NEW YORK – The average value for NFL teams has fallen for the first time since Forbes began keeping track in 1998.
The magazine released its annual ranking of NFL team values Wednesday, and it found larger-market teams have weathered the rough economy far better than their smaller counterparts. Overall, the average value decreased 2 percent from last year to $1.022 billion.
None of the top 12 franchises lost more than 3 percent of their value. The bottom six dropped by 5 percent to 16 percent.
"Just like housing, people never thought it would go down," said Marc Ganis, president of Chicago-based consulting company Sports Corp. Ltd.
Not even the NFL is immune to the economic downturn, he said, but the league is still in much better shape than many other properties that have plummeted in value. Revenues aren't a problem, but the NFL needs to get costs under control, he said.
"It's still a very strong product," he said. "It's still a very strong asset people want to invest in."
The Dallas Cowboys remained the league's richest team, and widened the gap between themselves and the rest of the NFL. They're now worth $1.805 billion, their value increasing a league-best 9 percent.
On the other end of the spectrum was Jacksonville. The struggling Jaguars lost 16 percent of their value to fall to last place at $725 million. The St. Louis Rams lost 15 percent of their value and the Buffalo Bills 12 percent.
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello declined comment.
The second-highest valued team, the Washington Redskins, remained steady at $1.55 billion. The New England Patriots, New York Giants and Houston Texans rounded out the top five.
The league average remained steady from 2008 to 2009 at $1.042 billion. Last year's rankings saw eight teams losing value, while 18 increased.
This time, the value of 20 of the 32 teams declined. Only the Cowboys, Texans, Indianapolis Colts, New Orleans Saints (who won their first Super Bowl) and San Francisco 49ers went up.
In a good sign for the NFL, though, CBS executives said Tuesday that ad sales had been extremely strong for this season.
(This version CORRECTS Corrects number of teams with declining value.)