Viability of Buffalo Bills Franchise, Heart and Soul of Buffalo at Stake
Buffalo, NY—Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-27) today sent a letter to National Football League (NFL) Commissioner Paul Tagliabue writing that the new NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) threatens the viability of the Buffalo Bills NFL franchise. The Higgins letter comes after a meeting Saturday with current Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson, during which they discussed the negative effects some of the qualifier provisions in the CBA will have on the Bills, leaving them in an economically untenable position, which could force them out of Buffalo.
“The Bills, one of the original American Football League (AFL) franchises, represent the heart and soul of today’s NFL,” said Higgins. “Without immediate consideration of the unique economic situation concerning this storied franchise, and the great city that has enthusiastically supported the Bills for almost 50 years, the loss of this team to this city would, in effect, rip the heart and soul out of the NFL, and out of this great American city.”
Higgins asked Commissioner Tagliabue for immediate consideration into the interpretation of several “qualifier” provisions in the new CBA to ensure the viability of the Bills, and teams like it in smaller markets. Specifically, Higgins is concerned that the revenue sharing qualifiers will not be written in a way that is amenable to small market franchises and he strongly believes that these teams must have adequate representation on the “Qualifier Writing Committee."
Higgins wrote that provisions in the CBA that greatly effect Buffalo include stipulations regarding ticket sales falling below a certain level before revenue sharing participation kicks in. While the Bills have great community support, ticket prices are low because Buffalo is not a wealthy community; but under the stipulations, the Bills could sell-out all home games and still lose money and not be eligible for revenue sharing.
Additionally, including state and county monetary support in establishing franchise revenue would be extremely detrimental to the Bills and similar teams. For example, in Buffalo all game day stadium expenses are picked up by Erie County – the County reimburses the Bills for the cost of security, ticket takers, ushers, among other services – counting these contributions against the team could mean that the CBA is a de facto plan to annihilate small market franchises.
Finally, Higgins wrote that he is also highly concerned about the possibility that new team ownership would not be eligible for revenue sharing. The Bills have been lucky enough to remain under the stewardship of their owner, Ralph C. Wilson, but should Mr. Wilson ever decide to sell the team, a new owner would have no alternative but to look to move the team.
“The Bills are Buffalo and Buffalo is the Bills,” continued Higgins. “Together, we’ve celebrated the good times and stuck by each other through the bad ones. Buffalo is currently undergoing a downtown resurgence that will make this community stronger, but should the Bills be forced to leave, as could eventually happen under the new CBA, the NFL would be responsible for turning its back on the economic recovery of the City of Light and on other small markets like it. I urge Commissioner Tagliabue to ensure that the detrimental stipulations are not in the final CBA and that small market franchises have adequate representation on the ‘Qualifier Writing Committee.’ Small market franchises are part of what gives the NFL its glory; please do not take that away from the fans, specifically those in Buffalo.”