- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 14, 2010

GREEN BAY, WIS. (AP) - The Green Bay Packers remain profitable, just not as much as they have been in recent years.

And as the only NFL team that opens its books to the public, this year’s financial report is certain to come up in the league’s labor negotiations.

Packers officials said Wednesday that the team posted an operating profit of $9.8 million in the fiscal year that ended March 31, down from $20.1 million the previous year. The team has been in a slide since posting an operating profit of $34 million four years ago.

President and CEO Mark Murphy attributed the decrease mostly to escalating player costs, putting the team squarely in the middle of a contentious debate between players and owners over a new collective bargaining agreement.

“There are some trends that we have seen over the last couple of years that continued, and obviously one of those is the escalation of player costs,” Murphy said. “Our player costs continue to grow at a rate faster than our revenue.”

As a publicly owned team, the Packers must report financial information to shareholders. Team officials briefed selected media outlets, including The Associated Press, on the team’s finances.

Taking into account investment losses that were less severe in 2009-2010 than the previous fiscal year, the team reported net income of $5.2 million, up from $4 million.

The Packers took in a total of $258 million in the last fiscal year, $10 million more than the previous year.

But player costs increased sharply to $161 million, up from $139 million the previous year.

The team said player costs have been increasing 11.8 percent annually over the past four seasons, while revenue increased only 5.5 percent annually during the same timeframe.

“It’s not just this year,” Murphy said. “We’ve seen these trends for a number of years now that really point out some of the issues that we have with the current agreement.”

That’s the key sticking point between players and owners in negotiations on a new deal, with owners wanting players to take a significantly smaller share of overall money the league takes in. If the two sides do not agree to a deal, they face the prospect of a labor stoppage in 2011.

Packers officials are aware that this year’s report will be more closely scrutinized than in years past. They know some might even suspect them of painting an overly bleak financial picture to influence fan opinion.

“We can’t help the way other people look at it,” Packers vice president of administration/general counsel Jason Wied said. “But we have taken the same approach with our books, with our accounting principles, with the way we do business, with the way we pay our football team this year as we have in any year prior.”

NFL Players Association president Kevin Mawae said more of the 32 teams should provide detailed financial information.

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