Private equity investment into American football’s NFL in the US is looming, it has been reported.

The Financial Times (FT) publication has now reported that multiple private equity firms are preparing funds to invest inclusively in NFL franchises, citing sources close to the matter.

The NFL is the only major North American sports property not to have opened itself up to outside investment yet, with Major League Baseball, basketball’s NBA, Major League Soccer, and ice hockey’s NHL all having done so in the last half-decade.

The FT has reported that NFL owners are set to approve institutional investment as early as May and that one stipulation they are considering is that any investors looking to do deals must set up NFL-specific funds first.

A committee of owners amongst the 32 franchise teams has been reviewing current NFL rules on ownership policy since mid-2023, it is understood, to create bylaws to regulate private equity involvement.

The NFL-specific funds would preclude private equity from also investing in other sports leagues and their teams.

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The FT has reported that issues such as the level of a percentage stake that can be sold, as well as how to handle investor exits, and whether one investor should be allowed to have stakes in several teams, are still being discussed.

Current NFL bylaws restrict the percentage stakes in franchises which can be held by both majority and minority investors.

Valuations of NFL teams have never been higher, with the 2023 sale of the Washington Commanders to a group led by Josh Harris at the time setting a record for the most expensive purchase of a sports team in history at $6 billion.

Sportico reported earlier this year that the average value of a franchise in the NFL is now around $5.1 billion.

The league’s current lucrative domestic media rights deals, worth $110 billion over 11 years between 2022-33, are a substantial part of this surge in value.

The emergence of the league as being relevant to overseas broadcasters, helped by the NFL’s international games series, has also been a factor.

Total league revenue, across media rights, ticketing, and commercial deals, is believed to be close to $20 billion currently.

The league’s commissioner, Roger Goodell, is reportedly set on increasing that figure to $25 billion by 2027.

The 2024 NFL regular season is set to run from September 5 to January 5.