Lock-out Pending as Time Runs Out for NFL/NFLPA

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No news yet from the NFL or the NFLPA as time ticks-on towards the self-imposed deadline in their ongoing negotiations as to how to split a $9 billion cash cow.

We need an agreement that both sides can live with and obtain what they need, not simply what they want.

Roger Goddell, NFL Commissioner

With a lockout now looking the most likely outcome there was further chilling news for NFL fans Monday when CNNMoney.com’s Chris Isidore (quoting credit ratings agency Standard and Poor’s) announced that:

National Football League owners will continue to generate much of their revenue in 2011 even if next season’s games are cancelled due to a labor dispute

In fact some teams may be able to survive two years without any games being played

How we got here …
The current Collective Bargaining Agreement, initially negotiated in 1993, has been extended on several occasions, most recently in March 2006.

NFL clubs voted unanimously in May 2008 not to extend the agreement beyond the 2010 season because their costs were rising faster than their revenues. The clubs are committed to negotiating a new agreement, for the 2011 season and beyond that will better serve the clubs, the players and most important, the fans.

The principal issue
is ensuring that the agreement is structured in a way that provides incentives for the clubs to invest, innovate and improve the game for the benefit of the fans over the long term.s.

This view was reinforced when owners shrugged off the recent court-ruling by Judge Doty, which denies them immediate access to a $4bn revenue stream from TV contracts, as inconsequential in a terse statement:

As we have frequently said, our clubs are prepared for any contingency, this decision included. Today’s ruling will have no effect on our efforts to negotiate a new, balanced labor agreement.”

This after the NFLPA had claimed the NFL will receive $4 billion in television revenue in 2011 even if no games are played, with the union is calling it “lockout insurance”. Judge Doty ruled this money must be placed in escrow pending a final CBA agreement.

NFL sources denied the claim stating that “For decades, NFL network TV contracts have protected the league against the possibility that games might be lost for any of a variety of reasons, including work stoppages, natural disasters, and similar events. Any sums paid by the broadcast and cable television networks to the NFL during a work stoppage would have to be repaid with interest”.

The NFL/NFLPA’s week long series of meetings with Federal Mediators is drawing to an end, with the negotiation deadline set by both parties due to expire at midnight EST this evening.

One tactic being considered by the NFLPA to avoid a lock-out of their members is to decertify the union, making the decision to lock-out players who would no longer be part of the ‘union’ a much tougher, more personal one and potentially more damaging one.

AFL-CIO spokesman Josh Goldstein confirmed this saying:

We’re going to support the decisions that they (NFLPA) make and what they feel is best to get to an agreement with the league and make sure there’s a decision next year and make sure there isn’t a lockout.

They have a lot of different ways they’re considering to get to that agreement and that’s certainly one of them…They can always recertify the union.

Both parties have kept relatively quiet during the mediation process, but connected sources report that little progress has been made on the major issues of the 50/50 split or the 18-2 game season.

So what happens next?

NFL fans should stock-up on game recordings and batten down the hatches. It is by no means certain that the NFL 2011 season will kick-off on Labour Day.