Vikings could feel the financial squeeze

The Vikings have a keen interest in another battle between the NFL and its players union, one that helps them financially each year. It's just one small part of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, but it means a great deal to lower-revenue clubs like the Vikings.

The NFL is getting used to dealing with legal issues in Minnesota.

While the StarCaps case involving Pat Williams and Kevin Williams continues to make its way through various appeals, there is another case involving the NFL and the NFL Players Association that is expected to make a stop in Minnesota and have perhaps an even bigger long-term impact on the club.

A portion of the NFL's revenue-sharing program between its 32 clubs was voted to be disbanded by owners, but their authority to do so is being challenged by the players union, which says the Collective Bargaining Agreement does not allow the owners to disband the Supplemental Revenue Sharing (SRS) program just because 2010 is expected to have no salary cap (as called for because it is the final year of the CBA).

The Vikings, as one of the 10 lowest revenue-producing teams in the league, receive between $15 million and $20 million per year, while the top 10 revenue-producing teams pay into the program.

"Right now, we are subsidizing this market. It's unthinkable to think that you've got the market you've got with 3½ million and have teams like Kansas City and Green Bay subsidizing this market," Dallas owner Jerry Jones said during the preseason when his Cowboys were playing at the Metrodome. "That will stop. That's gonna stop. That's called revenue sharing and that's on its way out."

While the NFL didn't appreciate his comments and fined him because it violated their gag order on CBA-related topics, Jones' words proved prophetic. Since the 2010 season is expected to go through without a salary cap – and therefore have no salary floor either – owners tried to vote out the SRS portion of the revenue-sharing program.

The NFLPA contested their ability to do so, saying that the SRS program is not tied to having a salary cap.

The Vikings' need for SRS is clear. They ranked near the bottom of the league in several revenue and profit categories in research published by Forbes Magazine in September. Out of 32 teams, they ranked 31st in total value, with only Oakland behind them, 28th in debt value and 31st in revenue, with only Detroit below them.

The SRS program helps spread around the money made from concessions, parking and other local income made by individual teams. The Vikings don't control the revenue from several avenues surrounding stadium income, which is one of the many reasons they are looking for a new stadium.

The NFL would still be distributing revenue among its clubs from its television contracts, worth about $20 billion dollars.

"I think (revenue sharing) has been at the core of our success, and the ownership repeatedly has looked at revenue sharing and improved on revenue sharing. I think that is something that they will continue to do as necessary," NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said last week at the Super Bowl. "As it relates to the salary cap and labor agreement, we want to make sure we get an agreement here that will allow us to continue to invest in the game and grow the game in a way in which everyone will benefit."

For the Vikings, that $15 million to $20 million annually can be the difference between an operating profit and deficit, but the SRS program is just one piece of a multi-layered debate between the NFL and NFLPA as they begin to negotiate for an extension to the CBA.

"It's not a point in time here where we're going to get specific in a negotiation," Goodell said about the bargaining process. "But, if we sit down at the table, I think we can recognize that with a proper system that recognizes the investment it takes that ultimately we can get to a system that will allow all of the benefits to be shared by the players and by the owners and by the fans."

Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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