Detroit Lions cut jobs on business side as football team struggles on field

Detroit Free Press

Dave Birkett
 
| Detroit Free Press

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With no fans allowed at Ford Field for at least another month due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Detroit Lions laid off a portion of their business-side staff this week.

The exact number of job cuts is unknown, and the Lions declined to say what percent of their approximately 300-person non-football work force was impacted by the layoffs.

“Consistent with organizational policy, we will not be issuing comment on internal business matters,” the team said in a statement to the Free Press.

The cuts came during the team’s bye week, and less than seven days after the organization confirmed that fans will not be allowed to attend games at Ford Field until at least Nov. 15.

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The Lions and many NFL teams have faced substantial revenue losses this season due to COVID-19 restrictions on crowd sizes and the safety measures put in place at their practices facilities and stadiums.

The Lions remodeled their Allen Park practice facility this summer to comply with NFL mandates on social distancing, and they expanded coaches booths, modified locker rooms and added plexiglass barriers and touchless faucets throughout Ford Field. 

More: How COVID-19 will change sports as we know them: ‘The virus is shaping the sports world’

While NFL teams share a large pool of national revenue generated mostly from massive media rights deals — every team received $296 million in national revenue this year — Lions president Rod Wood told Crain’s Detroit before the season that the team generates about $60 million annually through ticket sales.

So far, the Lions have played two home games without fans. They won’t have fans at their Nov. 1 game against the Indianapolis Colts, and in the unlikely event that fans return later in the season, it will be at a greatly reduced capacity.

“The business, I think, is set up so that you can weather this maybe better than some of the other sports because of the structure of how we share revenue and how we share the revenue in the form of the salary cap with the players,” Wood told the Free Press last month. “But I have no road map for how to deal with this, neither does anybody else, so everything we’re doing is you’re making decisions based upon what you know today.”

On the field, the Lions are off to a disappointing 1-3 start, losing games against the Chicago Bears, Green Bay Packers and New Orleans Saints despite holding double-digit leads in all three games.

[ Lions bye week restrictions part of new normal in NFL: ‘Totally sucks’ ]

They’re tied for last place in the NFL North, but play five of their next seven games against teams with losing records, including against the Jacksonville Jaguars next week.

Contact Dave Birkett at dbirkett@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett. The Free Press has started a new digital subscription model. Here’s how you can gain access to our most exclusive Lions content. 

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