NFL, Union Negotiators Said to Consider Giving 48% of Revenue to Players

National Football League owners and players are discussing a labor contract in which players would get about 48 percent of all revenue, according to a person familiar with the negotiations.

The potential deal would eliminate a provision of the previous collective bargaining agreement that allowed owners to deduct $1 billion from total revenue before splitting the rest with players, said the person, who was granted anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to discuss the negotiations publicly. Owners were briefed on the status of talks yesterday during a meeting in Rosemont, Illinois.

The league and its players have met in small sessions over the last few weeks in an effort to end a three-month lockout, ensure training camps open on time in July and that the season starts on schedule in September.

“We don’t have an agreement,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell told reporters after yesterday’s meeting. “We have a very strong view of the priorities, a very strong view of what we need to accomplish in the negotiations and a determination to get there.”

Goodell didn’t disclose specifics and wouldn’t comment further on the status of negotiations, though he said more meetings have been scheduled. He didn’t say when.

George Atallah, a spokesman for the players, didn’t return an e-mail seeking comment.

Under the NFL’s labor contract that expired after last season, players received about 60 percent of revenue once the $1 billion credit had been deducted. Under the new proposal, the players’ share would never dip below about 47 percent, according to the person. It doesn’t include ownership taking the $1 billion off the top as a management credit, which has been a point of contention in negotiations.

Three-Month Lockout

NFL owners locked out players on March 12 after a season that produced record television ratings for the most popular sport in the U.S., drawing a total audience of 207.7 million people, according to Neilsen Co. data. It was capped by the Green Bay Packers’ Super Bowl victory against the Pittsburgh Steelers in February, a game that drew the largest U.S. television audience in history.

The two sides are at odds on how to divide about $9 billion in annual revenue, the most of any sports league.

Goodell said yesterday that ownership remains committed to getting a fair deal and a full 2011 season.

Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay said before yesterday’s meeting that avoiding a delay to the scheduled start of the season is contingent on reaching an agreement as soon as possible.

“Why get a deal Oct. 1 or November that we could have had on July 7 or whatever?” Irsay told reporters. “This is the time to get a deal done.”

Labor Talks

The meeting near Chicago followed three weeks of labor talks. After the NFL locked out players, the players sued in federal court, charging antitrust violations and wage-fixing.

Along with player pay, topics of negotiations include extending the regular season by two games to 18, a rookie wage scale and health care.

Training camps typically start at the end of July. The Minnesota Vikings said in a news release last week that the club must inform officials at Minnesota State University in Mankato by July 18 whether its camp will take place.

“Both sides know what the calendar is and understand the consequences of delay,” Jeff Pash, the league’s lead negotiator, told reporters yesterday.

Ratification

As part of the process of completing a new contract, Pash said the NFL would have to make sure documents are fully drafted and approved, and then both sides would have to ratify the agreement. Owners and players would also have to go before “various courts” to deal with some litigation, Pash said.

If the two sides are able to reach a handshake agreement, Pash said he didn’t know how long it would take for the free agency period to begin. In addition to players not getting paid or being able to practice, the lockout prevents about 500 players from becoming free agents.

“The players would want it to be soon and we would want it to be soon,” Pash said. “So we would move as quickly as we could.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Aaron Kuriloff in Rosemont, Illinois, at akuriloff@bloomberg.net Erik Matuszewski in New York at matuszewski@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Sillup at msillup@bloomberg.net

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