Paul Tagliabue should be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Tagliabue put in 37 years of service, first as a league attorney and Washington, D.C., lobbyist and then as commissioner, finishing in 2006 and he made his owners a lot of money, which ultimately is how a commissioner of any league is judged.
But he also got a lot of help from municipalities who seized upon changes in the 1986 Tax Code and courted teams with vigor. Using the new law, which changed how stadiums and arenas could be municipally funded, city after city began building or renovating existing facilities, complete with luxury boxes, club seating, and other corporate-oriented amenities that enriched owners.
Tagliabue also got lucky when Rupert Murdoch threw billions of dollars the league’s way in 1992 in an effort to prop up his fledgling and faltering FOX syndication business. Murdoch’s gamble paid off; FOX became a viable syndicator or network by carrying NFL games and, along the way, stole major market TV affiliates from CBS, whose bosses wouldn’t match Murdoch’s bid. Murdoch upped the ante in the rights fee game and forced NBC and ABC to pay more money than the networks wanted for football. In these days of eroding television viewership, the NFL still delivers the 18-49 male demographic to advertisers, which makes the league a valuable commodity.
Under Tagliabue’s watch, the league and players have had labor peace from 1993 until his retirement. Tagliabue was to maintain the “Leaguethink” philosophy in regard to revenue sharing. Of course, much of that had to do with increasing TV revenues, increasing stadium revenues, and increasing franchise values. That should have been his ticket to Canton but voters don’t comprehend that side of the industry.
By Evan Weiner For The Politics Of Sports Business
This article was republished with permission from the original publisher, Evan Weiner.