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Action Replay: Supplying the Grid

You might think that Premiership football manager is the shortest-lived career in sport. But being an American (gridiron) football player probably holds the title, for on average a player will manage less than four seasons before injuries take their toll. Notwithstanding this, the employers want to increase the number of competitive games played per season, from 16 to 18, with likely consequences for players’ well-being. The owners also want to cut wages and bring existing contracts to an end, two years earlier than is laid down.

As a result, the players threatened a strike, with the next season, due to start in September, under threat. The top players may be millionaires, but there plenty of other players who are far less well-off and who need the free post-career healthcare that is provided after three years of playing. And the team owners are mostly billionaires, with franchises that have grown massively in value over the last decade. Moreover, they have apparently got television contracts that guarantee payment to them even if no games take place.

The climax of the American football season is the Super Bowl, held this year in Texas at the start of February. Advertising slots during TV coverage came in at three million dollars for a half-minute commercial, and plenty of companies have been prepared to pay this, far more than last year. This has been seen by many as a signal that the US economy is recovering from the recession. If next year’s Super Bowl is cancelled, then there will not just be a lot of disappointed sports fans, but disappointed TV executives too.

The players’ and owners’ representatives have now resumed negotiations, but it is still not clear if there is a real chance of a settlement. Even celebrity workers sometimes have to be prepared to withdraw their labour power in order to defend their working conditions.

PB