NEW YORK (AP) -As much as NFL teams are feeling a financial squeeze already, commissioner Roger Goodell fears the economic downturn really could hit the league in early 2009, when tickets for next season go on sale.
``There's no secret on sponsorship, advertising, licensing - those numbers are going to be impacted by the current climate. We're aware of that,'' Goodell said in an interview with The Associated Press on Friday.
``We're still, unfortunately, in the beginning stages of this. And most of our tickets are sold in the spring. And so '09 is going to be more of a barometer of how impactful the economic environment's going to be on the NFL.''
Asked if individual clubs already were having problems, Goodell replied: ``Sure. Absolutely. For (a variety of) factors: What's happening to sponsorship. What's happening to licensees. What's happening to our ticket holders, club seat holders, suite holders. This affects all of us.''
ot identify particular teams or go into other financial specifics.
Goodell did note, however, that stadiums are still filling up on game days, and that the billions of dollars in TV rights fees - the main source of NFL revenue - continue to come in from long-term deals negotiated in 2005.
The downturn is starting to hit much of the sports world.
Major League Baseball attendance was down slightly this season, for example, and the LPGA Tour schedule will have three fewer events in 2009. With the problems faced by American automakers, NASCAR is finding sponsors harder to come by, has taken steps to cut costs by millions of dollars, and a couple of major teams merged.
``I don't know if anyone of us felt it was going to be this bad,'' Goodell said.

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