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Goodell confident over NFL playoff expansion in 2015

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has confirmed playoff expansion is off the agenda for the American football league’s forthcoming season, but believes it will be approved for the 2015 campaign.

The subject of expanding the postseason field from 12 to 14 teams has been a matter of debate for a number of months and returned to the table at the NFL’s Spring League Meeting in Atlanta yesterday. Speaking in January, Goodell revealed that the NFL is “seriously considering” expanding its playoffs by adding two more teams in both the AFC and NFC conference post-season schedules.

Goodell has encountered opposition from players and the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) over expanding the current 12-team post-season playoffs. He said the biggest reason why NFL membership was reluctant to vote on playoff expansion this season was the start of a 2014 Thursday night television package with the CBS network and a fear of oversaturation.

Goodell said: “We will not have expanded playoffs for the 2014 season. The primary reasons we looked at were competitive issues, ticket sale issues and issues with respect to the advertising market. The general view is that we should proceed with the Thursday Night focus that we have this year. We are adding additional inventory into the marketplace and this makes the most sense for us for the 2014 season.

“I do believe it will be approved for the 2015 season. We want to see how it will impact in a positive way from a competitive standpoint. Will it create more excitement, more races towards the end? Who will ultimately qualify for the playoffs? We also want to absorb the additional inventory into the marketplace from an advertising standpoint. So far we see positive signs in the marketplace. That is how we are going to approach it.”

The NFL went into Tuesday’s meeting on the back of NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith stating his members are yet to be convinced of the merits of playoff expansion. “The players have not seen a press release from the NFL indicating that they were going to take up the issue of better workers compensation benefits or increased injury protection benefits in light of their desire for extra playoff games,” Smith told USA Today Sports on Monday. “A credible commitment to player health and safety has to include more than a group of owners voting to recommend playing more games.”

Commenting on talks with the NFLPA, Goodell added: “This is something I’ve had numerous conversations with DeMaurice about. I just spoke with him about it two weeks ago. I think there are a lot of benefits to the players, but that’s something they’ll have to evaluate. They are our partners and I’ve said on many occasions before that we are going to have a dialogue with all of our partners to make sure it can be done the right way. I do believe there are some real benefits to the players. The revenue – obviously – will increase and they will share in that and get the largest percentage of that, in fact.”