NEW YORK - NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is taking a pay cut and the league staff has been trimmed by 15 per cent because of the reeling economy, the NFL confirmed Wednesday.
The league said that its staff cut, announced more than two months ago, has resulted in a reduction of 169 jobs through buyouts, layoffs and other staff reductions. That amounts to just over 15 per cent of the league's work force of 1,100.
"All of us understand that it will continue to take collective sacrifice to get through this challenging economic environment, but these and other steps by our office and clubs will enable us to be more efficient and better positioned for future growth," league spokesman Greg Aiello said.
Goodell, meanwhile, voluntarily took a cut of 20-25 per cent from the US$11-million salary and bonuses he was to receive in the 2008 fiscal year, which ends March 31. He and other league executives are freezing their salaries for 2009.
The NFL announced Dec. 9 it would reduce its staff by 10 to 15 per cent. Seventy-six people took buyouts while 45 jobs were eliminated and 48 openings went unfilled. The moves affect NFL headquarters in New York, NFL Films in Mount Laurel, N.J., and the NFL Network in Los Angeles.
Teams also are reducing expenses.
The league estimates that 10 to 12 teams have laid off about 200 people total in the last few months. On the other hand, Denver, which laid of employees almost a year ago, owes former coach Mike Shanahan an estimated $20 million for the next three years after firing him after the 2008 season.
Still, the league is worried about the effect the downturn will have in many areas, notably on sponsors, with the auto industry hit especially hard. While television ratings were high last season and television contracts are in effect for another three seasons, car companies are among the biggest television advertisers.
NFL officials, including Goodell, have said that they won't know the effect of the economic downturn on the league until later this year, and perhaps not even then. One factor is how well season tickets sell when they go on the market this spring - three-quarters of teams are freezing ticket prices for this coming season at their 2008 levels.
Some of the league's layoffs are clearly intended to impact talks on the collective bargaining agreement, which could start up this spring, after the NFL Players Association selects a new executive director to replace the late Gene Upshaw. The owners opted out of the contract last season, arguing it was too favourable to players, who receive nearly 60 per cent of total revenues - an estimated $4.5 billion next season with a salary cap increasing from $116 million to $123 million.
Several team presidents and general managers said during the NFL's annual scouting combine in Indianapolis during the past week that they expect to be more frugal during the free agency period, which begins on Friday. They include Bill Polian of Indianapolis, Mike Reinfeldt of Tennessee and Jerry Reese of the New York Giants.
Even with the salary cap going up, they predicted that second level free agents would have hard time finding big money after teams pay for the first level of stars, such as Albert Haynesworth, T. J. Houshmandzadeh and Ray Lewis.