Concern for 2012 Super Bowl intensifies

February 8, 2010

The Colts' loss in the Sunday's Super Bowl wasn’t the only disappointing news for Indianapolis coming out of Miami over the weekend.

For Indianapolis businesses, especially those located downtown, possibly more troublesome events transpired Saturday at a pair of meetings in the Florida city, leading to speculation that the souring relationship between NFL players and owners could jeopardize the 2012 Super Bowl at Lucas Oil Stadium. A cancellation would kill one of the biggest events the city has ever seen from an economic development standpoint.

After an hour-long meeting Saturday between the NFL Players Union and a group of team owners comprising the labor committee, then a separate meeting of all 32 owners, optimism was in short supply concerning the 2011 NFL season.

Since that season culminates in the Super Bowl that is set to be played in Indianapolis, there’s plenty to be concerned about.
Already, officials for the 2012 Super Bowl Host Committee have reserved an additional weekend in case the season—and Super Bowl—is pushed back by labor strife and a resulting work stoppage.

“The NFL has told us to continue our planning full-speed ahead,” Allison Melangton, president of Indianapolis’ host committee, said last week.

Mark Miles, committee chairman, said he has been reassured by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell that the collective bargaining agreement between players and owners will be finalized in time to preserve the 2011 season and 2012 Super Bowl. Before he departed for Miami last week, he said he is still confident that will happen.

Others aren’t so sure.

Asked how bad the impasse was this weekend—on a scale of one to 10, NFL Players Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith responded, “14.”

ESPN analyst John Clayton said if union officials and owners don’t reach a self-imposed March 5 deadline to avert a 2010 season without a salary cap, they’re on “a railway toward disaster.”

“The owners don't win by having a lockout,” Goodell responded on CBS’ "Face the Nation" airing from Miami on Sunday. “Shutting down your business is not good for anybody.”

Goodell told CBS that the league needs to rework its deal with players because it needs more money to build and upgrade stadiums, and grow the game internationally.

Smith responded by saying the owners want the players to take an 18-percent pay cut even while league revenue has reached record levels of $8 billion. He also charged that Goodell and team owners are not sharing all the league’s financial information with the union.

When the owners and union leaders last agreed on a contract in 2006, they inserted language about having a salary-capless season in 2010 as a poison pill to both sides. It looks like both sides are prepared to swallow that distasteful medicine.

The owners don’t like not having a cap because they will have to pay marquee players much more money. Players don’t care for it because free-agency stipulations become more stringent and lower-level players could be paid far less because mandates on salary minimums are also erased.

Owners have promised for months that if they cannot hammer out an agreement governing how NFL revenue is divided among players and owners, they will institute a player lockout.

“There’s a lot of saber-rattling right now,” said Milt Thompson, president of locally based Grand Slam Cos., and a former professional sports agent. “But if they don’t get worked out, it could well delay, or I suppose, cancel the 2011 season. You’d hope, with the kind of money that's at stake, they’d get this worked out.

“But, either way, there’s not a lot the local [Super Bowl] host committee can do other than work its business plan and make contingencies the best it can.”

There’s been more than $25 million in private money invested locally in hosting the Super Bowl. Sports business experts estimate the economic impact of the Super Bowl on the local economy will be about $450 million.

Complicating this round of labor negotiations is a separate fight breaking out between large-market and small-market owners. In general, large-market owners are fighting to keep more of their revenue, while small-market teams like Indianapolis are eager to continue revenue-sharing, which they feel is important to maintain the league’s competitive balance.

Goodell told ESPN Radio Sunday that it’s important to protect all NFL markets, pointing out that Sunday’s Super Bowl featured two small-market teams and a slew of intriguing story lines.

“Indianapolis has turned into a real football community,” Goodell said, “and that’s a great story for us.”


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