- - Thursday, June 20, 2019

Turns out Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder was ahead of his time when he charged fans to watch training camp nearly 20 years ago.

The Philadelphia Eagles have announced that they will charge fans to watch their team at training camp. Admission will cost $5 to $10.

The teams says proceeds will go to charity — the Eagles Autism Challenge, which raises fund for autistic research.

Still, the decision is so brazenly tone deaf that it manages to insult the idea of raising money for a good cause.

The Eagles are a very rich, very successful organization, with a very rich, very successful owner in Jeff Lurie. They can donate as much money as they want to any charity they want. To do so by raiding the wallets of fans — many of whom show up at training camp because it’s the only time they can see the players up close because of the high-priced tickets for games — is shameful.

Fortunately for Eagles fans, it’s only for one practice. Unfortunately, it’s the only practice fans are allowed to watch.

Since the Eagles left training camp at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, about 60 miles north of Philadelphia, in 2013 and moved training camp to their headquarters in their home city, the team has been cutting back on training camp sessions open to the public, from five to two last summer to now just one. Their headquarters facility reportedly can’t hold the large crowds that showed up at Lehigh, which is crazy when you think about it. Too many people want to watch, so we’ll keep them out.

This is the sort of arrogance that an organization has when they are filling the stands every Sunday, still basking in the glow of their Super Bowl championship nearly two years ago.

Lurie and company should take note around the rest of the league, where attendance is dropping. The industry trend is fans are simply choosing not to pay the high costs of attending live sporting events.

The Eagles should be doing all they can to embrace any connection they have with paying customers. But Philadelphia isn’t the only shortsighted franchise in the league.

The Seattle Seahawks also charge fans for training camp, through a $10 transportation fee for shuttles used from a parking lot. That’s it, for now.

When Snyder charged fans to watch training camp in 2000, it was after he had moved training camp from Frostburg, Maryland, to Redskins Park in Ashburn. He was heavily criticized for being greedy, and ridiculed for being foolish, since the admission fee allowed scouts from opposing teams to pay the admission and watch the Redskins practice.

At the time, there was speculation that Snyder’s move could pave the way for other teams to charge for training camp.

“Somebody had to go first,” said Dean Bonham, president of the Bonham Group, a Denver-based sports-franchise consult firm, told the Los Angeles Times. “The Redskins are taking a big risk with the negative publicity and possible alienation of their fans. If it works though, you can rest assured it will become a leaguewide trend overnight.”

That never happened, and rules were changed in 2014 to prevent scouts from attending another team’s practices.

Now, with more teams abandoning training camp at campuses and facilities away from home and opting to hold them at their own practice facilities, with limited space, the idea may catch on.

Whatever benefit or fond memories fans have of traveling to places like Carlisle, Pennsylvania, or to the Redskins’ current summer home of Richmond may be a thing of the past.

Redskins’ training camp has been a disaster for Richmond.

City officials have indicated they likely have no intention of renewing once their agreement with the team runs out after 2020 unless the team is willing to make drastic changes in the deal.

Unless the Redskins are willing to make those changes, or the team can convince another complex or city to build them a new training facility and pay the franchise for the right to host training camp, look for the Redskins to come home to Redskins Park for training camp in two years.

For now, fans can see the team in Richmond, starting July 25, for 22 public, on-field sessions — including Fan Appreciation Day on Aug. 3 — with no admission charge. Compared to Lurie and the Eagles, Snyder look like a benevolent dictator.

Of course, Richmond is paying Snyder $500,000 a year so he can wear that crown.

⦁ Hear Thom Loverro on 106.7 The Fan Wednesday afternoons and Saturday and Sunday mornings and on the Kevin Sheehan Show podcast.

• Thom Loverro can be reached at tloverro@washingtontimes.com.

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