Three issues that could derail Indy's 2012 Super Bowl

July 27, 2010
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The 2010 National Football League season is ready to kick-off. But there are some Indianapolis leaders who should be more concerned about next season.

There’s no more denying the fight brewing between players and owners could eat into the 2011 regular season and jeopardize, or at the very least, postpone, the 2012 Super Bowl set to be played in Lucas Oil Stadium.

There’s a presumption that the looming labor dispute between NFL owners and the players’ union is all about money.

Well, sure it’s about money. But there are other big issues that could derail negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement. And if we’re sitting here at this time next year with no deal, the owners have promised to lock players out and are threatening to cancel games.

There’s a misnomer that as long as the owners and players hammer out an agreement by the start of the regular season, all will be good. The truth is, if they don’t get a deal done by the beginning of training camp, the season will almost certainly be delayed. The union will insist on time for players to prepare, even if it’s some sort of abbreviated training camp and pre-season schedule. Sure, these guys are pros, but they still need time to train and coaches need time to evaluate their talent before a regular season can begin.

All this posturing between owners and players is bad news for Indianapolis. The worst case scenario; No season = no Super Bowl. And poof, there goes $450 million in economic impact and the opportunity to showcase Indy to a whole new audience. That's the worst case scenario, but there are a plethora of contentious, complicated issues players and owners must settle, so you can't completely rule it out.

Already local organizers are laying out contingency plans if the game needs to be moved back a week or two. That may be a best case scenario.

So if it’s not just money, what are the issues? Well, here are three that are sure to take center stage when this boxing match between owners and players commences in earnest in a couple months.

Personal conduct of players. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell already has shown he’s ready to drop the hammer on players behaving badly. Now, owners want to have the right not to pay players who can’t play for a number reasons—especially those of their own doing—and even those that injure themselves in things like motorcycle crashes or during domestic disputes or have self-inflicted gunshot wounds.

Expect players and agents to put up a big fight against this. After all, you can’t expect a player to forgo pay if he cuts his finger sawing a steak.

The NFL players union wants health benefits for all retired NFL (and AFL) players and funds set up to help those in need, especially those dealing with debilitating football injuries. Owners won’t want to seem like the bad guys here, but neither do they want to open a Pandora’s box that will cost them tens (or even hundreds) of millions of dollars years into the future. The cost of healthcare isn’t going down.

The third issue that may get thrown onto the collective bargaining table is the expansion of the season from 16 to 18 games. Not even the players can agree on this one. Some don’t mind, and invite two more real games and two fewer pre-season games. Most players fear it will lead to more injuries and no more pay.

Owners want it because it allows them to negotiate higher national TV deals going forward as well as drive other incremental revenue streams skyward. The fans, especially season ticket holders forced to buy tickets for pre-season games as part of their package, are strongly in favor of it.

Expect the players’ union to argue for an expanded roster if the schedule grows by two games. The owners, however, won’t want to shell out the extra coin for additional players. The NFL salary cap in 2009 was at $128 million and small market teams like the Colts won’t be excited about adding to that—certainly not to add players to the roster. Although with Colts President Bill Polian’s ability to find diamonds in the rough, it could be to the team’s advantage competitively.

Of course there are other issues that are bound to surface. And all will be as complex, or more so, than the hurdles listed above.

You can see why the city of Dallas and the Cowboys’ pushy owner, Jerry Jones, barged in front of Indianapolis to get the 2011 Super Bowl. By all rights, that’s the Super Bowl Indy should have gotten. The game was quasi promised to the city if we built LOS, and our facility was done long before the Cowboys’ castle. At the time, the city shrugged it off, and happily accepted the 2012 game.

But what looked like a wispy cloud on a distant horizon when Indianapolis was awarded the 2012 Super Bowl in 2008, is fast turning into an ominous looking storm. And Jerry Jones is looking like quite the meteorologist.

  • Agree that is why Jones got the 2011 game.

