WisBusiness: NFL labor situation biggest concern for Packers

By Maureen Mayrand
For WisBusiness.com

John Jones, the next president and CEO of the Green Bay Packers, said Tuesday the unsettled NFL labor situation is the biggest concern regarding the future of the team, not the Packers’ 1-6 record.

Jones, who was promoted to executive vice president and chief operating officer in 2001 and will replace current president Bob Harlan in 2006, discussed the team’s future during a Milwaukee Press Club event Tuesday marking that group’s 120th anniversary celebration.

The salary cap, which restricts the amount of money NFL teams can spend on overall salary, is in place for one more season. There will be no cap in 2007. Jones stressed how much the current system helps players and the team, and without it, he said there could be long-term lasting effects on the small-town franchise.

He also expressed his concern with new stadiums going up in big cities and how it may be hard to compete on a league level. He is, however proud of Lambeau and its traditional setting in a small city. He talked about his role in passing the stadium referendum back and 2000 and the positive impact that the redevelopment of Lambeau Field had on revenue. During the 2003 fiscal year the team ranked 10th in NFL revenue.

The goal in its redevelopment was to preserve the original. Of most importance to Jones is the comfort of a stadium, to accommodate fans is to continue filling seats. “We wanted to save Lambeau and make it nicer. Here we have a place, a treasure.”

Together with Harlan, Jones came up with the idea of making Lambeau into a year-round operation.

“We are a franchise that is open 365 days a year. We don’t even have Christmas off,” he said.

Jones’ efforts also helped build up the Packer Franchise Preservation Fund, emergency monies that can finance the team for up to a year. Currently, the reserves are at $97.7 million dollars, a significant increase from its $58 million total a few years ago.

Jones feels that a major key in the franchise’s success is the strong public relations the Packers have with their fans and shareholders. Players make 300 unpaid appearances a year to give back to the community. He aims at continuing what he most admires about Harlan, the accessibility he has provided to others.

“Harlan has done a marvelous job as a leader, being available to the Packers and fans and showing his dedication to the community,” Jones said.

As for the team this season, Jones remains optimistic about the players and the loyalty of the fans. “We are a team that is competitive. We can correct ourselves by asking ‘what can we do to change,’ and then make that change.”