Wage dispute threatens NFL 2011season

By Community | November 29, 2010

American football, advice the most watched sport in the US, anabolics could be cancelled next year over a long-running dispute between owners and players, which a union leader warns this weekend will almost certainly result in a lockout beginning in March.

The executive director of the National Football League players union said a player lockout next season is a “near certainty,” and that it would cost the U.S. economy an estimated $5 billion in lost wages, taxes and other revenue if the entire season is canceled.

In an interview on Bloomberg Television, union chief DeMaurice Smith said if NFL owners lock out players in order to get concessions in a labor dispute, it would be devastating to local communities as the country struggles with a 9.6 percent unemployment rate.

“The magnitude of the loss would be at the very least about $160 million to $170 million per team-city,” Smith said. “That is a conservative estimate of the economic impact.”

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello challenged Smith’s numbers, saying they came from union projections rather than a government agency, investment bank or noted economist.

“It is a series of numbers pulled from thin air in a misguided attempt to inject politics into the collective bargaining process,” Aiello said in an e-mail. “There is a fair deal to be done and soon if the union will bargain with the same fervor it displays in creating economic fairy tales.”

NFL owners voted unanimously in May 2008 to opt out of their labour contract with the players at the end of this season – two years early. The players were satisfied with the agreement and wanted to complete the contract.

If the lockout goes ahead, players will stop being paid from March onwards. The annual draft, a high-profile event where teams select new players, would go ahead in the spring, but the training camps that begin in the summer would not happen.

The next season is scheduled to begin on 9 September. Unlike baseball and basketball, the playing season is relatively short, ending on 2 January, with the Super Bowl the following month, and teams play relatively few games.

One compromise under consideration is that the season be extended from 16 games to 18, which would give the players extra money to make up for the pay cut, but would mean two more games, with attendant injury risks. Unlike association football, the average career of a professional American football player is only 3.6 seasons.

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