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As far as labor agreement goes, 18-game season already is a done deal

As the belated debate regarding the wisdom of an 18-game season finally has begun to unfold (and, as we’ve previously said, we think that “enhancement” of the season should end at 17 games), we need to reiterate a little-known point that we first raised in May 2010, but that has gotten lost in the shuffle.

Regarding the question of whether the union will or won’t agree to add two regular-season games, the reality is that the union already has agreed.

Under Article XXXVIII, Section 12 of the CBA, the league possesses the ability
to increase the regular season to 18 games.  The only question not resolved is the
specific amount of money that would be paid to the players for the extra
games.  (The matter would go to arbitration if the league and the union couldn’t reach an accord.)

Under Article XXXVII, Section 6, the league is required to use its “best efforts to hold no more than four preseason games.”

Thus, the NFLPA has agreed to stage up to 22 preseason and regular-season games per year.

The union likely would respond to this reality by pointing out that the league could have played 18 regular-season games in 2011 and 2012 if the league had opted not to cancel the current labor agreement two years early, and that termination of the CBA wipes the slate clean.  But the dynamics of collective bargaining put the union in the position of having to negotiate their agreement to play 18 games out of the deal, which means that the players will have to make a significant concession if the league were to agree to remain at 16 games.

Of course, the same logic applies to the league, which wants to scrap the current system for compensating players, shrinking the slice the players get under the promise of enhancing the total size of the pie.

Regardless of the traditional rituals of the bargaining process, the issue of “enhancement” to the regular season could only exacerbate the tensions between the two sides.  In the end, the players likely will agree to it — but only if the price is right.

In setting the price, the players and the league need to keep two important points in mind.  First, adding two games increases by more than 10 percent the number of live reps to which players are exposed each year, which means that the chances of suffering a serious injury increase for each player by more than 10 percent.  Second, adding those games increases the chronic wear and tear on every player; for example, playing eight seasons with 18 games equates to nine seasons with 16.  The compensation for each player needs to take these short-term and long-term consequences into account.

Also, the league needs to be certain that adding two weeks to the regular season will add enough revenue to justify the potential impact on the players.  Some think it’s a linear relationship, and that the same average amount of cash generated each week during a 17-week schedule will be realized in weeks 18 and 19.  We’re not so sure that this is the case, and the reality is that no one will know the answer until it’s too late to turn back.

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24 Responses to “As far as labor agreement goes, 18-game season already is a done deal”
  1. TheDPR says: Sep 30, 2010 9:33 AM

    I’m not sure why the old agreement has anything to do with the new one. Sure, human nature says that it probably will, but legally why does it have to? I don’t think it does.

  2. TheBozforPresIn2012 says: Sep 30, 2010 9:35 AM

    “We’re not so sure that this is the case, and the reality is that no one will know the answer until it’s too late to turn back.”
    Sounds like health care…

  3. myeaglescantwin says: Sep 30, 2010 9:37 AM

    They better re-work the health care plans for these players. How can they expect players to remain healthy all season long. We have players droppin like flies already. . The average age of the NFL will drop to 25 in no time.
    Way to go you money hungry owners. How dare they let greed and television corporations dictate the course of our NFL. . disgusting.

  4. Austskate says: Sep 30, 2010 9:43 AM

    Surprised I’ve never seen this before.. Good spot Florio. Looks like its pretty much set in stone that we’re moving to 18 games. Personally I’d rather keep it at 16 or at most go with 17 as you said. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.

  5. BigBear123 says: Sep 30, 2010 9:48 AM

    Clearly a bargaining chip. NFL winding up to bitch slap DeSmith, and it’s a wonderful thing.
    17 seems better. Try cutting one preseason game and add one regular season game to start. Just adding 2 regular season games seems too much too fast. Playoffs will be a bunch of people who rested for 3 weeks or players beat up and very tired. Doesn’t sound like intriguing match ups.

  6. JohnnyFootballHero says: Sep 30, 2010 9:49 AM

    22 games a year (18 regular + 4 preseason) is too much. I thought the whole point of an 18-game season was to get rid of two preseason games, no?

  7. Dustin Chandler says: Sep 30, 2010 9:57 AM

    thanks for ruining football.

  8. PFTiswhatitis says: Sep 30, 2010 9:59 AM

    This STH is not paying anymore for his tickets. They can keep them if they try to increase the price anymore.

  9. Insomniac says: Sep 30, 2010 10:00 AM

    The TV contracts may already have language about increases to the number of regular season games.

  10. Sneki says: Sep 30, 2010 10:03 AM

    Not a fan of changing to 18…too much wear and tear on these guys already, much of which we are only slowly beginning to understand related to the long-term impacts. How many of our favorite players are going to be dead by 50?

  11. green man says: Sep 30, 2010 10:05 AM

    Wow, every week we read more and more about games being blacked out due to low attendance. now they want to add more games and dilute the product even more?

  12. 8man says: Sep 30, 2010 10:11 AM

    I don’t believe it is linear. When the league renegotiates with the networks they can charge more because it is a bigger package. The same for Dish network or whoever carries NFL Ticket.
    Further, Goodell wants to take this thing global. There is no limit to what they can make. But they already know there will be a limit on what they pay the players.
    Hey. It’s just like a movie. The actors get paid for making the movie. The studios take the risk and enjoy whatever profits are made on screen and DVD.
    Move on.

