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NFL Labor Talks Take Turn Over Financials

Wednesday, 9 Mar 2011 | 1:57 PM ET

The toughest part of the NFL's Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations never had anything to do with the rookie wage scale, an 18-game season or increased benefits to players.

It was always about how to negotiate the split of revenues.

The owners, who in the previous deal received a $1 billion expense credit off the top of league revenues before sharing with the players, started negotiations by saying the finances didn't work because costs had risen.

In current negotiations, owners began by asking for an additional $1 billion off the top before sharing with the players, a number that has since dropped. But the players simply couldn't agree to a new figure without seeing what the owners were talking about.

The league has since agreed to share financials, audited numbers from 2005-2009 and offered to have an auditor crunch the numbers of the 32 individual teams to check it with the numbers the league has provided to the union.

But the union isn't just interested in if the math lines up. They're also interested in analyzing how fuzzy that math is and an auditor isn't going to do that.

Although there has been great progress made through mediation, that progress hasn't been made through trust. It was made because the players looked to have the upper hand thanks to the threat of decertification, a subsequent antitrust lawsuit and a presiding judge whose decisions have been pro-union.

You see, transparency to the league is offering what they have offered — more than they have ever offered in the past. The union doesn't think they way. They think that if things are so bad and the numbers are honest, why can't we see the breakdowns?

I believe chopping dollars off the top of the deal is not a good structure. There has to be a more complex sharing formula based on what the owners and players can agree to on a percentage of allowable expenses beyond player salaries that bring the gross revenues closer to the net revenues.

I'm pretty sure that based on this, nothing can be done by Friday's 11:59pm ET deadline of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Even if the league offered the union its financials from all 32 teams, it would take weeks to run through the numbers.

If that doesn't happen, the union isn't going to rely on time to see if the league wants to come forward. It's believed they'll take this to the courts and all bets are then off on when a deal can get done.

Questions? Comments? SportsBiz@cnbc.com

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