Fan-free season could spark $5.5 billion loss for NFL

Getty Images

If the NFL plays a season without fans in the stands, it’s a given that the NFL will lose money.

Mike Ozanian of Forbes.com estimates that loss at a staggering $5.5 billion.

That’s the sum of lost ticket revenue, concessions, parking, and merchandise sales, if all games are played without fans. It would amount to 38 percent of the league’s total revenue, based on 2018 numbers.

The absence of fans would hit some teams harder than others. As explained by Ozanian, the Cowboys and Patriots would lose more than half their total revenue. Other teams, like the Bills, Titans, and Bengals, would lose less than a third.

It’s unclear whether and to what extent games will be played without fans. It’s possible that some states will allow stadiums to be open, and that others won’t. It’s also possible that medical advances in the coming weeks and months (such as a greater understanding of what it means to test positive for coronavirus antibodies) will make it easier to open stadiums and invite fans at low or no risk for developing COVID-19.

Any money lost in 2020 will potentially affect the 2021 salary cap. As recently explained, however, the league and the union set the annual spending limit via negotiation, and it’s possible that the two sides will agree to, for example, borrow against future salary caps in order to keep the 2021 cap at or near where it otherwise would have been.

Whether the revenue actually drops remains to be seen, and it will be determined by plenty of factors beyond the control of the league.

75 responses to “Fan-free season could spark $5.5 billion loss for NFL

  1. That’s the sum of lost ticket revenue, concussions, parking, and merchandise sales, if all games are played without fans. It would amount to 38 percent of the league’s total revenue, based on 2018 numbers.
    =============
    Concussions? Who knew there was such a price on lost concussions…

  2. Gee, what a shame. Let us pass around a collection plate for $40 million man Goodell, and all of the billionaire owners.

  3. They may lose that much this year but they’ll get it out of the fans eventually, they always do

  4. Oh no. Millionaires and billionaires facing economic reality? How ever will they afford their multi-million dollar yachts and ferraris? Cry me a friggin river. Let’s focus on the fans and how many of them have lost their jobs, businesses, etc. Sorry but this just rubs me the wrong way.

  5. Way more fans will be watching the games on tv. Jackup the cost for purchasing commercials and advertising. Problem solved.

  6. it’s NOT a loss, it is just not income, they will still make plenty of money from advertising and tv contracts, stop mis reporting things and make it sound like these billionaires are actually losing money by playing- so sick of the rich stepping on the down trodden who are losing their houses, struggling to eat decent food and get some kind of medical help if needed- maddening how reporters and others are buying into this fallacy

  7. Before everyone jumps on the “oh poor rich people” bashing bandwagon, consider all of the employees who run those concession & merch stands, parking, seating attendants, etc., etc., etc. (I couldn’t even begin to name all of the jobs that are performed at a stadium on any given Sunday).

    A lot of people who would otherwise have a means of employment will be affected by this, not just the players & owners.

  8. They’ve got guys getting paid double the average American’s ANNUAL salary for EACH TIME they attempt a pass. Maybe they should start a gofundme.

  9. Problem as I see it is the players are never going to take a pay cut, the NFL & owners are never going to accept this loss…therefore, they are going make it up off the backs of their fans. Might take a few years but they’ll figure a way to come out on top.

    This stone has run out of blood…I’ll watch at a bar and never purchase official NFL gear again.

  10. Something to think about for those players who said they were looking forward to playing without the fans….

  11. After reading an article about games being played without fans I saw quite a few people commented that ticket sales didn’t mean that much since as they said “the NFL makes most of their money on TV deals”. Well I did the math and I commented on those figures I came up with of somewhere between a $5BIL to $7BIL they’ll lose if they play without fans all season and also included how that was about 38-48% of the NFL’s revenue for a year, that’s a pretty huge hit and they told me how crazy I was, well I pretty much hit the nail directly on the head!

  12. dabears2485 says:
    May 20, 2020 at 9:48 am
    Before everyone jumps on the “oh poor rich people” bashing bandwagon, consider all of the employees who run those concession & merch stands, parking, seating attendants, etc., etc., etc. (I couldn’t even begin to name all of the jobs that are performed at a stadium on any given Sunday).

    A lot of people who would otherwise have a means of employment will be affected by this, not just the players & owners.
    __________________________

    WHOA, wait a minute! You trying to tell us that there are a ton of people that get by on working one day a week, game day?

