Published March 09, 2011
DALLAS -- Beyond the rich players and even wealthier team owners arguing over how to divvy up $9 billion in revenue a year, the people who would suffer most if there's no NFL season this year are those whose jobs, businesses and even charity work depend on games.
It's the 2,500 ticket-takers, janitors and other game-day employees at the Superdome in New Orleans, and Todd Roser, the suburban dry cleaner who washes all their uniforms and dry cleans for Saints players.
It's the receptionists and accountants for the New York Jets facing unpaid leave to trim payroll.
It's the Episcopal church that collects $30,000 a year from parking cars for Tennessee Titans games, and the hotel across the street from the stadium in Houston which sells out for games.
And on and on it goes, across the communities of all 32 teams.
"It's like an earthquake -- there's a ripple effect out to other people, other parts of the region," said James J. Cochran, co-author of "An Event Study of the Economic Impact of Professional Sport Franchises on Local U.S. Economies" and an associate professor in economics at Louisiana Tech University. "You can't really assume the impact is limited to the area around the stadium. You feel the shock everywhere along the way. It may not be the same shaking as at the epicenter, but you feel it."
The NFL and the players union are talking with a federal mediator to work out a new collective bargaining agreement. If they don't have a deal by Friday, the owners could lock out the players or the NFLPA might decertify and take its fight to court. Either scenario would put the NFL on a path that might wipe out some or all of the upcoming season.
To gauge the fiscal fallout of NFL games not being played, The Associated Press interviewed dozens of economists, business owners and team officials from across the country. Several themes emerged:
-- Teams would be hit hard because they collect a lot of the money spent on game days (concessions, parking, souvenirs), especially in newer stadiums designed to maximize their haul.
Local tax districts would suffer, too, most of all in places where there are tariffs on tickets or parking spots to repay stadium costs. The way things are set up in Foxborough, Massachusetts, revenue from the New England Patriots' stadium pays for big-ticket items such as school buses, school computers, highway trucks and fire engines. The town's capital budget -- the line item that would be hit -- already has been "starved out" for several years, skimping on all but the school buses, said Randy Scollins, Foxborough's finance director.
"We have a big backlog of items that deliver services to town," Scollins said. "This would only delay that more."
-- With just eight home games per regular season, game days are only a part of a worker's income -- extra hours or a second job for stadium types, a busy day at the office for the waiter at a nearby sports bar. However, it's still money they are counting on.
"The doomsday scenarios are exaggerated, but there will be innocent bystanders who are casualties of this," said John Vrooman, who teaches sports economics at Vanderbilt University. "The overall losses to these people are going to be small, but they're not small to them.
-- Overall, local economies would not see money so much lost as spent elsewhere. Fans would look to entertain themselves some other way on Sundays.
No calculation exists for the total number of people who would be affected by an NFL work stoppage, though it's certainly enough to fill a few stadiums.
The NFLPA estimates there are an average of 3,739 workers at each game, and that does not include jobs at places near the stadium that are at least partly dependent on games, such as bars, restaurants, hotels and fuel stations.
How many dollars are connected to those people also is tough to determine. The figure thrown around most is $160 million per market over the regular season. It comes from the NFLPA, which arrived at that by using estimates teams relied on to win public funding for stadium construction.
Several economists -- though not the league -- have said those estimates are overblown and it's also worth noting the figures include player salaries.
Still, a work stoppage would "hurt the people who can afford it least," Cochran said. "Nobody is looking out for their concerns."