As the National Football League owners sit down with the NFL Players Association in the coming weeks, there will be three highly contested issues that need to be resolved in order for a new Collective Bargaining Agreement to be reached.
The expansion of the schedule from 16 to 18 games is an issue in which the greed of the owners will go head-to-head with the protective focus of the union. The owners are naturally after more revenue, as the ticket sales and larger TV contracts would be welcomed with open arms. The union sees this as an absolute atrocity given that the players would become more exposed to injury, an issue that has received a great deal of attention lately with the severity of concussions visible across several professional sports leagues.
The league proposes to tame this injury panic with an expanded roster and fewer pre-season games. Unless the league offers more of a financial incentive than a slight boost in salary with two more games and more assurances that injuries won’t dramatically increase, the union is unlikely to budge on this issue.
The second substantial issue at the negotiating table will be a rookie wage scale. Fortunately, both sides stand to benefit from this, making it a far less challenging obstacle than the 18-game schedule. The way things currently stand, rookies are awarded contracts without any restrictions and the result is that many rookies are making substantially more money than proven players before they even play a down in the NFL.
That doesn’t sit well with the owners, but because they seem willing to put that money elsewhere, the union is not completely opposed to a rookie wage scale. A rookie wage scale would predetermine specific contracts for rookies, with the amount descending with each pick in the draft. If the NFL and commissioner Roger Goodell agree that the money previously spent on rookies would inevitably find its way into the pockets of veteran players or their pensions, this issue could be solved rather quickly.
The final issue that needs to be resolved is the disclosure of the revenues generated by each NFL team. Since the NFL is not a publicly traded company, they have no obligation to disclose their financial books, but that doesn’t stop the union from demanding it.
The union feels that they can’t appropriately establish what concessions the NFL should make if they lack the knowledge of how much money their players are generating for the owners. The NFL has been very adamant that this information should remain private, but it might concede defeat on this issue in order to gain leverage for negotiating other topics.
While further analysis of the CBA negotiations seems to require a PhD in industrial relations, these are the key issues that are at play right now. If resolved, they could pave the way to another exciting football season. If not, a lockout could take place. For better or for worse, these three issues will influence the future of the NFL.
But whatever the influence on the NFL, if there is a strike, the NHL will reap the benefits because of the lack of football. Fans need an outlet and the NHL fill the void left with television networks for Sunday afternoons and Monday nights. ESPN, NBC, and CBS will need to acquire contracts from the NHL to fill the timeslots left by the NFL and hockey fans can look forward to this as more games would be broadcast everyday. Hopefully it will not come to this, as the fans have already suffered enough through professional lockouts, such as the NHL lockout five years ago. The NHL lost out on billions of dollars which could very well be the case for the NFL and everyone involved with the league. Hopefully this question won’t even need to be discussed in a week’s time, and the fans can look forward to yet another exciting season.