Should Struggling NFL Teams Be Allowed Public Ownership?

Vince RiccioContributor IAugust 10, 2010

ATLANTA - NOVEMBER 28:  Fans of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets sit dejected in the stands after a 30-24 loss to the Georgia Bulldogs at Bobby Dodd Stadium on November 28, 2009 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Green Bay Packers are, in my opinion, an example of a proud publicly owned team that has been working for a city that may have otherwise lost its team.


Yes, there is history and tradition that surrounds the highly decorated Packers, but we must not forget that Green Bay is a city with a population of just over 100,000 (Metro is considered to be approx 280,000) and the team has been in existence since 1919 and weathered many storms.


Touted as being the last of the “small town” football bred teams, the Packers have seen 11 NFL Championships, two AFL-NFL Super Bowl Championships, and a modern day Super Bowl Championship.


Not only have they survived public ownership for over 85 years, but also effectively coordinated stock sales in 1950, 1997, and 1998; all which built a new city owned stadium as well as garner up $24 million of capital to redevelop Lambeau Field.


The secret to its success very well could be their not for profit status and community focused approach to team ownership.  This approach attracts investors to motivate them to catch the spirit of the team.


Sadly, this success story cannot be the success story of another NFL team that may be struggling. 


Changes to Ownership Rules


In 1980, the NFL adopted new stipulations that did not allow teams to have more than 32 owners encompassing team ownership.  Furthermore, the owner had to maintain at least a 30% minimum ownership of the team. 


Previously, the NFL mandated that 51 percent of a teams ownership must be owned by the main (or principal) owner.


In 2004, the league was required to make further changes to assist with rising team values and commenced a period where 20% must be maintained by the principal owner, however, another 10% must be maintained by a family member.  This rule was contingent for those teams which maintained ownership for a minimum of 10 years.


After those changes, the NFL was at it again some five years later.  In 2009, the rules were changed so that principal ownership could be 10% and other family members would maintain 20%.


These changes were put into motion because of a variety of factors that were affecting owners:  ranging from teams with incredibly high valuations, the changes in the economy, or the sheer age of some owners requiring a viable transition plan. 


All of this helps us to understand the current structure that exists in the NFL.


A New Era?


Obviously, the Packers were grandfathered into the initial 1980 changes and they still exist as the only publicly owned team. 


Should a system be put into place that fosters a community guided and focused approach to team success?  Is there a potential to open the flood gates once again to allow teams to convert to publicly owned teams and have `people power` behind sports organizations?


I am certainly not suggesting a communist approach if there are those readers who may have the feeling that is my intention.  Instead, I am suggesting an alternative to the constant chatter and speculation of a city losing a team or moving. 


With the opportunity to convert teams, it may be the lifeline teams require to become a viable and stable team.  All of this is dependent on if they have hometown support, a solid fan base, and a quality product on the field.


Could this be an answer for teams like the Rams, Jaguars or Lions? 


That is where it does get tricky.  There needs to be a tandem or synergy at work.  Stable and viable ownership matched with a quality product on the field.  In the end, fans and communities should be able to rally around a team both in spirit and financially.


Obviously, public ownership isn’t a silver bullet solution and spell success for all markets.  As well, it certainly doesn’t answer all the questions nor solve all the problems; but it is food for thought. 


What’s your take?