    NAH I don’t think so, for most of those people it’s just added income!

  13. And quite a few are idiots because they are volunteers and work for the billionaires for free!

  14. I know the Packers have $360M in their preservation fund (no deep-pocketed owner). Davis of the Raiders has money, but a lot of debt with new stadium–but he is not a billionaire. I would suspect those two franchises have the most to lose, given their current financial resources, and the impact it would have on their balance sheet.

  15. “…the Cowboys and Patriots would lose more than half their total revenue.”

    And the bad news is…?

  16. All those teams signing those QB contracts expecting the cap to rise each year are in for a surprise.

  17. They are not “losing” any money. They are simply not making a larger profit. The mindset offered here is the same backwards logic the government uses. They can propose spending 5 trillion more than normal but then pass 4 trillion of it and call that extra money spent a 20% savings.

  18. Then play it with fans. Us who want to attend will go. Those who are hesitant will stay home. Funny how that works when you can make your own choices.

  19. Good.

    Maybe after going through the same pain that many people go through, teams and the NFL will start treating people right for a change.

  20. So why not allow pay per view available to all for just this year to make up for the potential loss?

  21. That is $5.5 billion that isn’t going to be spread around the economy. Not only is that helping stadium employees and local businesses, but also what do you think those players and owners do with the money? While some is saved, MOST IS SPENT!

    Some people think a $4 million house = horrid greed and nothing more

    Reality of a $4 million house = Work going to the local plumbers who install pipes, the local granite retailer who cuts and installs countertops getting paid, food on the table for all the workers who were paid to cut, deliver, and install it.

    WHEN THE SPENDING STOPS, THERE IS LESS FOR EVERYONE

    And this is coming from a guy with a family of 4 and a household income that has never hit $100k

  22. That is $5.5 billion that isn’t going to be spread around the economy. Not only is that helping stadium employees and local businesses, but also what do you think those players and owners do with the money? While some is saved, MOST IS SPENT!

    Some people think a $4 million house = horrid greed and nothing more

    Reality of a $4 million house = Work going to the local plumbers who install pipes, the local granite retailer who cuts and installs countertops getting paid, food on the table for all the workers in lumber who were paid to cut, deliver, and install it.

    WHEN THE SPENDING STOPS, THERE IS LESS FOR EVERYONE

    And this is coming from a guy with a family of 4 and a household income that has never hit $100k

  23. Absolutely no way this happens

    32 BILLIONAIRES WILL GET WHAT THEY DESIRE.

  24. they could make some of it back by offering exclusive inside camera feeds and team access. Sounds crazy, but the same super rich people who buy boxes and sideline passes would easily fork over money to show off and feed their ego by hosting friends and family their “Cowboys exclusive sideline camera access” with 5 different feeds and player interviews before or after the game

  25. NFL BAILOUT!!!! WHY NOT!

    In this time of crisis, we are having a battle of need against greed. Bet greed wins.

  26. bringbackdayswithoutanarrest says:

    Absolutely no way this happens

    32 BILLIONAIRES WILL GET WHAT THEY DESIRE.
    ===========================================

    And all of the local businesses who depend on fans from NFL games for their survival, as well 😉

  27. A couple thoughts here, first with unemployment at historic highs how are fans going to afford game day? Second, the NFL is probably more worried that if they don’t have fans in the stands, those fans will come to realize they have better things to do on game day than drop $500 plus for a family of four to go to a game and attendance may never recover.

  28. it’s NOT a loss, it is just not income, they will still make plenty of money from advertising and tv contracts, stop mis reporting things and make it sound like these billionaires are actually losing money by playing- so sick of the rich stepping on the down trodden who are losing their houses, struggling to eat decent food and get some kind of medical help if needed- maddening how reporters and others are buying into this fallacy
    _____________________________

    Clearly you don’t have a business degree. It’s one thing to claim billionaire owners and millionaire players can afford to have a bad year financially. It’s another to deny reality. I have not doubt the league and it’s teams will LOSE billions of dollars without fans in the seats. It goes beyond ticket revenue, concessions, parking, etc. All the signage in stadiums is sold base don eyeballs seeing it. Most of that won’t be caught on V cameras. That the league will lose billions doesn’t matter to you. But there is no doubt it will happen.

  29. I have zero sympathy for the owners and get a twinge of satisfaction reading this after they gouged the fan base and taxpaying public for years with unbridled greed.

