Union claims supplemental revenue pool was shorted by more than $70 million
As it turns out, the question of whether the NFL may pull the plug on the supplemental revenue sharing program has expanded into a more pointed question of whether the NFL has been properly implementing the device for redistributing a portion of the league’s unshared revenues from the high-revenue teams to the low-revenue franchises.
Put simply, the NFLPA claims that the league failed to redistribute more than $70 million that was supposed to have been paid out to low-revenue teams.
Chris Mortensen of ESPN.com reports that the union has filed a claim with Special Master Stephen Burbank regarding the situation, claiming that the league’s Management Council recently told the NFLPA that $68.3 million was distributed in 2006, $90.2 million in 2007, and $94.7 million in 2008. The union contends that the league should have redistributed $100 million in 2006, $105 million in 2007, and $120 million in 2008.
Those numbers apparently come from a March 15, 2006 resolution, a copy of which was attached as Exhibit 1 to the recent opinion issued by Burbank as to the question of whether supplemental revenue sharing will continue beyond the evaporation of the salary cap and the salary floor. (Burbank ruled that it will, agreeing with the union.)
Per Mortensen, the league contends that the redistribution has occurred in light of “qualifiers,” which as league sources have explained to us in the past are the factors that determine whether and to what extent a team requires additional revenue. And so it appears that the final decision will turn on whether the league indeed has the authority to hold back money from low-revenue teams based on the exercise of discretion as to the perceived needs of those franchises.
If the matter is expedited, and if the players prevail, another $70 million will be pumped into the coffers of the low-revenue teams. Though none of this means that the money will be devoted to players in the season without a salary cap and a salary floor, it will serve only to strengthen a possible claim from the union that the teams have engaged in collusion regarding the spending of cash on players in the uncapped year.
In other words, a messy situation could get a lot messier, if the union once again prevails before Burbank.
The fact that the low-revenue teams haven’t said a word about the shortfall proves that the 32 franchises are on the same page regarding issues that might otherwise divide them. If the union suspects that the clubs are on the same page regarding the placement of artificial limits on spending in the uncapped year, a collusion claim is certain.