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Competition for the NFL?

So far they've ponied up just a couple of million - enough to pay Peyton Manning for a few games. But at least the names are interesting: Bill Hambrecht, of WR Hambrecht, Mark Cuban of blog maverick 😉 and a "senior executive" at Google (I figure anyone who is a senior executive at Google might be worth a few hundred million). The project is the United Football League, and Joe Nocera has the story at the New York Times.

It's been a while since the NFL faced a serious upstart competitor. The XFL was short-lived, and not-so-serious. The USFL was serious, but not serious enough to earn more than $1, trebled, in their otherwise successful antitrust lawsuit against the NFL. (Their claim for $567M in damages was figuratively laughed out of court). The timing of the AFL in the 1960s was impeccable. Perhaps Hambrecht et al will be as committed and as fortunate as Lamar Hunt et al with the AFL, who knows?

Nocera ends his column with some interesting observations from Roger Noll, who is apparently now referred to as a "sports economist" (that's good, right?):

When I asked Roger Noll, a sports economist at Stanford University, whether it is possible to compete with the N.F.L., he laughed, but hedidn ’t scoff. “The crucial barrier to entry is finding stadiums in the biggest cities,” he replied — something U.F.L. executives insist is not a problem in the places they are considering. “If you can do that, it would be easy to have a league.” Noll pointed out that for wealthy people who want to own a football team, it is far cheaper to start a new league than to try to land an expansion team — which, assuming that the N.F.L. were interested, would cost upward of $800 million. “You need to have enough money to experience losses that will amount to 20 to 30 percent of revenue in the first three or four years,” he said. It’s much cheaper to lose money over that time than to purchase an N.F.L. franchise.

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