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NFL disagrees with union's estimate of lockout economic impact

WASHINGTON -- The NFL and its players' union can't seem to agree on much when it comes to their labor talks, including the possible economic impact of a lockout.

The NFL Players Association estimates an average of about $160 million in local spending and 3,000 jobs would be lost in each league city if the full 2011 season were wiped out. Player salaries account for 30 percent to 50 percent of that $160 million, the economist who analyzed data for the union said Friday.

"The point here is not to try to get sympathy to a group of players or anything like that," union spokesman George Atallah said. "It's just to identify the broader impact that this game has."

When the union asked economist Jesse David to do that, he drew information from 10 studies since 2002 estimating economic impacts of new stadiums. David wanted to extrapolate the possible fallout if all of the league's stadiums wind up empty because no new collective bargaining agreement is reached in time to save next season. One study was sponsored by an NFL team; the others by stadium authorities or developers or the host state or municipality.

"When the teams and the developers are seeking that money, they often commission studies of the economic impact that a stadium and the NFL operations in it will have on the local economy," David said on a conference call arranged by the union. "Those numbers are clearly relevant to the question of what will happen if NFL activity stops."

David said the average, per-game impact would be about $20 million; the range runs from about $12 million to $40 million.

The studies he used involved a possible stadium for the San Francisco 49ers in Santa Clara, Calif., and current facilities used by the San Diego Chargers, Indianapolis Colts, Dallas Cowboys, Atlanta Falcons, New York Giants/Jets, Baltimore Ravens, New Orleans Saints, Houston Texans and Minnesota Vikings.

"These 10 were taken as representative," David said. "They include teams in large markets or high-revenue teams like the Cowboys. They include smaller-market or lower-revenue teams, for example, like the Saints. They run over a range of time periods from 2002 to 2010. ... We've assumed that those as a group are representative of the league more broadly. If they're not, then the number could be slightly different."

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello wrote Friday in an e-mail to The Associated Press: "The fairy tales continue."

In response, Atallah wrote: "Tell that to the mayor of Buffalo, who estimated $140 million in lost revenues in one of the NFL's smallest markets. Why don't you tell the hotels, bars, stadium workers and people that support the game what they lose in an NFL lockout?"

Aiello said the league doesn't have its own estimate of the potential effects of a lockout on NFL cities. But he questioned the validity of the union's numbers.

"None of these third-party studies cited today had anything to do with the economic impact of a season-long work stoppage. If any of this had credibility, each city would have its own figure, taking into account all the relevant factors, such as stadium capacity, fan base, and market demographics," Aiello wrote. "It's unfortunate that the union has been circulating unattributed research about the impact of a potential lockout and it's now clear there is no such credible, original research done by the union, the league, or anyone else."

The current CBA expires in March, and NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith has said he believes owners are preparing for a lockout. The home page of the NFLPA's official website features a "Lockout Watch" that counts down the days, hours, minutes and seconds until the CBA expires.

The players currently receive 59.6 percent of designated NFL revenues, a number agreed to in the 2006 CBA. The owners say that's too much, arguing that they have huge debts from building stadiums and starting up NFL Network and other ventures, making it impossible to be profitable.

"The purpose of this call, the purpose of us identifying these issues, is simply to raise the public consciousness of the negative impacts that a lockout would have," Atallah said. "If the owners are going to lock out the players ... (players might be fine but) many other people that support the game won't."

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Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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