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May 05, 2009

Roger Goodell: Leading the Charge for the NFL

Brian Belardi
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For the National Football League, the off-season is anything but uneventful. From the frenzy surrounding the league’s annual draft to decisions about the league’s Collective Bargaining Agreement to the question of whether to expand the regular season to 18 games, these warmer months are crunch time for the world’s most successful and popular sports league.

In an April 23 talk with students sponsored by the Sports Business Association and led by Matthew Hill ’09, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell discussed many of the major issues currently facing the league.

On increasing the marketing push behind the NFL Draft.
“People have a great interest in our game. And we’ve tried to show that the game isn’t just on Sundays and Mondays in the fall, that there’s a game in the offseason, as well. It’s in how teams prepare for the coming season, how they select players, evaluate players, how they manage the salary cap, how they train. All of that goes into how successful a team will be. What we’ve tried to do is expose the fans to that.”

On renegotiating the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement.
“The CBA is at the core of our economics. Sixty percent of our gross revenue goes to players. That’s a pretty good business for the players. For the owners, particularly in this climate, it’s a risky proposition. And I think that’s what they want to evaluate — how do we get better recognition of the costs associated with creating that revenue? Obviously we have significant TV and media contracts, but more and more the revenue is being created on the local level with stadiums. In New York, the stadium across the river is going to probably cost $1.8 billion. That’s all privately financed. That risk in the marketplace is one that the owners have to bear; the players don’t bear that. But they’re the biggest beneficiaries.”

On playing regular season games outside the United States.
“International growth is important to us. Up until three years ago we had a different strategy — we invested in NFL Europe. What the fans eventually realized is that it wasn’t the best quality product. And when we played preseason games there, they understood it then, too. So we said, listen, we can’t sell to our international fan base what we couldn’t sell here in the United States. So we started taking regular season games there. And this year we sold out 90,000 tickets in the UK, in a terrible market, nine months in advance — in four hours.”

On expanding the NFL’s regular season schedule to 18 games.
“What we’re trying to do is what most organizations are trying to do: create greater value for our customers. It’s no secret that the quality of our preseason suffers because many of the more prominent players don’t play and because the games don’t count toward the regular season standings. We’re charging our customers for that, and I think it’s wrong for us to do that to our fans. We can create the same high quality programming and content in the regular season with only two preseason games. So the question is, can we convert two of the preseason games to regular season games so you will get a higher quality product for the same value? But we have to determine the unintended consequences of that, and that’s why I haven’t taken a position on it yet.

Photo credit: Ryan Lejbak