One of the most fabled teams in American Football is the Green Bay Packers. Of all of America’s sports teams it is as close to a consumer co-op as you can get.
It is the only team that has never been sold. The Packers’ structure works so well that owners of other teams passed a rule that forbids any other community-owned club. The Green Bay Packers began in 1922 and is the third oldest team in American professional football.
So here is how it works. The Green Bay Packers is the only professional team of any major sport in the US which is community owned. The Green Bay Packers has 112,015 stockholders who together own 4,750,934 shares.
Shares of stock cannot be resold, except back to the team for a fraction of the original price. At the last issuance of shares in the 1990s the price was $200 a share. Green Bay fans bought 120,010 shares during the 17-week sale and provided $24 million towards revamping the still outdoor Lambeau Stadium.
No dividends are paid, the stock cannot appreciate in value, and there are no season ticket privileges associated with stock ownership. No stockholder can own more than 200,000 shares to ensure that no one individual is able to assume control of the club.
No matter how much stock you own you get only one ticket to the annual meeting. Those stockholders elect 44 unpaid directors who then elect a seven member executive committee. Only the President receives remuneration.
The Articles of Incorporation state that if the Packers’ franchise is sold, any remaining funds will go the Green Bay Packers Foundation. This requirement ensures that the club remains in Green Bay and there is no financial gain if the stockholders vote to sell the team.
So what does all this mean to anyone?
• Green Bay, Wisconsin is the smallest town in America owning a professional football team. It is also the smallest market of all 32 professional football teams (one 40th of the NY market). Green Bay has a population of 102,000 and is in a market of 300,000 people in a very rural state.
• The team is worth almost $1 billion and is 13th in the NFL in terms of value. However, at five per cent the Packers have the lowest debt to value percentage of all 32 teams.
• In a recent Sports Illustrated poll 17,000 fans rated the game day atmosphere for each NFL team. The experience of seeing the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field ranked first. Described by fans as a “religious experience”.
• It has won more championships (12) than any other National Football League team. The team has sold out every game since 1960.
• Since 1998, the Harris Interactive Poll has always shown the “Packers” as one of the four most popular teams in American Football. Even though most Packer fans will never see a live game. Year after year, the NFL reports that sales of Green Bay Packers’ merchandise are one of the highest.
• The waiting list for people wanting to buy season tickets is 74,000. That’s more than the lucky 72,928 fans who sit in the stadium. The waiting time to get a season ticket is 35 years. Fans often place newborn infants on the waiting list after receiving birth certificates. Rights to season tickets are often a major issue in Green Bay divorces or deaths.
• Wisconsin has one of the highest numbers of co-ops per capita in the US where there are co-ops for almost everything. It is not surprising that in choosing a structure for the Green Bay Packers the founders would chose a non-profit community owned organisation that applies a number of co-operative practices in a state famous for its co-operatives.
To top it all, the Green Bay colours of green and gold are almost the same as the green and yellow of the US co-op’s Twin Pines logo. Go Packers, go co-ops.