A Profitable Rivalry

By Angelene Crosswell

Every sports fan understands competitive rivalry. Any person who has cheered for the losing team knows the hatred felt for the opposing team and their fans. Every team has a rival, whether it’s a little league baseball team’s cross-town rival or a college football team’s decade-long competition. I am a big fan of all rivalries, they strengthen our passion for our favorite teams, but my favorite rivalry is undoubtedly Georgia-Florida.

This weekend, this rivalry reached its annual peak at the Georgia-Florida football game. The week leading up to the game, UGA buses used their screens to write “beat the gators,” students packed on their spirit wear, and the Florida Gators pasted a full-page ad in the UGA student newspaper. Fans booked their places to stay near Jacksonville months in advance and students lined up in September to claim their tickets.

While fans may just see this rivalry as pure hatred between the two teams, many people have found ways to capitalize on it financially. First, leading up to the game, tickets that were approximately $60 at face value and sold for almost twice that. Even broke college students are willing to spend a few paychecks to hopefully see their team win.

When researching places to stay near Jacksonville, I noticed that all hotels increased their rates for the weekend. In St. Simons Island, the location of UGA’s infamous frat beach, the whole Island recognizes the game as a holiday and decorates accordingly, making it as welcoming as possible for UGA fans. Hotels here also raise their rates and private renters do the same. Maybe this is simply an attempt to protect themselves from having to pay damages after the notoriously rowdy weekend, but more likely it is just taking the opportunity to make money off of a weekend when you are guaranteed to find a renter.

Bars in Jacksonville likely see one of their most profitable weekends of the year during the nights leading up to and following the GA/FL game. Some try to capitalize on one side of the rivalry by openly expressing support for one team. Others welcome all fans and hope no rowdy viewers break out in fights and cause property damage.

Since the rivalry has developed into one of, if not the biggest, in the South, the game was moved to neutral territory in 1933 and Jacksonville, Florida, makes a huge profit from the game. Both teams also make more money by playing a neutral field than they would from playing at alternating home stadiums: approximately $3.4 million every two years as opposed to $2.2 million.

After the game every year, thousands of t-shirts are sold to the winning team’s fans commemorating the game. Football fan or not, Georgia fan or Florida fan, you can’t deny that the rivalry is worth a lot of money and for that reason (and the hatred between teams) the rivalry and tradition is not going anywhere.




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