Chuck Schumer Stages Photo Op in Front of Buffalo, Proposes G4 Loan Program Amendment

Updated: August 8, 2012

So you’ve probably heard by now that Charles Schumer stopped by the teams stomping grounds for what basically amounted to a press conference about a call he made to Roger Goodell. And I agree with many who think that Schumer’s chat today amounts somewhere near the Mike Piazza “I’m Not Gay” press conference in terms of necessity. But Schumer’s idea regarding the NFL’s G4 program was decent, so it’s worth a quick run down.

One of the NFL’s most important assets are its stadiums; the league continually makes a big deal about teams having modern facilities, it’s always the first thing Goodell mentions when asked about the possibility of the Bills moving, and it’s usually the number 1 reason any team moves. And, despite any warm nostalgia you may feel at Rich/Ralph Wilson Stadium due to the comeback, 41-3, or any other fall afternoon, it’s outdated and not up to NFL standards. This means upgrading the stadium, either by renovation or construction, is critically important in keeping the Bills in Buffalo.

The good news is that the NFL has something called the G4 program; essentially, the NFL will match money spent on stadium upgrades by a team in the form of a loan that is repaid long term via visiting team ticket sales. All other things equal, it’s a pretty solid incentive for teams to spend money because they get to borrow money at a much cheaper cost than other forms of financing. However, one of the provisions (and the one Schumer wants Goodell to amend) is that if the team is sold, the balance of the loan is immediately due (in order to prevent potential buyers from acquiring the team, taking advantage of the loan, and selling the team). The rule makes sense, although given that the price of NFL teams range from 700 million to 1.5 billion, the taxes alone would seem to prevent this from being viable. Than again, it could be, so it’s not a bad provision.

However, this amendment makes the program functionally unavailable to a team like Buffalo. Ralph Wilson’s estate will sell the Bills in order to avoid saddling his family with the estate taxes associated with not selling the team. While we all wish Ralph many more years of health, mortality tables are not on his side, and Mr. Wilson knows it. So if the Bills were to participate in the program, there is a very high probability the loan would not matured (paid in full) by the time of the sale of the team, meaning it would be due in full, which would directly lower the value of the team, and ultimately hurt his family. So in its current form, the G4 program will not be utilized by the Bills.

Schumer’s first proposal is to waive that provision for owners who have been owners for 20 or more years, since at that point they have committed to owning a team (rather than a pump and dump strategy the NFL is afraid of). This would make the program available to Buffalo, and either lessen the taxpayer burden on the county/state governments or increase the financial scope of the project (and if I know anything about the NFL, I would say the latter is more likely). And to bring it full circle, a better stadium means better chance of keeping the Bills, since a NFL team that can take its revenue sharing rake without having to finance a new stadium is much more likely to stay.

Schumer also proposed doubling the loan and making it payable immediately if the team were to move, which would go even further towards keeping the Bills home, but is less likely to gain consideration from the NFL. The first proposal may find traction as it would encourage teams and governments to spend money on facilities, which is what Goodell dreams about at night. The second proposal would just make it needlessly difficult for the league to move teams if it had to, without really any benefit to the league at large.

Still, I thought at least the first part was a solid idea from Schumer, even if that’s all it is at this point. I’m not sure of the necessity of press conference, but Schumer is a politician, and its important to remember that is the root of all his support. But it is still support, and no matter which way  your political compass spins, it’s hard to argue with good ole Chuck for advocating for the Bills getting a bigger piece of NFL pie (as opposed to state pie).