The COVID-19 pandemic radically altered the NFL draft and its offseason, and questions about the viability of the training camp and the regular season are beginning to surface. Major financial fallout would grip the league in the event its regular season is altered and/or features no fans.
If the 2020 regular season occurs entirely without fans in stadiums, the NFL will stand to lose approximately $2.3 billion, Seth Wickersham of ESPN.com notes. This would put not just the 2021 salary cap at risk of plummeting, it could set the NFL on course for cap reductions over a multiyear span.
For the time being, the NFL and team execs agreed to raise each team’s debt limit from $350MM to $500MM, Wickersham reports. The NFL most recently raised franchises’ debt limit just two years ago, when the figure jumped from $250MM to $350MM. Owners are set to vote on the new debt limit raise May 19.
Just after the pandemic hit, the NFL was still prepared to negotiate new TV deals. Armed with a new CBA that included two extra playoff games per season and an 18-week regular season beginning as soon as 2021, the league was expected to secure windfall agreements from networks. A cap spike that would push the NFL’s salary ceiling past $260MM by 2023 was in play. Now, the prospect of the cap falling from this year’s $198MM place is firmly in play. This would play a significant role in teams’ contract situations.
Increased advertising serves way to make up for big losses. Various staffers agree the league must open up new ad avenues, Jonathan Jones of CBS Sports notes. Teams are currently not allowed to place ads within 40 feet of each field’s surface; the goal posts reach 35 feet from ground level. But with the coronavirus creating unprecedented uncertainty for the NFL, it will likely explore other ways to generate revenue — in the event fans cannot attend games.