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Here’s What it Takes to Own Your Own Professional Football Team

In a word association game, the words NFL owner would be followed by the words Jerry Jones 99.9 percent of the time — unscientifically speaking of course. Jones, the owner of the Dallas Cowboys, is the most opulent and visible owner in the NFL. The Dallas Cowboys are the most valuable franchise in the sport at $4.2 billion — earning $700 million in revenue in 2015 — according to Forbes.

That said, there is no blueprint for what it takes to own an NFL team or how to become an NFL owner. Once you become an owner, though, you get to decide everything from your own role to everybody else’s role on the team.

If you want to own a professional sports team like one of these celebrities, here’s a glimpse into the money necessary to purchase an NFL team, the paths some current NFL owners took to the top and the money involved in running an NFL franchise.

Start Off With Other Business Ventures

Of the 32 teams in the NFL, 31 are privately owned with Green Bay being the exception. The Green Bay Packers are publicly owned by stockholders, many of which are fans of the NFL team, making them the only publicly owned, not-for-profit sports franchise in the U.S.

Most NFL teams have an owner, though. And the majority of team owners experience extreme success in other business ventures first. Take Atlanta Falcons owner and chairman Arthur Blank, for example: He co-founded Home Depot in 1978, not purchasing the Falcons for $545 million until 2002.

Stan Kroenke, owner of the Los Angeles Rams, also owns the Denver Nuggets and Denver Avalanche, along with having majority stakes in professional soccer teams, the Arsenal and the Colorado Rapids. Outside of owning sports franchises, Kroenke is a major real estate shark giving him a net worth of $7.4 billion, according to Forbes.

Paul Allen, owner of the Seattle Seahawks, is the wealthiest of all NFL owners with a net worth of $19.2 billion. Allen bought the Seahawks in 1997 for a mere $288 million, but made his start as co-founder of Microsoft with Bill Gates.

The late George Halas lucked out in 1920, only paying $100 to establish what is now known as the Chicago Bears.

Earn Revenue Through TV Broadcasting

In 2016, Forbes reported that NFL teams earned anywhere from $300 million to $700 million in revenue. NFL teams earn revenue from the enormously lucrative television deals with CBS, Fox, NBC and ESPN. Business Insider estimated in November 2015 that NFL television broadcasting rights would exceed $7.3 billion by 2016 and beyond. And as of November 2015, the NFL received about $6.5 billion per year from these television deals alone with NBC paying $1 billion per year for Sunday Night Football and ESPN paying $1.9 billion annually for rights to Monday Night Football.

In February 2016, the NFL sold broadcasting rights for Thursday Night Football to CBS and NBC for a combined $450 million annually.

“Before any team in the NFL turns the lights on, it knows it has $226 million to work with,” according to the Packers’ financial report from July 2015. “Putting that number in perspective, the team salary cap for 2014 was $133 million, meaning that if teams on average spent to the cap, they had almost $100 million left over after player costs to use for operations and, of course, profit. And, most importantly, that number is only going up.”

So, why own an NFL team? Well, there are $226 million reasons — besides loving that team, getting tickets to every game or having a really cool hobby.

Make All the Decisions

What exactly an NFL owner does is not a concrete answer across the board. An NFL front office is a very complex and private place. The one thing all NFL owners have to do is a hire a head coach, general manager, director of pro personnel and director of college scouting. Those four people are then able to be totally hands-on in their respective areas of the operating the team, ideally.

Jerry Jones doesn’t play by those rules, though. Everything the Cowboys do begins and ends with Jones. Other teams, like the New York Giants, let the general manager largely handle all football operations and then report to the owner.

If you are the owner of an NFL team, you decide the workflow. You decide everything. If your franchise has a losing season, it’s not your job on the line, but rather your job to make sure the team wins. As San Francisco 49ers owner Jed York said in a press conference on Jan. 2 after firing his head coach Chip Kelly and general manager Trent Baalke: “I own this football team. You don’t dismiss owners. I’m sorry, but that’s the facts, and that’s the case.”

So I guess you could say job security for NFL team owners is generally second to none.

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