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Sports Business

Players' union proclamation shows Polian got it wrong

March 10, 2011
KEYWORDS Sports Business

It appears Indianapolis Colts President Bill Polian got a little ahead of himself when he said in September that expanding the NFL schedule from 16 to 18 games was “fait accompli.”

Translated into modern American vernacular, fait accomplish means it’s a done deal.

“I think that the owners, and principally the commissioner, have decided that it’s the way to go, and so the debate, such as it was, is over,” Polian said on his weekly radio show. “I’ve heard recently, and I’m sorry that this didn’t get more coverage earlier, some really, really interesting commentary on it. ... I wish some of that dialogue had taken place earlier.”

Apparently the NFL Players Association didn’t get the message.

On Wednesday, NFLPA boss DeMaurice Smith said an 18-game schedule is “off the negotiating table” in collective bargaining talks with NFL owners.

Smith, speaking to a gathering of about 100 people at the union’s Washington D.C. office, said that it was “categorical that the players won’t expand the regular season from 16 to 18 games.”

“The league has never presented a formal proposal for 18 games,” Smith told Sports Illustrated. “But more importantly, it’s something that our players don’t want.”

Smith also added that the NFL owners have lowered from $1 billion to $800 million the amount of additional revenues they want to take off the top of their $9 billion business. That’s in addition to the $1 billion owners already get off the top before sharing revenue with players.

The owners have indicated that an expanded regular season schedule is one way to raise revenue to help cover league expenses—including building new stadiums.

But some players have come up with an interesting alternative that some fans are apt to like. They suggested taking regular-season games only seen on the NFL Network and packaging them as part of a regularly played Thursday night game. There’s no shortage of fans that still don’t get the NFL Network, which is usually offered as a premium cable channel, so I’m guessing that move would be a popular one.

Given that more Americans watch television on Thursday than any other night of the week, the NFL could easily raise more than the $500 million that owners project would be generated annually by expanding the regular season by two games.

ESPN pays the NFL $1.9 billion annually just to air Monday Night Football, so the projection is not a stretch.


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