DRILL Eco­nomic slump forces NFL to cut 150 staff

The Covington News - - Sports -

NEW YORK — The NFL pays its play­ers bil­lions of dol­lars a year and fans pack its sta­di­ums ev­ery week. But even the deep-pock­eted league is shed­ding jobs.

League com­mis­sioner Roger Good­ell said Tues­day that the league will cut more than 10 per­cent of its staff in re­sponse to the down­turn in the Amer­i­can econ­omy that could put a dent in ticket sales for next sea­son.

Good­ell an­nounced the cuts in a memo to league em­ploy­ees. The NFL will elim­i­nate about 150 of its staff of 1,100 in New York, NFL Films in New Jer­sey, and tele­vi­sion and In­ter­net pro­duc­tion fa­cil­i­ties in Los An­ge­les.

"Th­ese are dif­fi­cult and painful steps," he wrote in the memo. "But they are nec­es­sary in the cur­rent eco­nomic en­vi­ron­ment. I would like to be able to re­port that we are im­mune to the trou­bles around us, but we are not."

The NFL long has been re­garded as one of the most wealth­i­est pro­fes­sional sports leagues on the planet. In Septem­ber, Forbes called the NFL "the rich­est game" and the "the strong­est sport in the world." The league has rev­enues of ap­prox­i­mately $6.5 bil­lion (5 bil­lion eu­ros) of which an es­ti­mated $4.5 bil­lion (3.5 bil­lion eu­ros) goes to play­ers.

But now it joins the NBA, NASCAR teams and the com­pany that runs Ma­jor League Base­ball's In­ter­net divi­sion in an­nounc­ing lay­offs. The NHL hasn't laid off work­ers, though it was in a hir­ing freeze, a spokesman said on Tues­day.

So far, NFL fans haven't no­ticed the cut­backs, which also in­clude re­duc­tion in travel by some league staff, and such secondary costs as print­ing and mi­nor events. The NFL an­nounced last month that it was re­duc­ing the cost of play­off tick­ets by about 10 per­cent from last sea­son.

"We're looking at ev­ery­thing with an eye to how we can be more ef­fi­cient and re­duce costs," league spokesman Greg Aiello said.

The cuts will take place over the next 60 days, run­ning past the Su­per Bowl, which will be played on Feb. 1 in Tampa. Em­ploy­ees who vol­un­teer to leave will be of­fered what was termed "a vol­un­tary sep­a­ra­tion pro­gram."

The lay­offs are sep­a­rate from the cuts in front-of­fice and other per­son­nel be­ing made by the 32 in­di­vid­ual teams.

Aiello said the NFL still plans to throw par­ties at the Su­per Bowl, elab­o­rate events for which the game has long been known. How­ever, lo­cal or­ga­niz­ers say the com­pa­nies that reg­u­larly host their own par­ties are watch­ing ex­penses, scal­ing back plans and invit­ing fewer guests.

Good­ell said last month in an in­ter­view with The As­so­ci­ated Press that the league and its teams could feel the eco­nomic slump in spon­sor­ship and mar­ket­ing.

Ticket sales for this sea­son have been strong and sta­di­ums have been largely sold out. But NFL of­fi­cials, in­clud­ing Good­ell, be­lieve that was be­cause sea­son tick­ets for this year's games were sold in the spring and sum­mer. The com­mis­sioner feared the league and its teams would take a big­ger hit when sea­son tick­ets go on sale next spring for the 2009 sea­son.

—As­so­ci­ated Press

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