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Monday, September 22, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 68.0° F  A Few Clouds
The Paper
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The end of NFL football?

Enjoy your postseason run, Packers fans. The NFL might take an extended leave of absence this off-season.

The league's collective bargaining agreement between the owners and players is set to expire on March 3. If a new agreement isn't reached by then - and there's been little movement - players could be locked out. Some believe a work stoppage could stretch into next fall and lead to canceled games.

Under the current agreement, the owners set aside $1 billion from gross revenues for stadium expenses and then pay the players a percentage of the remaining pie. They're now insisting $1 billion isn't enough to cover costs, and want to set aside more, creating a smaller pie to split with players.

The owners are making their case with the only financial information available - from the publicly owned Packers. According to Forbes, the Packers made just under $10 million last fiscal year, down from more than $20 million the year before.

Players, who want other teams to open the books, have gone on a public-relations offensive around the theme of "Let Us Play!" But a small group of owners, led by Dallas' Jerry Jones, could make that effort irrelevant; they don't like the current revenue-sharing deal between teams and hope a work stoppage forces the low-revenue clubs to agree to a new split.

Tampering with revenue sharing, which lets small-market clubs like Green Bay remain competitive with New York, would be a mistake. Competitive balance has given the league its rabid fan base.

And fans are the one thing football can't afford to lose.

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