Despite the fact fans are the ultimate source of $9 billion in revenue for the NFL; despite huge tax breaks and protection from competition granted by our political representatives; and despite the fact we — as taxpayers — have built giant sports palaces in which NFL franchises can make truckloads of money, NFL owners don’t give a hoot about fans or taxpayers.

Washington Post columnist Sally Jenkins, in an excellent column this week, lamented the fans’ plight in this NFL lockout mess.

“Eventually, there will be compromise and concessions and everyone will return to work,” wrote Jenkins.  “There is one party, however, who won’t be receiving any concessions: the ticket buyer.”

Rest assured, ticket prices will continue to rise — even in situations where community taxpayers have recently built new stadiums for their local NFL baron.

NFL owners are driven by greed; more profits at any cost.  And as a self-regulated monopoly — with no competitive leagues or regulating agencies to restrain them — that greed has no bounds.  NFL owners look at life with blinders on.  They only see dollar signs.  Fan concerns are outside their view.

“I think more than anything they’re just taking public support for granted,” says Brian Frederick of the Sports Fans Coalition.  “And the key to that has been their ability to orchestrate giant public subsidies to pay for their costs.  The fact they have a lot of their costs paid for (by taxpayers) enables them to bicker and fight over profit.”

No matter when, or how, the current NFL lockout is resolved, the same issues will pop up again within a few years when the NFL collective bargaining agreement once again expires.  The core problem is that the NFL operating structure, as a self-regulating monopoly, is flawed.  It needs to be fixed.

Under the current system, fans and taxpayers — as partners with NFL owners via taxpayer-funded stadiums — should have a seat at the table during major policy discussions such as the current labor impasse.  Fan/taxpayer councils are sorely needed in the NFL.

Ultimately, however, the only way owners will care about the fans is if the fans are the owners — like in Green Bay with the Packers.  Our focus today shouldn’t be the NFL lockout, it should be finding an alternative to the current pro sports ownership model.  A community ownership structure, like the one in Green Bay, would truly empower the fans.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans

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