  30. I’m not sure why fans shouldn’t be able to attend games. Not only is the virus not as deadly as we initially thought but we still live in a free country right? If you want to go and do something that’s your choice. And if you are concerned about your health you have the right to stay home as well. And for someone commenting that these concession workers don’t make enough money to live on one day a week a lot of people work two or three part time jobs to make ends meet and those stadium checks are really good money for the four months they are offered. I knew a lady that made more most Sundays than she did at her regular job. So let’s open things up and get back to work. If you’re scared stay home. Pretty simple

  31. Some logistical details would have to be worked out, so this idea is far from perfect, but what if teams sold only 25% of their stadium capacity tickets and then enforce a 6-ft seating distance. I know… you can say but, but, but, but those buts can be worked out, and we wouldn’t be just giving up.

  32. That number sounds too high.
    And thats revenue, not net profit.
    The teams wouldn’t have to pay staff or material costs.
    Plus it’s shared with teh players.

    It WILL hurt, but it’s not like each owner is losing close to $200,000,000.

    Will it hurt the workers? Absolutely.
    But if people instead use that money elsewhere then other workers will get jobs, so it nets out.

  33. As long as that train wreck of a Federal government continues their 1 step forward – 2 steps back approach to this, don’t expect much improvement in terms of people being able to attend any public events safely.

  34. Steve Cunningham says:
    May 20, 2020 at 10:03 am
    dabears2485 says:
    May 20, 2020 at 9:48 am
    Before everyone jumps on the “oh poor rich people” bashing bandwagon, consider all of the employees who run those concession & merch stands, parking, seating attendants, etc., etc., etc. (I couldn’t even begin to name all of the jobs that are performed at a stadium on any given Sunday).

    A lot of people who would otherwise have a means of employment will be affected by this, not just the players & owners.
    __________________________

    WHOA, wait a minute! You trying to tell us that there are a ton of people that get by on working one day a week, game day?

    NAH I don’t think so, for most of those people it’s just added income!

    33 27 Rate This
    ——————————
    There are more events at a stadium than football. Other sports (soccer, baseball), concerts, etc.

  35. That’s the revenue lost. What is the savings for not paying players, putting on gameday operations, etc.?

    Always irritating to see the creative accounting that goes into figures like this. I’m sure the NFL will survive and prosper when this is all done (like a lot of agencies who will probably profit off this while crying wolf. Some of them are state governors whose private holdings will make a ton of money off “relief efforts.”).

  36. To all the fans that get mad at Roger and the NFL for the thousands of things they have done to fans or their teams: now is the time for payback. An attendance boycott is in effect without trying. Now just don’t buy merch, esp. ppe facemasks, they are making a killing of Covid personal protection. The NFL has a pre order for 3 masks $25! Pay now, get it in July. C’mon Man!

  37. mutantclover says:
    May 20, 2020 at 9:49 am
    They’ve got guys getting paid double the average American’s ANNUAL salary for EACH TIME they attempt a pass. Maybe they should start a gofundme.

    29 16 Rate This
    ————————————————–
    No, those are just the best of the best. The average player is on a minimum for 3 years, making about $2 million. Is that enough to last them through the rest of their lives?

  38. kissmytaintpatriotswinagain says:
    Way more fans will be watching the games on tv. Jackup the cost for purchasing commercials and advertising. Problem solved.
    ==

    TV networks pay the NFL big bucks for the rights to broadcast its games. They recoup their money and make a large profit by selling in-game spots to advertisers, and by selling the rights to their content to cable companies and other providers.
    The TV contracts are predetermined, multi-year deals. Assuming the NFL plays a full season, the money it will receive from the networks in 2020 was set in stone at the time the deal was negotiated, fans in the stands or no fans in the stands.
    Higher TV ratings could lead to increased advertising revenue. But it’s the TV networks who paid for the broadcast rights that will set rates and sell the advertising. Any increase in advertising revenue will go to them, not the NFL.
    The NFL won’t benefit from higher TV viewership until it’s time to negotiate the next multi-year broadcast rights deal. That won’t help it in 2020.

  39. I love the NFL. I want to see them keep on being successful. I am kind of confused why anyone who complains about the NFL would watch it? If you dont like the league and its smart successful rich owners, just find something else to do. But dont be a hater for the owners trying to make bank. They didnt get into the business for charity, they got in it to be rich and make some loot. I cant blame them – wish I could as well.

