NFL MEETINGS : TV Refund Looks Doubtful; Expansion Field Reduced


They were playing numbers games here Tuesday at the NFL's annual convention:

--Ten of the league's 28 club owners were reportedly still lobbying against the notion of a $196-million refund to television's five pro football networks next year. Under NFL rules, the networks' proposal is dead unless three of the dissenting 10 change their minds.

--The league voted to end the expansion-franchise dreams of four applicants, leaving seven cities still in the race for 1994, when two new members might join the league. There are indications that expansion will be delayed because of the inability of the owners to make peace with their players.

Declared out of the new-franchise contest Tuesday were San Antonio, which is in the midst of constructing an NFL-type venue--Alamo Stadium--and three other areas: Nashville, Tenn.; Raleigh-Durham, N.C., and Honolulu.

The seven still alive are St. Louis; Memphis, Tenn.; Charlotte, N.C.; Sacramento; Oakland; Jacksonville, Fla., and Baltimore.

The decision to contract the expansion-franchise field interrupted what has been, for the better part of three days, a do-nothing convention. The owners this time around are debating rather than doing.

The friction is in two areas:

--An argument over how much free agency to extend players is blocking plans for a new collective bargaining agreement with the players association. And minus such an agreement, expansion is unrealistic, many owners concede.

--An argument over whether to help the networks financially in their time of great need is blocking almost all other convention action.

The opposing leaders in the fight over the $196-million TV refund are owners Art Modell of Cleveland, who favors the refund, and Norman Braman of Philadelphia.

Modell has gathered 18 ayes--three shy of the number needed.

The Los Angeles owners, Al Davis of the Raiders and Georgia Frontiere of the Rams, both supported Braman Tuesday.

What the networks want is an adjustment in the multibillion-dollar pro football contract they signed four years ago. Specifically, they want to pay $7 million less in 1993 to each NFL owner--$34 million instead of the agreed-on $41 million--or a total of $196 million. In return, the networks would give the league a 1994-95 contract extension worth $34 million per club per year.

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