  13. PackerFanTastic says: Sep 30, 2010 10:26 AM

    Mike,
    Could the fans actually benefit from this. One STH above indicated he wouldn’t pay more for his tickets, but with 18 games would teams get creative with season ticket packages. For example options of a 9 game package or three 3-game packages, etc. This would allow more fans to become STH.
    Another point, I understand your reason for suggesting to expand to 17 games instead of 18, but I think the teams want an even number so each team has the same number of home and away games. Unless, of course, one of the games is played at a neutral site in a non-NFL city.

  14. Huskersrock says: Sep 30, 2010 10:27 AM

    Thge current labor deal still governs the NFL and the owners are making thge decision now. Case closed. This is just a bargaining ploy, and a good one at that.

  15. Philly Cheese says: Sep 30, 2010 10:37 AM

    I hope they also take into account the poor attendance for the last four or five games of the regular season for teams that are terrible and long since eliminated from playoff contention. Those owners are going to want an even larger revenue sharing portion than they already receive. Or the season ticket holders paying full price to watch the backups play for their team who is resting their starters or protecting them from injury after they have already clinched the division or playoff berth. That already sucks with a sixteen game schedule.
    I would love to have more football but the reality is that by forcing more games the product becomes weaker. How these owners came to be billionaires is beyond me when every other person can plainly see that they are screwing with a golden goose that doesn’t need to be screwed with.

  16. buzmeg says: Sep 30, 2010 10:39 AM

    After an 18 game schedule, plus the playoffs, the SuperBowl could very well turn into the wheelchair bowl, similar to the Special Olympics.

  17. StillMadAtSlobber says: Sep 30, 2010 10:44 AM

    This paragraph has some interesting ramifications
    “Also, the league needs to be certain that adding two weeks to the regular season will add enough revenue to justify the potential impact on the players. Some think it’s a linear relationship, and that the same average amount of cash generated each week during a 17-week schedule will be realized in weeks 18 and 19. We’re not so sure that this is the case, and the reality is that no one will know the answer until it’s too late to turn back.”
    If I understand things, the league cannot charge more money. They are already charging full price for the 4 preseason games. 2 of these will be regular season game now. Thus there is no increase in revenue from ticket sales. Concessions and Parking, undoubtedly given the expected increase and attendance for “real” games.
    So that leaves the broadcasters (and advertisers) then.

  18. Auz says: Sep 30, 2010 10:57 AM

    I love the idea of 18 games. I really don’t understand the arguments coming from the people that are against expanding the regular season. The main argument that I see is that the players health are at risk. The players are at risk stepping on the field for just one NFL football game. The players get paid millions (MILLIONS) to play a sport at which they know that their bodies are at risk.
    Most people in America don’t get compensated for the long term physical and mental problems that they are exposed to. Do call center reps get compensated for hearing loss over a long period of time? Do carpet installers get compensated for wearing down their bodies over a short/long periods of time? The athletes are making way too much money as it is, and we are complaining for the athletes?
    How about we lobby for a financial cap on all NFL players and sporting franchises and lobby that a portion of the billions of dollars go right back to the public. Our economy is in the dumps, most of us are going down flaming, and the athletes have millions. I don’t think spending 54,000 on dinner is a good way to show off what you do with your money. I would play football for a FRACTION of what these guys are making and I promise you would get my all. Bring on the 18 game season.

  19. LAEaglefan says: Sep 30, 2010 11:34 AM

    “How these owners came to be billionaires is beyond me when every other person can plainly see that they are screwing with a golden goose that doesn’t need to be screwed with.”
    There’s a very simple answer to that. Its called “greed”.

  20. Steve W. says: Sep 30, 2010 11:46 AM

    Just one problem with the “they already agreed to it argument”. That agreement was a part of the last cba. The owners decided to opt out of that cba before putting that clause into effect. As such, the clause is no longer valid, and must again be negotiated into the new cba. Of course, as the owners have the most leverage in the negotiation, that will almost assuredly happen. It’s just a matter of what the offset will be.

  21. Furkmyster says: Sep 30, 2010 11:54 AM

    Best article on this subject in a really long time, nice going Florio. A question for you.
    Where do the owners feel they are going to get a lot more money from?
    The TV networks? Maybe here, but extra meaningless games at the end of the season won’t do much for ratings, buzz, etc. And will this amount really be a 12.5% bump?
    The ticket paying public? Season ticket holders already pay for the luxury of having an extra meaningless pre-season game, there won’t be new money there.
    The league sponsors? Yeah right.
    With the new labour agreement, the owners want more money back from the players and an increase in the schedule. I don’t see Goodell winning this battle.

  22. smilergrogan says: Sep 30, 2010 11:55 AM

    If the owners have decided they can’t live under the terms of the current CBA, why would the provisions of that agreement then apply to the players if the ownership has oped out?
    Your assumption that the abandoned agreement forms the basis for negotiating the next one is only true if both parties agree that is the best course.
    So this post really says nothing, but does generate page views. good work florio.

  23. NoHomeTeam says: Sep 30, 2010 12:34 PM

    # PackerFanTastic says: ” Another point, I understand your reason for suggesting to expand to 17 games instead of 18, but I think the teams want an even number so each team has the same number of home and away games. Unless, of course, one of the games is played at a neutral site in a non-NFL city.
    Exactly. That’s why 17 is better than 18. Best possible way to expand interest in the NFL is to bring the NFL to markets where there is no team. Like London. And Mexico City. And Los Angeles.

  24. Bious says: Sep 30, 2010 2:40 PM

    It is pathetic that NO fans want this, NO media writers want this, NO players want this….but the owners want it PURELY for money
    What a joke

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