The National Football League may not be recession proof, but it has done fairly well during the economic downturn. Nonetheless, as training camps get underway, owners and players are worried about being blind sided by a possible work stoppage in 2011.

At issue is the owners' desire to control skyrocketing player salaries, particularly the huge signing bonuses awarded to rookies, many of whom ultimately don't pan out.

As NBC Sports noted last year: "Players now receive 59.5% of all money generated by the league. The salary cap for each team is now at $127 million, up from $85.5 million in 2006. Owners say they're getting soaked." The owners want more money available under the salary cap to go to veterans and two additional regular season games added to the schedule. Officials from the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) are angry at the owners for refusing to provide sufficient information to back up these claims. The collective bargaining agreement was signed in 2006 and due to expire in 2013; the owners exercised their option to terminate in 2008. The deadline to reach an agreement is next March.

"Hard to Believe That These Are Adults"

Speaking in Green Bay recently, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell struck an optimistic tone about the ongoing negotiations over the collective bargaining agreement: "We have a lot of work to do, but we have a lot of time to do it. We need to use that time in a responsible fashion." When asked for a response by DailyFinance, Carl Francis, an NFLPA spokesman said in an email that his group is "hopeful." He refused to elaborate. The sides have been echanging verbal jabs with one another for months and at least one sports business expert suggests that both sides are behaving like children.

"You would find it hard to believe that these are adults," says Craig Depken, an associate professor of economics in the Belk College of Business at UNC Charlotte, adding that a strike would be the "worst thing possible" for players and owners because attendance and TV viewership dropped after similar strikes in baseball and hockey.

Indeed, money may motivate the sides to come together. The 32 teams in the NFL generate roughly $4 billion in revenue annually. Pro football TV ratings also soared last season, and last year's Super Bowl attracted the second largest audience of all time. Only two teams, the dreadful Oakland Raiders and the Seattle Seahawks, posted negative operating income last year, according to Forbes. Earnings for the small market Green Bay Packers, which is the league's only public company, rose to $5.2 million in 2009.

Ticket Prices Going Up, Up, Up

And the financial future looks bright. Consider that 26 out of the 32 NFL teams sold out more than 90% of their stadium capacity last season, (though attendance overall dipped about 8%.) Thirteen of them attracted crowds of greater than 99%. This year, about 18 teams raised ticket prices, the league said.

According to FanSnap, a search engine for after-market ticket sales, the average ticket price for an NFL home game last season was $252, up 64% from the same period the previous year. The site claims that this is a sign of the rebound in the economy. (This is a notion some investors may find dubious. Those NFL fans who can afford to attend the games are probably in much better financial shape than the millions of NFL fans who watch their favorite teams in the comfort -- and warmth -- of their own homes.)

"Simply, our nation is in better economic shape now than it was a year ago -- at least in the minds of fans," company spokesman Christian Anderson said in a press release. "And, with this improvement, NFL fans are more capable of purchasing tickets and attending games. That is to say, demand for NFL tickets has increased, and with that demand comes a higher price for your average ticket."

Not surprisingly, the Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints posted the biggest increase of any NFL team. Fans are paying as much as $404 for tickets, up 264% from a year earlier. The New York Giants have the highest average ticket price of $468, followed by the Saints, the Pittsburgh Steelers at $390, and the New York Jets at $378. The New York Jets! If ever there was a poignant example of the league's robust financial condition, Jet ticket prices must surely be it.

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junior

Here's an idea. No player can make more than $10 a seat. So if a stadium has 65,000 seats, no player makes more than $650,000 a year. And then the owners slash prices by 50%. They will all still be wealthy and maybe more regular folks could actually attend.

August 09 2010 at 10:55 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Writersblock

I love the NFL but it has definitely gotten out of control. The bottom line is the owners are talking out of both sides of their mouth. They claim they are losing money yet they are continuing to pay these huge rookie contracts. If what they are saying is true then simply stop paying so much. If a rookie holds out call his bluff and just plan to play without them. If all the owners would get on the same page something would be done but you always have those owners that are going to pay a player whatever and then cry they are losing money. That means ticket prices go up. Though I prefer the own the field product of the NFL to college football, there is such a major difference in the gameday atmosphere. College games still have real fans at games while the NFL has become nothing but a corporate crowd because true NFL fans can't afford to go to a game.

August 09 2010 at 8:37 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
Vic Abbate

A s long as suckers (fans)pay these steep prices for tickets the NFL will flourish nothing but pure greed on behalf of owners and players when a player says he needs more money to feed his kids and he makes 6 million a year they can all kiss it where the sun don't shine life is just fine without football or baseball

August 09 2010 at 8:00 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
Frank

I did not imagine that the average price was 252.00. Just to get in the game. Directv sunday ticket is over 300.00 a season and I have had it for 13 years. Got to draw the line somewhere. These salaries, ticket prices, etc. have got to come down to where average working stiffs can attend, and not have to eat hot dogs without the buns for a week just to watch a ballgame. We need a little common sense. Maybe a strike is what they need. It is time for the fans to say enough.

August 09 2010 at 7:53 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
wsheel2

These guys make too much money anyway. It NFL players were paid by the company I work for, their performance whould deterimne their raises. I personally think that an untried rookie right out of college should not make more than a veteren who has been throught the hard knocks. Football is getting to be like a bunch of whiney babies.

August 09 2010 at 7:43 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
schjb

Do what myself and many of my friends have done, don'y buy tickets! Both sides are greedy and want more and more. wordt part is fans who are willing to pay for it. I have found other things to speand my money on. I have not been to a professional game in 10 years and dont miss them.

August 09 2010 at 7:09 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
socialeconomist3

People really like to advertise for the companies they purchase from... Ford, John Deere, Sports.... It's like hey... I pay $2000 to watch what I can see for free and I bought this hat too... now everyone knows I am the type of person who is easily took in a business deal... not only will I over pay for a product, but I will purchase clothing with the business name on it and walk around telling everyone how superior the product is... I will even go to jail for assault if someone says a competitor is better than the company I buy from... I am a Ford man... I root for this sports team.... Screw my own kids and their future... I'll take that tshirt and hat for $200 plus tax... It should be legal to kick anyone in the nads for wearing sports apparel....

August 09 2010 at 4:34 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to socialeconomist3's comment
socialeconomist3

I used to have this friend Doug... He was so dellusional that when his team lost, he would break his hand punching the wall or his TV.. He really took it personal and emotional.. Of course he spent money going to see the games and purchasing the gear...

August 09 2010 at 4:46 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
threedawgknights

Damn! NFL sounds like our Congress! Giving themselves raises, more power, control of everything and screwing the people in the end. But there is a major difference. You can stop watching and attending NFL, Congress has the people by the short hair, and there not letting go

August 08 2010 at 10:58 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
personal finance

The sorry owners and worthless unions will keep sticking it to the fans until the fans some day get fed up, all it will take is one year.

August 08 2010 at 10:21 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
wmkingsman

Let 'em strike. Who the hell cares ??

August 08 2010 at 9:47 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply