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Fortunately, the current collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between the NFL owners and the NFL Players Association will not expire until after the 2020 season. That means, of course, there should be no interruptions. The two sides are already negotiating a new 10-year agreement, which will be voted on by the approximate 2,000-member player union. And some of the current disagreements are reminiscent of the player lockout in 2011 that wiped out the entire off-season.
“It would be a huge impact if (the players) vote no,” noted Marc Ganis,” the president of Sportscorp Ltd., a Chicago-based sports marketing firm, and who has consulted for many NFL teams. “Both parties will have to start getting into hardball negotiations, and prepare for a work stoppage. There’s that old saying, ‘I have my lawyers, and you have your lawyers, and when we use the lawyers, everything turns to crap.”
“One of the first things that happens, if the CBA proposal is rejected is that the environment changes, where each side is thinking about who wins instead of what is mutually beneficial for both sides,” he said.
One topic of dissension is whether of not to expand the current regular NFL season from 16 to 17 games.
Fortunately, NFL owners in February approved the terms of potential new CBA agreement between the league and the NFL Players Association. According to a statement from the league: “Following more than ten months of intensive and thorough negotiations, the NFL Players and clubs have jointly developed a comprehensive set of new and revised terms that will transform the future of the game, provide for players — past, present, and future — both on and off the field, and ensure that the NFL’s second century is even better and more exciting for the fans.”
“Since the clubs and players need to have a system in place and know the rules that they will operate under by next week, the membership also approved moving forward under the final year of the 2011 CBA if the players decide not to approve the negotiated terms.,” it read.
Of course, the Players Association needs to vote to approve the same terms for there to be a new agreement.
“It’s a fluid process,” said one NFL source about the negotiations, “There are a lot of discussions. The players are well-equipped to make decisions. The players are engaged. If they vote ‘no’ now, that doesn’t mean they won’t eventually get to ‘yes.’ There’s still time.”
New Broadcast Deals Are at Stake
“If the proposal is rejected, the league would not be able to negotiate new broadcast deals,” noted Ganis. “They will have to wait a year and half. The window to strike great broadcast deals is now. As we’ve seen recently, the world changes quickly,” referring to the stock market volatility over coronavirus fears and the upcoming 2020 presidential election.
The Dow plummeted more than 3,200 points, or 12 percent, in the last two weeks of February. More specifically, the Dow tumbled 680 points during the month’s final two days, leaving it down about 1,600 points from the record high in late January.
“With time could come a rebound, which we have certainly seen in the past” noted one analyst about the stock market. “But there is so much uncertainty right now. The last thing we would want to add to this would be any sports interruptions.”
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Up for Negotiation
In addition to adding a regular-season game (and potentially shortening the preseason to three games, which is also on the negotiating table), the new CBA proposal would expand the playoff field from 12 teams to 14 teams in 2020.
No change has been made to the number of teams eligible to make the postseason since the playoffs were expanded to 12 teams in 1990.
Other changes could include an increase in the performance bonus pool, an increase in benefits, and a larger acclimation period for players to start training.
“While it is full speed ahead for the NFL in 2020, who knows what lies ahead,” said the sports analyst. “Nothing is a guarantee.”