CHICAGO Fans are starting to lose interest in the NFL as its labor dispute with players drags on, commissioner Roger Goodell said on Wednesday.
Goodell told the league's spring meeting in Indianapolis that television ratings, ticket sales and the amount of traffic on the NFL's website had all taken a hit during the 10-week-old lockout.
"It has clearly had an impact on our fans already," Goodell said.
"You see that in our various metrics that we have, whether they are ratings, or traffic on NFL.com...and that is a reflection of the uncertainty and the frustration of our fans."
Goodell said television ratings for this year's player draft, normally one of the out-of-season highlights for the game, were down by four million viewers, while early indications on ticket sales were also down.
"It's a noticeable change," Goodell said. "That's a pretty significant decrease, about a 10 percent decrease as I recall.
"Fans want certainty. I don't think you can ever underestimate that fans are still going through difficult challenges just in the general economy. Those challenges continue to impact on their decisions and rightfully so."
(Reporting by Gene Cherry in Raleigh; Editing by Julian Linden)