Unless a miracle happens and a non-eleventh-hour negotiation of a new Collective Bargaining Agreement comes about during the season (really not likely), the sad music playing underneath the 2010 season is the very real possibility of a lockout in 2011, and no NFL football for a long time. You'd think that the owners and players would be inclined to agree on the furtherance of a sport that's basically become a license to print money, but the money is what it's all about -- more specifically, how much of it the players get. I talked to ESPN's John Clayton about this at the most recent scouting combine, and his more educated take on the specific matters can be found here.
You may very well wonder what happens to advertising deals, licensing deals and television money in the event of a lockout. Basically, unless the principals on the other side of the table from the NFL dealmakers are complete idiots, any revenue from these deals reverts back to the companies looking to do business with the league. As NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said earlier this year in response to NFLPA chief DeMaurice Smith's contention that the league gets to keep a percentage of TV money whether it puts games on the field or not, that revenue is "money (that) has to be repaid. Whatever we receive from the TV networks is essentially a loan and not money we just keep." So, according to Aiello, the motivation is to try and get a deal done, even though there seems to be a wide divide and the owners may actually want a lockout in order to try and control player spending -- in other words, a kind of legal collusion.
That's why the NFL's recent deal with Budweiser, which makes Bud Light the "official beer of the NFL' in 2011, so very interesting. The beer company could always insist on a clause in the contract that gives all revenue back during the time of a work stoppage, but why enter into an agreement with a corporation like the NFL if the risk of temporary non-existence was high? We don't have the figures of the deal, but one can assume that it's going to take a lot of scratch to become the official anything of the NFL. And this is the game of "Chicken" the owners are playing -- whether the control of player costs is worth an enormous loss in ancillary revenue. If this Bud's for the NFL, it means that the NFL might actually be fully operational in 2011.