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CHICAGO (Reuters) - The recession has affected even the National Football League as the value of eight teams in the U.S. sports league declined from last year, according to an annual report released by Forbes on Wednesday.
It was the first time NFL team values declined from the previous year in a decade as the bad credit markets weakened the pool of buyers and investors, the magazine said.
While team revenues rose 7 percent over the last year because of guaranteed TV contracts that paid out $4 billion, the average team value for the 32 teams was unchanged from last year at $1.04 billion, Forbes said. Last year, values rose 8.7 percent.
The NFL is the most popular U.S. sports league with strong television ratings and annual league revenue topping $7 billion. While TV ratings have slipped over the last decade, NFL games still boast the strongest ratings among sports leagues.
However, when the NFL recently extended its TV deals with CBS, Fox and NBC for additional two years each through 2013, the fee increases were only about 2 percent, the smallest increase ever, Forbes said.
The league also faces a possible work stoppage after the 2010 season as analysts expect the owners, who complain about player salaries, to possibly lock the players out until a more favorable deal can be reached.
The eight teams with lower values included the Indianapolis Colts, Miami Dolphins, St. Louis Rams, Detroit Lions, Jacksonville Jaguars, Atlanta Falcons and Oakland Raiders, according to the magazine. The biggest losers were Oakland (down 7 percent), Detroit (off 6 percent) and Indianapolis (off 5 percent), while Oakland also had the lowest valued team at $797 million.
The three most valuable teams were the same for the third straight year, with the Dallas Cowboys at $1.65 billion (up 2 percent) leading the way, according to Forbes. The Cowboys have opened a new stadium this season.
The next two spots were taken by the Washington Redskins ($1.55 billion, up 1 percent) and New England Patriots ($1.36 billion, up 3 percent), the magazine said.
The full list can be found at www.forbes.com/nfl.
Forbes' team valuations are based on estimated team revenue, operating income and debt. And the figures are based on 2008.
Reporting by Ben Klayman; editing by Carol Bishopric