  40. Work out some kind of Pay-per-view deal or EASY streaming option (one that actually works and doesn’t require you to install a garbage satellite dish) with the TV networks or cable providers (Not Directv!)… I would like to think that the structuring of this deal could help to bring in extra revenue for the league during this crazy time. This is something they should have done years ago anyway. It’s a WAY TOO HARD to watch ‘your team’s’ game, especially if you’re out of market. It’s 2020, not 1920. Fans everywhere would be willing to pay to watch any games right about now.

  41. This is just the first step in the propaganda war that NFL will be waging against NFLPA. Somewhere down the line they will try to get concessions from NFLPA to help cover this major loss. Same thing MLB is doing.

  42. kissmytaintpatriotswinagain says:
    May 20, 2020 at 9:43 am
    Way more fans will be watching the games on tv. Jackup the cost for purchasing commercials and advertising. Problem solved.
    ——-
    The NFL’s deal with the networks is for a fixed amount and is not affected by what those networks charge for advertising.

  43. Think of the impact on the salary cap. Teams with big cap hits could be crippled for a decade.

  44. Registered to say this: The teams would not be LOSING money, they would be missing REVENUE (not income). If they spend more than they get then they are losing money, and that is a huge difference. If they chose not to play the season than no one LOSES money.

  45. No, those are just the best of the best. The average player is on a minimum for 3 years, making about $2 million. Is that enough to last them through the rest of their lives?
    ______________________________

    Lol wait a minute… so NFL players are supposed to be able to not work again after retiring at age 26? Says who? One of the more absurd comments I’ve seen.

  46. I don’t buy the contention of lost merchandise sales at all. Just because people aren’t in a stadium doesn’t mean that merchandise sales will go down. If anything, sales will likely go up because fans will want to re-create the experience at home by buying their team’s gear more than ever.

  47. If you want to OD on heroin, fine, that is your freedom and it doesn’t affect me. If you make poor choices and further the spread of infection, that does affect me. So your “freedom of choice” arguments are willfully ignorant, or you are just dumb.

  48. packerkopp says:
    May 20, 2020 at 10:56 am
    So why not allow pay per view available to all for just this year to make up for the potential loss?

    It’s called Sunday Ticket

  49. “Mike Ozanian of Forbes.com estimates that loss at a staggering $5.5 billion.”

    So, they’ll still make 8.97 billion by the numbers and percentage you mentioned. Don’t really have a lot of sympathy for the owners over this

  50. Mark my words…if fans aren’t allowed, they’ll make NFL games a pay-per-view event. Like a Tyson fight.

  51. That works out to $172 million per team, for teams that are each worth at least a couple billion.

    They’ll be fine. As hardships go, this doesn’t even rate.

  52. Everyone wishing this on the NFL is not thinking about the jobs lost and the impact that will have on the economy and the community of those cities. People that make their salaries and income from those stadiums being open. it’s not just the NFL. There are severe consequences that effect families and people.

    smh…

  53. But I thought the billionaires were the wealth and job creators?
    Why don’t they just create more wealth?

  54. NFL Sunday Ticket is hardly the answer.
    Like the name says, it’s Sunday games only.
    No pre-season, no Thursday or Monday night games.
    No playoffs… and the final kick in the teeth, your own team’s games are blacked out.

  55. Poor Billionaire owners won’t have extra jet fuel this year waaaah-waaah-waaaaaaaaahhhh.

  56. All these people that talk about NFL Ticket, why even pay when Reddit NFL Streams are Free.

  57. There will be no NFL, NBA, or MLB for the rest of 2020. Doesn’t make financial sense for the leagues. They will lose billions.

  58. This just goes to show how horrendously overpriced attending a live sporting event in the US is.

  59. What about all of those people who tailgate together before the games ?
    I’ve been to many big time college games and a few NFL games. People everywhere.
    Kiss social distancing goodbye on game day.

  60. I was invoiced and paid for my season tickets in March (Eagles) so I guess they aren’t losing that money

  61. Lost revenue does not mean the league is not profitable, it is just not as profitable.

  62. Steve Cunningham says:
    May 20, 2020 at 10:03 am

    WHOA, wait a minute! You trying to tell us that there are a ton of people that get by on working one day a week, game day?

    NAH I don’t think so, for most of those people it’s just added income!
    ———————

    Yep. If your livelihood is dependent on selling hot dogs or popcorn 8 days out of the year, it’s time to find a new job.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.