(Bloomberg) -- NFL team owners punted — for now — on allowing private equity firms to buy stakes in teams.

This week owners met in Nashville and discussed changing rules to let private equity firms invest. But a vote was delayed because some franchises want to take a more cautious approach, according to people familiar with the talks who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the briefings. 

One reason for the delay is that teams are in various stages of talks with private equity firms. Some franchises have been lining up potential deals, while others have been waiting to engage until new rules are adopted, and that’s created a divide, the people said.

“We’re making progress,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who expects a vote on private equity ownership by the end of this year, said in an interview. Owners agree with the “direction we’re going.”

Letting in private equity, a path already taken by other professional leagues such as the NBA, could be voted on and approved later this year at the two remaining owners meetings. If the league and team owners adopt the change, it might help them fund big projects, such as stadiums. It could also make it easier for owners to cash out after team valuations have surged.

Such a move is also likely to shift the character of the league. Limited ownership partners have traditionally been friends, former players and local celebrities. Private equity investors will be more focused on getting a return on their investment by pushing for better financial results.

Jerry Jones, owner of the Dallas Cowboys, raised concerns about how private equity could change the league without giving specifics.

“We’ve got to look around the corner and see what the consequences might be,” Jones said in an interview. “We’re pretty proud of the way we govern the NFL at this particular time.”

Read More: NFL Prepares to Let Private Equity In 

As part of the push to bring in private equity, the NFL is in discussions to pre-approve a group of institutional investors to own minority stakes in teams, as long as existing owners also agree, according to people with knowledge of the matter. The firms being considered include Arctos Partners, Ares Management Corp., Avenue Capital Group, Carlyle Group Inc. and CVC Capital Partners Plc, said the people, who asked not to be identified discussing confidential information.

The NFL, Ares, Arctos, Carlyle and CVC declined to comment on the pre-approval process. Representatives for Avenue Capital didn’t have immediate comment.

Kansas City Chiefs owner Clark Hunt, who is on the owners committee considering changes to ownership rules, said there is a sense of urgency to take this step, but that’s being weighed with owners who have been hesitant. Hunt has said he supports bringing in private equity as a way to fund big projects. The Chiefs are currently looking to revamp their home field, including with the help of taxpayer funds. 

“When we started on this project, there were a number of owners who were very concerned, as it’s a new frontier for us,” Hunt said in an interview. But after lots of communication “pretty much everyone in the room is on one accord.”

Rising valuations for NFL teams have also created the potential for giant tax bills when ownership is passed down to the next generation. An owner could offset that by selling a stake to private equity. 

Under the framework currently being discussed, firms will be able to buy 10% of teams. Bloomberg previously reported that the committee discussed as much as 30% of National Football League franchises. However, this number since received pushback, the people said. Talks are still ongoing and numbers could change.

There is also debate about how many clubs a single private equity firm could invest in and the number of firms that could buy into a single team. If firms can only invest in a single club, a franchise that hasn’t had any preliminary conversations with potential investors risks being left out until more firms are approved or a team sale happens.

Commanders Sale

The NFL has some of the strictest ownership rules in sports. A principal owner must control at least 30% of a team and an ownership group can’t surpass 25 people. This setup has made selling teams more difficult than in other sports that have already expanded ownership rules to private equity and other investment entities.

That was apparent last year when a large investor group, led by private equity billionaire Josh Harris, completed what was described as a complicated deal to buy the Washington Commanders for $6 billion. The sales process also didn’t attract many suitors, raising concerns that the league’s conservative rules were too limiting and would depress future sales. 

Following the Commanders deal, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell created a committee of owners to weigh changes to ownership rules. This group presented a potential plan to fellow owners this week.

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