The number two executive in the world’s most popular professional sport is Jeff Pash. He is the Executive Vice-President and General Counsel and the lead negotiator for the NFL and its owners.
I meet Jeff in 2001 at the Commissioners dinner held at the NIC (combine) in Indianapolis, IN. A lawyer that is well respected, he is an extremely bright and witty man and easy to talk to. He is very confident with a bit of arrogance in his personality but very genuine. I truly like him as a person.
When Paul Tagliabue retired July 2006, there were five candidates for the job; Roger Goodell, Pash, Rich McKay (Atlanta Falcons President), Eric Grubman (NFL Executive VP of Finance and Business transactions) and Dick Cass (President of Baltimore Ravens).
Under the guidance of Commissioner Tagliabue, the NFL never had a lockout (by owners) or strike (by the players). His relationship with the late Gene Upshaw (NFLPA Chief & Pro Football Hall of Fame member) was impeccable.
Commissioner Goodell doesn’t have the same relationship with DeMaurice Smith, the Executive Director of the NFLPA. Despite total respect for each other, their relationship is cold and standoffish. The NFL addressed where they stand as of today before the Union gets to address their concerns and issues on this stalemate. The Commissioner is counting on Pash and his negotiation committee to get a deal done.
Covering the Pash presser and sitting among 40-50 reporters, the league answered questions on the potential lockout:
He first talked about the Economic Modifications. When asked if they the owners are trying to get back what was lost since 2006 he said, “No this has nothing to do with get backs, nothing to do with get backs, it has to do with creating a business model that will allow us not to look backwards but to look forward to have an economic system that will fuel growth. Over the last 10 years player compensation has doubled, if we have an economic system that works we can do that again.”
Today the owners presently receive 42.5% of the revenue and the players 57.5. While both sides are thriving in today’s economy, making close if not over 8 billion dollars last year, it must find a way to settle and be creative in the new CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement).
He went on to say if an economic system were in place both could thrive. “Instead of playing one game in Europe we could play multiple games in London, maybe a franchise in London. We could have bigger rosters. We would be able to expand benefits, expand research, expand health and safety programs. We would be able to have stadiums in Los Angeles, Atlanta, the Bay area that would be a nice thing there is a lot out there, things that a small minded lawyer can’t even dream of.”
He spoke about the 18 game season as well, “A 18 game schedule could be a part of the new business model, it doesn’t have to be, but it could be. We said if you’re going to have an 18 game schedule, there must be changes in the off season and pre-season structure to make up for that. The economics of an 18 game schedule could be compelling, the best thing about an 18 game schedule, it is responsive to fan interest. The fans have been clear and they have little use for four pre-season games. They don’t like them and don’t want to pay for them and they feel they don’t get much value out of them, giving the fans more value for their dollar is a positive thing.”
He went on to state that their focus is 100% to reach an agreement; uninterrupted football is their goal. Leverage and timing is some of the reasons for both sides not sitting down and really going to work on finding a middle ground or solution, along with posturing and campaigning for public interest and fan popularity.
“We need to concentrate on the next two weeks, whatever has happened in the past, put it aside and let’s work together if we put the effort into negotiating like we do litigating, news conferences and pep rallies we could get something accomplished.”
When asked if there is one issue that is a real sticking point that once they get past that they can move on rather quickly he replied, “How we structure the CAP moving forward is a critical issue, concept of sustaining an economic model that develops growth.”
His reply to the Special Master decision about the NFL vs. NFLPA over the current TV contracts; “The union had filed a claim, a decision was handed down saying the provisions in the TV contracts provide for financing in the event of a work stoppage, where a violation of the current CBA. The union asked the Special Master to bar this agreement and not allow the NFL access to any of those funds in the case of a work stoppage. He issued a decision in which the union has applied.”
The judge did not bar the League from access to those funds, and left them unchanged. According to sources he did grant the NFLPA (players) six million dollars on a game that should have been paid in 2010 and was not. Pash went on to say that the NFL had not been counting on this money that they were not depending on it for any of their own planning.
“We are fully prepared for all the tendencies without regard to the TV money, and when you think about it for a moment, TV money if we take any of it, we have to pay that back with interest. It is not money we get to keep, so when we do get to a deal that money has already been used and makes less revenue to pay players, it’s not good for us and not good for them.”
In other words if there is no new deal and the NFLPA forces the NFL to lockout, the operating cost for all 32 teams will start to eat away at TV revenue losses leaving less once an agreement is reached.
Pash went on to say, “Our number one strategy is good faith negotiations, if we get to March and there is no agreement, I’m not sure what decision the clubs will make, but they a certainly prepared for the full range of alternatives. Once the agreement expires everyone understands what the options are. We will assess the situation at the time.”
The pressure is mounting despite some common ground, the clock is ticking, time waits for nothing or no one and in this case the deadline is coming fast, March 3rd2011 is a very serious date for everyone. There is eight billion plus reasons to get a deal done!