Are There Financial Challenges for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers?


Nov 4, 2012; Oakland, CA, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers co-chairman Joel Glazer before the game against the Oakland Raiders at the Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-USA TODAY Sports

Forbes just released its annual appraisal of the dollars and cents of the NFL, which remains the most lucrative and financially valuable sports league on the planet. We would say “Take that, Man United!” (currently worth $3.1 billion) except the Bucs owners also happens to possess the famous English soccer team, too. This is one of the big reasons that pundits everywhere have decided that the Buccaneers are going to be moving to London as the NFL attempts to conquer the world.

Attendance has been another issue and is one of the driving factors in all of this chatter. The Bucs were blacked out in six of eight home games and drew an average of only 55,000 fans, second-worst in the league behind Oakland. The latest financial news gives some cause for comfort, but there is definitely a lot of improvement that could be made in the Bucs bottom line that would make them more likely long-term residents of the Bay area.

December 9, 2012; Tampa, FL, USA; An overview of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers pirate ship against the Philadelphia Eagles during the second half at Raymond James Stadium. Philadelphia Eagles defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 23-21. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Bucs rank 17th in overall value, according to Forbes. Their worth of $1.067 billion put them above a lot of teams with better attendance and often better on-field performance over the past few years. It also represents a tidy return on the Glazers’ $195 million investment from back in 1995.

The Bucs’ revenue of $267 million is also on par with a lot of the League. But what jumps out and is truly shocking is the operating income (the amount of profit realized after operating expenses have been subtracted, i.e. how much the Glazers are taking away from the business) which amounts to a paltry $2.2 million. This figure is laughable when you look at even the worst teams.  The nearest club in terms of operating income last year were the Arizona Cardinals, who have performed similarly to the Bucs on the field, but Arizona generated nearly five times the Bucs’ profit. Barring some sort of grossly different accounting methodology, this is cause for some fan concern, because although the Bucs are very valuable, their capacity to generate cash does not seem all that great.

One of the obvious things the Bucs need to do to improve the bottom line is to get more fans in the seats. The Bucs sold only 84% of their seats last year. Only the Dolphins, whose stadium woes are well-known, filled a smaller percentage of their seats (76%) on a weekly basis last year. A lot of fans have grumbled over the past years about a lack of investment in player salaries, and I think this message has been heard. This offseason the team was busy but in a way that was not reckless and looks like management wants to do things the right way. I think fans have noticed and more fans will once the product on the field improves, as I believe it will this year.

I for one am optimistic that the Bucs will remain in Tampa. The TV market remains a major selling point for keeping the franchise here. Tampa-St Pete ranks 17th in the country, and if you add central Florida over to Daytona, where the Bucs do draw fans, the market is about 3.2 million households which makes it the fourth-largest in the country. Still, there remains the concern that the Glazers will take their money and run.

Here are the NFC South teams and where they appear on the list, which is worth your time to have a look at on Forbes:

"17. Tampa Bay BuccaneersTeam value: $1,067 mil.Revenue 2012: $267 mil.Operating income 2012: $2.2 mil.18. Carolina PanthersTeam value: $1,057 mil.Revenue 2012: $271 mil.Operating income 2012: $28.9 mil.23. New Orleans SaintsTeam value: $1,004 mil.Revenue 2012: $276 mil.Operating income 2012: $22.2 mil.26. Atlanta FalconsTeam value: $933 mil.Revenue 2012: $252 mil.Operating income 2012: $18.5 mil."