Life has a funny habit of going full circle and it finally looks like the drawn out and occasionally acrimonious NFL labour dispute could finally come to a conclusion in Atlanta of all places, the stage for the start of the problems way back in May 2008, when the NFL owners opted out of the collective bargaining agreement. Thursday 21st July is the date for a special meeting, where surely common sense will finally prevail and a new labour deal will be approved.
The aim seems to be to reach a multi-year agreement and providing everything runs as planned the camps should open on Aug 1st and the season will go ahead as scheduled.
The new deal as it stands would give the players between 46 per cent and 48 per cent of total revenue, meaning the $1- billion cream off the owners wanted will be forfeited. According to a number of reports, the salary cap for the 2011-12 season would be about $120 million per team and assuming everything is agreed on Thursday a somewhat more frantic than usual free agency will begin on Monday; finally giving us something interesting to write about.
The potential losers in the new deal (apart from the owners who will be a billion lighter) will be the early round rookie picks, who can look forward to significantly less guaranteed money. Those benefitting mot will be retired players who will get increased pensions and other benefits. I can only assume that the US financial advisors have been doing a poor job if retired players are struggling to make do, however it is good to see some extra cash being diverted to some of the stars of the past who probably didn’t receive the massive rewards success currently brings.
Although the dispute has largely been about money (and there is lots of that floating around the World’s Richest Sports League) it is also fair to say that some of the changes will benefit the game. The main changes will be the possible relocation of one of the less profitable franchises (Jacksonville is my bet) into Los Angeles which will further enrich the NFL to the benefit of all. The only stumbling block on the horizon here is the need for a World Class stadium, which might look a whole lot less attractive as an investment given the new revenue sharing agreement. Still with the figures which are at stake I am sure they will sort something out.
Another positive move is the aim to improve player safety which has to be a good thing for fans too as no one wants to see their favourite star sidelined. Anyone who has played the game even at the most grass roots of level knows that those tackles hurt… a lot, and reducing the intensity of training camps and game week training will go a long way towards reducing wear and tear on the body. Just like boxers there is only so much a person can take before long term damage begins to set in and a ban any team workouts before May 1at least gives players some recovery time.
The prospect of more Thursday night games is something most fans will welcome (although many football widows won’t be so happy). Getting to see three and possibly even four games a week will offer more choice and undoubtedly boost TV revenue. Monday Night Football has become something of a tradition and there is no reason to think Thursday Night Football can’t become just as big.
So although there are still a few niggles to sort out including the Peyton Manning and Drew Brees, led antitrust lawsuit and the fate of the TV “Lock Out Insurance” which at around $4 billion is not loose change being the main ones, we can hopefully look forward to business as usual this September.