- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 17, 2003

NFL owners yesterday voted to keep alive NFL Europe, the much-lauded but unprofitable developmental league.

Meeting yesterday in Northwest, the owners voted 24-8 to fund NFL Europe for another two years. A three-quarters vote of approval was required, meaning just one more no vote would have killed the effort, which dates to 1989 under various names.

After several hours of debate, proponents argued benefits from international marketing, providing programming for the forthcoming NFL Network and development of players, coaches and officials outweighed any concerns about money or player allocation.

“I don’t view this as a profit-making venture — I view this as a long-term venture and investment in the future of our game,” commissioner Paul Tagliabue said. The league loses an estimated $15million per year. The figure amounts to far less than $1million a team but still is somewhat shocking given the extremely healthy financial picture throughout the rest of the league.

The NFL’s international division will now work on a long-term business plan for the league, with the intent of presenting it to owners next year. The plan could involve recommendations of franchise relocations and perhaps expansion from the current six-team lineup.

“This is the first time, I think, that a lot of owners really took a long, hard look at the business,” said Doug Quinn, managing director of NFL International. “We have a commitment to move forward, which is very gratifying. Now we need to work on improving the structure and business model of NFL Europe.”

NFL rosters this season have 282 players who first played in NFL Europe. But impact players such as St. Louis Rams quarterback Kurt Warner have been arriving less frequently from the league.

In other league business, NFL owners awarded the 2007 Super Bowl to Miami. The long-expected decision became official after league executives finalized operational details with Pro Player Stadium and Miami Dolphins owner Wayne Huizenga. Super Bowl XLI will be the ninth Super Bowl played in South Florida.

NFL owners will vote on the following year’s game late next month during another owners’ meeting in Chicago. For that Super Bowl, Washington and FedEx Field will compete against New York, Tampa, Fla., and Arizona. Going to either New York or Washington would require a waiver or amendment of league rules that prohibit playing the Super Bowl outdoors in cities with cold winters.

Many league owners and executives, including New York Giants president Bob Tisch, believe the owners ultimately will follow Tagliabue’s lead and agree to such a waiver. More pressing, however, is the current battle between the Giants and the New Jersey Sports & Exposition Authority, which controls Giants Stadium.

The Giants and the NFL have jointly proposed to fund the entire cost of renovating Giants Stadium to play host to a Super Bowl, a project estimated at $300million. But the Giants and the authority have wrestled for weeks on who would control the stadium during football season. The Giants want operational control, nearly all football-related revenues and the ability to book non-football events at the stadium during the fall in exchange for not seeking public money for the renovations.

The authority, in turn, is loath to give up lucrative luxury suite funds it currently receives. If the dispute is not resolved by the end of September, Tisch said the Giants may not present their Super Bowl bid next month.

“We’re meeting again next week,” Tisch said. “This is something we obviously need to work through if we’re going to keep moving ahead.”

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