You don’t get much for owning a share of the Packers besides a pretty certificate—the shares are non-tradable and don’t pay dividends. But we all benefit from Green Bay being the only publicly owned major American pro sports team, because each year they have to release their financials. The numbers for fiscal year 2014 are out, and the Packers—along with every single other NFL team—received $226.4 million in national revenue sharing. That’s more than $7.2 billion across the league.
That figure, coming mostly from national media deals, just keeps climbing. Last season it was $6 billion. In 2010 it was around $3 billion. The NFL as an entity makes an increasingly huge amount of money from television, and splits it evenly among its 32 teams—a strongly socialist way to do things, even though the Packers did more to earn that TV money than, say, the Jaguars. But the upshot is this: even the most poorly run NFL teams start with $226 million in revenues.
Per the Green Bay Press-Gazette, here are the Packers’ financials from 2014-2015, compared with the same figures from the previous fiscal year.
• National revenue: $226.4 million, up 20.6 percent
• Local revenue: 149.3 million, up 9.4 percent
• Total revenue: $375.5 million, up 15.9 percent
• Players costs: $150 million, down 12.3 percent
• Total expenses: $336.3 million, up 12.7 percent
• Profit from operations: $39.4 million, up 53.9 percent
• Net income: $29.2 million, up 15.3 percent
It is important to note that the Packers’ figures don’t tell us anything about how other teams are making or spending more money, and they also don’t paint a full picture of Green Bay’s financial health. Expenses have been higher in recent years due to stadium renovation costs and other outlays:
Total expenses for the year were $336.3 million, up 12.7 percent and also a record. Player costs, which can be cyclical, based on when top-tier players are signed to new contracts, were down 12.3 percent, but real estate developments costs, depreciation related to expansion projects and a league assessment for debt refinancing drove expenses higher.
The Packers spent $53.7 million buying 64 acres east, west and south of Lambeau Field, most of it in the last four years.
The Packers are a unique case in the NFL. They are limited by being based in the league’s single smallest market, but are buoyed by their on-field success and tremendous fan loyalty. It’s dangerous to try and apply any lessons to the rest of the league, but I keep coming back to that revenue sharing figure. If you’re being spotted $226 million just for existing, you’d have to run your football team pretty poorly to escape turning a profit. And, not for nothing, you’ve got to feel really sneaky when you can convince local politicians to give you taxpayer money for a new stadium on top of that.