    Not sure not having the Superbowl is the worst scenario. Worst would be having it with a very shortened season or with replacement players. If fans are turned off, we could host a Superbowl where no one came.

    At least without having the 2012 Superbowl, one would think the NFL would automatically put us in line for the next available one. What should really happen is all host cities should be moved back a year. We get 2013 and so forth. I am betting there is a clause in the contract that would prohibit Indy from suing the NFL for breach if there is not a Superbowl
  • 2013 wouldn't happen
    The NFL doesn't have a back up plan and neither does the city. More than likely if we don't have the Super Bowl in 2012 we wouldn't get it until the next free year that a super bowl hasn't been awarded which I think is after 2016.
  • lost $$$ for city
    Oh man, if Indy's Super Bowl is delayed until 2016, the financial ramifications for the city are enormous. How do you plan for a huge event in 2012, then are suddenly told you have to put it on hold for four years. Holy cow!
  • BC
    I, like most of you, love to detest Jerry Jones and the Goliath-type personality he has. However, keep in mind he actually helped Irsay and persuaded many of the other owners to vote FOR Indianapolis in receiving the 2012 Super Bowl. If memory serves me correctly, the final vote was pretty close (something like 17-15). Jones spoke up and gave a recommendation to Irsay/Indianapolis, stating that he/our community has earned the right to host the pantheon of all events and has paid our 'dues' to the NFL as a small market.
  • devil's advocate
    Let me play Devil's advocate here. Maybe Jerry Jones took pity on Indy after he stole the 2011 Super Bowl away from the city and Colts. Or worse yet, maybe he pushed for Indy, knowing this would indeed be a troubled Super Bowl given the labor rift, and thinking that it would be better if it went to a second class, small market, cold weather city, gave the nod to Indianapolis. NFL gets to keep its promise and Indy unwittingly gets a Super Bowl nobody really wanted. I bet if Jim Irsay and city officials had it to do over again, they'd rather have the 2013 Super Bowl right about now. Thanks for the favor Jerry. Really appreciate the vote of confidence!
  • Wouldn't happen.
    There is no way that the NFL would go without a Super bowl - they would loose too much revenue off the advertisements. Next to the World Cup, the Super bowl is the biggest sporting event in the world.

    I understand that there is a little hard ball being played here with the player's union, but at the end of the day the NFL will do what it has to in order to bring closure on this and ensure the Super bowl is held, even if it is delayed a bit.
  • Whatever...
    Do you really think the NFL will allow an entire season, including the SuperBowl, to be cancelled. There is no way that will ever happen. There is way too much money at stake, and they won't risk losing the momentum that the NFL has gained in the last 10 years.
  • I think the answer to those questions depends on how many egos get involved. Especially the rich owners have more to lose from an unfavorable contract then the poor ones. One bad 5 year contract could cost them much more than one bad year.
  • Still here, but what quality
    I don't think the NFL will go without a Super Bowl, but if it is with replacement players or a shortened season what is the interest going to be in that Super Bowl? I don't think the game would sellout or be viewed by very many. I am with a few in saying that is why they gave this one to Indy. So what if it is a shortened season or replacement players, it's only Indy. I think that was the mentality in the voting.
  • replacement players
    There will be no replacement players if there is a lockout or strike. There is something in the current deal that does not allow replacement players. Either real players or nothing.
  • So What
    If the city loses the superbowl so what? we host a number of big events (indy 500, Brickyard, final fours, Men's and women's Big Ten Tournaments, IBE, Circle City Classic, other conventions, etc.) the problem if we loose it is the wait for 4-5 years to get back in line. also the strike is a one sided affair. the players won't be making money during a strike and the owners (by contract) will still get paid for tv rights even though no games are being played. think about it. if I'm an owner still making money and not having to spend any do i care when the strike is settled? the players better hurry up and get it done because the have a lot to lose. personally i love football but honestly don't think this city is ready for something as big as a superbowl.
  • remember 1982?
    For those who don't think a long lockout is possible for the 2011 NFL season, might want to check their history books considering the 1982 season. The NFL owners have closets full of axes and from time to time like to grind them. And to Peabody's point, they still have a revenue stream flowing in lockout or not. Those good folks in charge of the 2012 Super Bowl committee best get positioning themselves for some serious negotiations with the NFL if the season is compromised. The city should be made financially whole.
  • Paula Nancy Millstone Jennings
    $450 million is WAY inflated according to independent studies conducted on Tampa's last Super Bowl. The NFL likes to throw that number around... it gets repeated a LOT. Reality in Tampa was closer to 50-70 million. Think too how much of that stays in the city, a whopping portion goes to the towns where the service provider's headquarters is located. Marriott International, Bethesda MD. Aramark, Philadelphia, PA. You get the picture. Consider that expanded seating for the Stadium is 71,000 - that would mean that each person attending the game would be spending over $6,000 dollars each on average during their visit. Yikes.
  • A couple of issues with your statement. First, the impact will be bigger in Indy than in the south because that is their prime tourist season. Indy not so much. So their hotels and businesses are already full...ours, not so much.

