Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Green Bay Packers: NFL Capitalists

The Green Bay Packers are the best run franchise in any sport.

I am not alone in my belief in this concept. The fact that the Packers are a publicly owned team is widely known, and that alone makes them the best run franchise in sports.
In my opinion, running a team is the same as running a business. The players represent the employees, the fans represent the customers, the field represents the plant, restaurant, etc. and the upper management represents the corporate leaders. In order for the team to function properly, like a business, a balance has to be struck between the players, coaches, management and fans that all participants can benefit and succeed, and therefore cause a desire to perform. A desire to perform, a desire to succeed? Sounds like capitalism to me!

The Packers are the best in the United States at this, in terms of sports teams, and I will tell you why.
First, look at the facts. The Packers play in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Notice I did not say Madison, Wisconsin. I also did not say Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Green Bay is a small city with a population of just over 100,000 people, according to the 2010 US census, and a total of about 300,000 when you count the surrounding areas. This small population means that the Packers operate in the smallest market of any NFL team, and it’s not even close. The second smallest is Buffalo, which has a population of 1.1 million after counting surrounding areas. The New York City market has over 50 times that many people, with 19 million.

So the Packers have a small market, who cares?

It’s the next few facts I’m going to throw at you that are mind-blowing.
  1. The Packers average about 63,000 fans per home game. That is about 63% of the people living within the actual city of Green Bay. In order for the New York Jets to pull this off, they would need to draw a crowd of 5.4 million people. I realize that this is impossible, so it stands to reason that the Jets fan base has a huge list of people waiting to get season tickets, since the crowds probably fill up very quickly. Wrong!
  2. The Packers legendary home field, Lambeau Field, has been on a sold-out basis for season tickets since 1960. So for the last 51 years, you have not been able to guarantee yourself season tickets for that year. However, you could put yourself on a waiting list and guarantee season tickets for 30 years into the future. The Jets have no waiting list whatsoever, and you can reserve your season tickets for next year today, if you so choose.
  3. The Packers have a winning tradition unrivaled in the NFL. With a total of 12 NFL championships (4 super bowls), no team has more. This has given Green Bay the nickname of “Titletown, U.S.A.”
My question is, how does a team playing in the smallest market in the NFL have the longest waiting list for season ticket holders and win the most championships?
My theory is the publicly traded theory. Since the town owns the team, not one person, the General Manager has the most power. This means a few things. First of all, GM’s are much more involved with day-to-day football operations than an owner is, unless you’re Jerry Jones. This means that the de facto boss is very concerned with the football aspect of the business, and current GM Ted Thompson has done an excellent job going deep into the draft and making smart decisions in trading and free agency which have given the Packers a deep team, one that is the odds-on favorite to repeat as Super Bowl champions as the playoffs begin today.

If it’s so successful, why don’t more teams do this? The NFL has banned any other team from doing this in 1949, but the Packers had been traded publicly before then and were grandfathered in. In 1991, the Patriots owner William Sullivan attempted to sell 51% of the share in the team to the public, but was blocked by this rule.

The Packers way is the way of many corporations in the world today. The most successful companies in the world are publicly traded, just take a look at a DOW Jones Industrial Average ticker to see some of the companies that are publicly owned. The proof is in the success of the team, how else could a team with such a small, albeit loyal, fan base thrive for over 90 years?

The Packers represent the success of capitalism in the setting of the NFL, and are the shining star of the league. You can bet they will continue to be as long as the team operates with the unity it has since day 1.

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