As the NFL and the NFL Players Association run head first into the expiration of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement; a new S&P report finds that the NFL owners could likely weather a two-year lockout if they so choose.

S&P analyzed the books of several teams and stadium deals to come up with their final analysis. S&P said the league has roughly $9 billion in shared revenue annually, with the majority of that coming from TV rights and advertising agreements.

S&P said the league’s national television contracts are worth roughly $4 billion in 2011 alone. The networks will continue to pay the league, even if the games are not played. However, the NFLPA has challenged this in court.

The proceeds from the television contracts amount to roughly two-thirds of overall league revenues and according to S&P, could cover a majority of the 32 teams’ full-season costs.

On the flip side, the NFL will have to repay the networks any amounts paid to the league during a work stoppage, plus interest, once the games start up again.

In addition to the payments the league will receive regardless of whether games are played, the Sports Business Journal found that a nearly $1 billion reserve has been built for teams to access if play stops.

S&P said that based on the money coming into the NFL, that the league’s business risk was viewed “favorably.” The ratings agency also said that the hard salary-cap is one of the league’s credit strengths.

This could impact the NBA which is about to go through a more vicious collective bargaining session once the current season ends. The NBA has no hard salary-cap.

In the end, S&P said that even if there is a prolonged work stoppage in the NFL, fans would come back to games fairly quickly. Even during the scab player controversy in 1987, the last NFL work stoppage, the league bounced back to normal attendance levels in just 2 years.

This report from S&P gives the NFL a significant edge in the bargaining, especially considering the ease with which many players dispose of money. The NFLPA has warned players to have plenty of money in reserve to survive a work stoppage, but many haven’t listened.

The NFLPA’s last hope will remain with Judge Doty, who oversees the process between the NFL and NFLPA. If Doty rules the league can’t receive the television revenue, the NFL will be cut off at the knees and be forced to negotiate from a different position.

Judge Doty hasn’t made any rulings while the two sides negotiate, but he will likely rule if the stalemate continues past Thursday with no negotiations ongoing.


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