The one common thread amongst the tangled mess of the NFL labour strife is a simple fact that’s easy to agree on: the lockout will have a massive economic impact if it spills into the fall, or even training camp.
The league and the now decertified union have bickered about just how wide-ranging the economic impact of a lockout will be for quite some time. We know the two most obvious impacts on both sides of this mess. The players won’t get paid, and if the calendar flips to September and there are still locks on stadiums, the owners won’t be making money on Sundays (but they still won’t be paying the players).
While the estimates gauging the financial dent made by the lockout have been disputed by both sides (an NFLPA study pegged the total impact at $160 million for each city), it’s clear the lockout will really, really hurt in a number of areas. Some are obvious, and others are easily overlooked.
The List: Economic areas potentially impacted by the lockout
1. Training camp hosts
While a few teams hold their training camps at or close to their regular season home, most travel to other smaller towns in outlying areas. This enhances the team bonding experience, and injects money into the local economy, especially when highly popular teams like the Steelers and Packers come to town.
Manish Mehta of the New York Daily news wrote that Rex Ryan’s gang of walking storylines attracted approximately 41,000 visitors to Cortland, New York last summer. The tourist traffic generated by the Jets led to an economic impact of about $4.7 million over the three-week period.
2. Bars, restaurants and retail
A quick scroll through the Interwebs brings up countless tales of impending woe from local bar and restaurant owners, with each clearly having a legitimate reason for concern. The loss estimate given by the players’ association of $160 million for each city ($20 million for each home game) has been disputed by economic experts who say that while football is a major drawing card, people will simply find somewhere else to spend their cash on Sundays. That money will stay within the city limits, your favourite watering hole will continue to be drained and re-filled, and the world will keep rotating on its normal axis.
Multiple studies conducted during the City of Santa Clara’s evaluation of a new stadium for the 49ers place the total revenue generated by the new venue at $85 million, with $19 million coming from non-football events. The Packers–one of the NFL’s most popular teams–came closer to the league’s estimate during a study 11 years ago when they reeled in $144 million for the thriving metropolis of Green Bay. Meanwhile, the Big Easy laughed to the bank with $402 million thanks to the Saints and their championship run in 2010.
The final blow to restaurants, bars, and stores selling team merchandise will vary depending on the city and popularity of the team. But the punch to the wallet is still going to hurt.
Even if we assume the claims of some studies saying dollars will stick around in cities, and people will still spend money on something even if there’s no football, one major loss remains. There will be no games to draw travelers from out of town, a loss especially felt when the league’s most popular teams hit the road.
Looking at the most extreme example of the big game being a magnet for traveling tourist dollars, there are already over 18,000 rooms and 141 hotels blocked out by the City of Indianapolis for next year’s Super Bowl.
4. Las Vegas and the sports betting industry
There are few certainties we enjoy in life, but here’s one: people will bet on anything. The gambling mecca of Nevada estimates that $2.5 billion is wagered annually on sports in their state alone, 30 percent of which ($750 million) stems from football.
5. Fantasy football
Leading sites like Yahoo!, ESPN.com, and NFL.com offer fantasy football for free online, so there’s no revenue gained or lost purely because the estimated 18 million fantasy participants aren’t registering next year. But advertising is a major player on the web (shocking, I know), and the funds generated by the unique visitors to each fantasy site will be lost.
Countless magazines offering draft advice are produced each year too, and they’ll see nothing but dust as they sit on newsstands or in warehouses, if they’re produced at all. The most addicted fantasy geeks also spend an estimated average of $360 per year on various websites offering further in-depth fantasy analysis. Other sports will keep the fantasy cash cow moving, but the loss of football would drastically reduce those dollars.