NFL’s revenue dip in pandemic significant, but not crippling

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FILE - In this Jan. 9, 2021, file photo, the Seattle Seahawks play against the Los Angeles Rams in an otherwise empty stadium during the first half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game in Seattle. The dip in revenue for the NFL during the pandemic has been substantial but not crippling. The biggest negative is revenues being on the low end of what was hoped because of limits on crowds in most NFL cities. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

New York Giants co-owner John Mara could have been speaking for all in the tight-lipped world of NFL finances by saying his club’s pandemic-induced losses in revenue have been substantial but not crippling.

The biggest positive in this season of COVID-19 might not be measurable: the value of finishing on time in Tampa with the Super Bowl between Tampa Bay and Kansas City on Feb. 7.

“They got all the games in,” said Marc Ganis, co-founder of Chicago-based consulting group Sportscorp and a confidant of many NFL owners. “They got ’em all in on time, within the 17-week window. That’s enormous.

“We’re not taking it for granted, but the effort that was necessary by tens of thousands of people, family members, to make that happen, the sacrifices that were necessary, the union stepping up together with the league, that’s an incredible accomplishment done without bubbles.”

The biggest negative, said Ganis, was revenues on the lower end of what was hoped since the majority of stadiums either didn't have fans at all or just a few thousand at most.

In keeping with a previous estimate that revenues could be down by at least $100 million for each of the 32 teams, Ganis says the league missed out on $3 billion to $4 billion while playing in the pandemic. But Mara says the losses are manageable.

“It was a huge financial hit for us this year, no question about it,” Mara said. “But it’s not going to affect our ability to be active in free agency or to do what we have to do to improve the team. Hopefully this is a one-year thing and we’ll be able to have fans back in the building next season.”

It remains to be seen whether a legacy of cooperation will last between owners and the union after essentially negotiating two collective bargaining agreements in a matter of months.