NFL Ownership Rules

There’s a lot to admire about the quasi-communal ownership structure of the Green Bay Packers, but what’s particularly noteworthy about them is the fact that this unusual structure is actually against the rules of the National Football League: “Every other NFL franchise is controlled or entirely owned by one majority shareholder, and NFL rules prohibit otherwise. (The Packers’ ownership structure predates current NFL rules.)”

This isn’t some kind of massive first-order public policy problem, but given that the vagaries of stadium finance almost inevitably seem to end up implicating the state in the business of high level sports we may as well treat it as one. Basically there’s no reason the various public agencies that end up embroiling themselves in football should stand for this. Why shouldn’t more communities be able to purchase NFL franchises and operate them for the broadly conceived good of a fanbase? It actually seems to me that something along these broad ownership lines is the most logical capital structure for most pro sports teams. You could imagine something like a team being owned by a group of several thousand season ticket holders who’d elect a board amongst themselves and hire a professional manager. As fans, their priority would be to put a winning team on the field. Business considerations would of course be an important element of that—you need revenue to hire players and coaches—but the structure of the “business” would resemble the basic relationship involved in being a season ticket holder. You’re putting money on the line because you can afford it and because you love to root for the team.