The Right Coast

Editor: Thomas A. Smith
University of San Diego
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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Who owns the Green Bay Packers
Tom Smith

If I had known this, I might have rooted for the Bears.  No, not really.  I'll always be a Packer fan because of Vince Lombardi, Jerry Kramer, and the rest of those guys.  Sometime I am going have to see if those games are available on DVD.  It is interesting to ask whether professional sports teams would be better in some sense if organized as shareholder-owned non-profits.  It certainly does little for my allegiance to the Chargers that they are forever threatening to move somewhere if they don't get a new stadium or whatever it is they are wanting these days.

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Tom Smith


The NFL is a cartel, which is a natural free market outcome. The cartel deliberately and openly restricts supply of media rights to boost revenues. The cartel leaves LA unserviced in order to shake down stadium subsidies from other markets. This is libertarian economics in practice.
Incidentally, if the feds allowed cities to set up 501(c)s for NFL teams the US would probably lose less tax revenue than they do from stadium bond scams. The reason this will not happen is that the NFL has rules preventing cities from buying the teams. The only beneficiaries of the current regime are 30 or so team owners.

Posted by: molly | Jan 26, 2011 10:52:00 AM

Or maybe all football teams should be owned by the government and administered by the Federal Football Administration.

Posted by: Tom Smith | Jan 26, 2011 12:10:13 PM

No one suggested that.
But if you want to take it as a thought experiment.... assume a slightly corrupt, and politically correct federally owned league:
-You would have more teams
-There would be no blackouts
-More Black quarterbacks

I'm sure there would be downsides:
-less revenue for the league because a federally owned league would not be so driven by capital
-maybe some patronage to, its just that I don't see a difference between politicians kids and plutocrats kids getting makework jobs

Your objections seem to be mostly ideological, not about outcomes.

Posted by: molly | Jan 26, 2011 1:34:04 PM

"More Black [capital "B"?] quarterbacks?" That's a point I had not considered and do not understand. Can you explain why that would result and why that should be a goal?

Posted by: Jasper | Jan 26, 2011 2:46:59 PM

Same thing re "more teams." I'm not sure I follow that either.

Just for the record, I have no problem following your "downsides." Indeed I agree that a government-owned NFL would result in inefficiencies and corruption.

But perhaps you can convince me that more black quarterbacks (if in fact that would result) would more than off-set those downsides.

Posted by: Jasper | Jan 26, 2011 3:20:23 PM

I'm assumuming that a federally owned market actor would be driven by buurearatic goals. As a federally owned institution, it would engage in politically driven acts that are not necessarily the best business decision. I cannot imagine a government owned NFL engaging in local media-blackouts to grab ticket guarantees from cities. In that sense it would be inefficient.
There actually are government owned market actors in the US today, like the post office and Amtrack, so I assume the FNFL in my though experiment would function like they do. Both do in fact make an effort to break even because they hate asking Congress for money, if only because Congress asks questions, and both try to curry favor by basically subsidizing unprofitable operations in the boondocks with profits from more succesfull operations. By analogy, I imagine an FNFL would put a team in LA for money, and would put one in a mid-sized city where an important congressman was located for pull.The black quarterback thing is something you hear talking heads complain about from time to time, and I assume an FNFL would see it as a way to curry favor.
What I am getting at is that in the case of a FNFL as oppossed to say the toaster company, most of the business inefficies would come from not engaging in rent-seeking like ticket guarantees and stadium subsidiies that the private NFL currently does. The "efficiency" of the NFL comes from monopoly price-gouging. As for corruption, priciple-agent problems are not confined to the public sector

Posted by: molly | Jan 26, 2011 9:03:16 PM

Everybody's business is nobody's business.

Posted by: Brand Bikinis | Aug 5, 2011 8:56:33 PM

Everybody's business is nobody's business.

Posted by: Sunglasses Discount | Aug 5, 2011 8:58:22 PM

I hope Packer ownership never goes to a single owner model, and remains as it is.

Posted by: Ryan - Packer Backers | Aug 18, 2011 10:08:18 AM