and local governments, the courts and other appropriate forums."
The two said that FANS, whose members will participate in policymaking, should be able to effect changes through public pressure - including economic boycotts and court challenges.
Nader said he was prompted to form the group because of the "acceleration of greed, arrogance and fraud" in sports over the last 10 months.
He pointed to the deceptive advertising for winner-take-all tennis matches, the "staged" boxing bout between Muhammad Ali and a Japanese wrestler and fans-be-damned decisions of some owners.
In the latter case, Nader and Gruenstein cited the trade of Tom Seaver, the New York Mets' three-time Cy Young award winner, to the Cincinnati Reds, and the abandonment of fans by hop-scotching franchises.
FANS also will strive to make sure tickets prices are not beyond the average fan and that the tickets are available on an equitable basis - unlike the situation with the Washington Redskins, Gruenstein said.
He also said he expects the reaction of some owners to be "very negative." But he stressed that FANS is not "antiprofit, but antigouging . . . and we intend to point out there are a lot of good owners."
FANS, the two said, also will be concerned with such diverse issues as the quality and price of concessions, tax breaks, public subsidies and other legal privileges granted sports.
"The arrogant treatment of the fan and ticket prices apply to both amateur and professional sports," said Gurenstein. "Loyality is the base of sport and owners are undermining that loyalty."