NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Wednesday that small-market teams such as the Buffalo Bills will remain successful so long as fans continue to support them.
After a meeting in which he discussed the NFL's revenue-sharing issue with Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., Goodell said: "The Buffalo Bills' fans are great fans and they've always supported the Buffalo Bills. And as long as they support them, I'm confident the Buffalo Bills will be able to stay there and compete well."
But Goodell a Jamestown native stressed that he would play no favorites in resolving the league's controversy over how revenues from luxury boxes and other amenities should be shared among the league's teams.
"We want all 32 of our franchises to do well," Goodell said.
A "qualifiers committee" of team owners which includes Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson will meet Jan. 23 to discuss the revenue-sharing issue, Schumer said after his meeting with Goodell. The eight-member committee will recommend a revenue-sharing plan to the league.
"We've always wanted that meeting," Schumer said. "First, we think many of the members of that committee are sympathetic to the position of the small-market teams. And second, that's the way to get something done."
If the qualifiers committee or the NFL owners cannot agree on the revenue-sharing issue, the matter would go to Goodell, and Schumer said he found that reassuring.
"He said the league would be actively involved in protecting the interests of small-market teams," Schumer said.
Asked about the fact that the last four Bills games were blacked out on television in Buffalo because they failed to sell out, Goodell said: "I think it's another issue that we need to make sure that we're doing everything possible to generate the kind of enthusiasm and excitement that I know that Buffalo Bills' fans have for the Bills."
Schumer said he told Goodell that the Bills suffered attendance-wise late in the year because their schedule featured weak teams at that point. Schumer said Goodell would keep that thought in mind as the league finalizes its 2007 schedule.
Saying he was encouraged by the meeting, Schumer added: "I believe Commissioner Goodell understands it's good for football to make sure teams from smaller markets will do well and can compete. And he believes most of the football owners understand that, too."
Schumer said he planned to call Wilson after the meeting.
Wilson has been increasingly critical of the league's efforts on the revenue-sharing issue.
Under the terms of the league's new labor deal, the Bills and other small-market teams could get about $6 million in additional shared revenue this year and perhaps twice that by 2011.
But Wilson worries that the rules the league will adopt will make it difficult for the Bills to qualify for that money.