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Imagining Football in a Non-NFL World, by Bill Barnwell


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There is precedent for a league eating itself alive and reenvisioning itself, just not in America.

In 1992, the 22 teams in the first division of the English Football League left to create a new competition, primarily to take larger chunks of a more lucrative television deal. Within years, the new organization they formed — the Premier League — became the most prominent domestic sporting competition in the world.

Like the Premier League, the NFL derives a massive portion of its annual revenue from television companies (including ESPN, which owns this website and employs me). The league generates $7 billion in media rights fees each year, which forms the vast majority of its $9 billion to $10 billion of annual revenue. If you were looking for a reason why the NFL might not be here in 30 years, you would start there. Any drop in that revenue stream would seriously affect team profitability and render the league’s current financial structure untenable.

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