Lockout'11: Open books issue simmering

The NFL and its Players Association are jockeying around a number of key issues as they try to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement. One of the most basic, as we discussed last month, is the degree to which the players trust owners' claims that their bottom line is shrinking.

Our very own Green Bay Packers are the only NFL team with open financial records, and they show that profits dropped from $20.1 million to $9.8 million during the two most recent fiscal years that have been calculated. A central question of the debate is whether the Packers' finances are typical of other teams, whether they are on the high end or if they are on the low end.

To that end, we pushed an idea others have suggested as well: Hiring a third party to provide an independent analysis of each team's financial books and provide a report -- with sensitive information redacted -- as soon as possible. Recently, Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia called for the same thing.

Now, reports suggest this issue is on the forefront of this week's extended mediation. Writes Mark Maske of the Washington Post: "Another major stumbling block this week, the sources said, is that the union continues to seek more information from the league about the teams' finances, while the NFL's negotiators remain reluctant to provide the players with the extensive financial data they seek."

Meanwhile, Peter King of Sports Illustrated expects some movement soon on this issue: "I would be surprised if this week goes by without the owners showing the players their books -- or at least more financial information than is required by the CBA."

What would this mean to NFC North blog readers? If some of the resulting information reaches the public sphere, we would get a better idea of the extent to which the Minnesota Vikings are struggling with limited revenues at the Metrodome. We would also understand better how the debt the Detroit Lions took on to build Ford Field is impacting their business. And most importantly, we would have a better idea of how the Packers -- who play in the NFL's smallest market -- compare with the rest of the league. Stay tuned.