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NFL tackled by downturn, to shed 150 staff

Associated Press / December 10, 2008
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NEW YORK - The NFL pays its players billions of dollars a year and fans pack its stadiums every week. But even the deep-pocketed league is shedding jobs.

Commissioner Roger Goodell said yesterday the league is cutting more than 10 percent of its staff in response to the downturn in the nation's economy that could put a dent in ticket sales for next season.

Goodell disclosed the cuts in a memo to league employees. The NFL is eliminating about 150 of its staff of 1,100 in New York, NFL Films in New Jersey, and television and Internet production facilities in Los Angeles.

"These are difficult and painful steps," he wrote in the memo. "But they are necessary in the current economic environment. I would like to be able to report that we are immune to the troubles around us, but we are not. Properly managed, I am confident the NFL will emerge stronger, more efficient and poised to pursue long-term growth opportunities."

The NFL long has been regarded as one of the wealthiest pro sports leagues on the planet. In September, Forbes called the NFL "the richest game" and the "the strongest sport in the world." The league has revenues of approximately $6.5 billion of which an estimated $4.5 billion goes to players.

But now it joins the NBA, NASCAR teams, and the company that runs Major League Baseball's Internet division in disclosing layoffs. The NHL hasn't laid off workers, though it is in a hiring freeze, a spokesman said yesterday.

So far, NFL fans haven't noticed the cutbacks, which also include reduction in travel by some league staff and such secondary costs as printing and minor events. The NFL said last month it was reducing the cost of playoff tickets by about 10 percent from last season.

"We're looking at everything with an eye to how we can be more efficient and reduce costs," league spokesman Greg Aiello said.

The cuts will take place over the next 60 days, running past the Super Bowl, which will be played Feb. 1 in Tampa.

Employees who volunteer to leave will be offered what was termed "a voluntary separation program."

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