    71,000 are those who come to the game. It is estimated, like final fours, that 3 to 4 times that number are in town for the festivities. and $2,000-$3,000 per person average is not that unusual. Hotels will run $1,000 or more for a three day minimum stay. Food, entertainment, shopping etc... it does not take long to add up.

    So the hotels and businesses do not pay property taxes, income taxes, salaries, supplies, etc....? These are all dollars, outside dollars, that stay here. Not to mention that two of the largest hotel owners downtown are Indiana based businesses, Dora Brothers in Fishers and White Lodging in Merriville. That the largest mall owner in the world is Simon in Indy so money spent at Circle Center, Greenwood, Castleton all stays here. Add to it the locally owned restaurants like Scottys, St. Elmos, Shapiros etc... and you have a great chunk of that money here. So it is not as bad as you think. It is probably not 400mil, but it is definitly not $70mil. Probably $200+ mil. Not to mention the weeks of free publicity for Indy that will beam across the world. That is priceless.

  • Paula Nancy Millstone Jennings
    From; "Two years ago, the Houston Super Bowl Host Committee estimated that its game would generate more than $330 million in economic impact. But when the controller's office tallied the numbers, it came up with only $129 million in direct spending, and that was over the two-week period surrounding the game. The event generated $3.2 million in sales taxes for the city, and the net profit was a measly $913,397." Read the full story here -
  • Paula Nancy Millstone Jennings
    "That the largest mall owner in the world is Simon in Indy so money spent at Circle Center, Greenwood, Castleton all stays here." Hmmm. Simon is getting that rent from those retailers no matter what happens that month. Are all the shops in the Simon malls Indiana based? I Don't think so. So only a small portion of that money would stay here.

    Sure Indy will get national exposure but to say it's priceless is a bit of a stretch. I also think you overestimate the popularity of American Football outside North America. But if the country will be looking at Indiana... I hope we can at least get some of our pot holes fixed before the big weekend.
  • Paula Nancy Millstone Jennings
    "That the largest mall owner in the world is Simon in Indy so money spent at Circle Center, Greenwood, Castleton all stays here." Hmmm. Simon is getting that rent from those retailers no matter what happens that month. Are all the shops in the Simon malls Indiana based? I Don't think so. So only a small portion of that money would stay here.

    Sure Indy will get national exposure but to say it's priceless is a bit of a stretch. I also think you overestimate the popularity of American Football outside North America. But if the country will be looking at Indiana... I hope we can at least get some of our pot holes fixed before the big weekend.
  • Paula Nancy Millstone Jennings
    Why do the taxpayers of Indiana have to subsidize the NFL? An analysis of Super Bowl XXXVIII in Houston showed that the Texas taxpayers where left on the hook for 2.2 million. Sure some businesses who can afford to "pay to play" will profit nicely from the superbowl but it's just more corporate welfare for already successful businesses if the taxpayers foot the bill. So hoodwinked? Nope. We begged to get the shaft.

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