The Pro Bowl has been given a reprieve. The NFL and the players’ union announced Wednesday that next year’s game will be played.
The league had threatened to end the sport’s annual all-star game because of concerns about the quality of play. But the league and union announced in a joint statement that the game will be held Jan. 27 in Honolulu.
“The players have made it clear through the NFL Players Association that they would like the opportunity to continue to play the Pro Bowl in Hawaii,” Ray Anderson, the NFL’s executive vice president of football operations, said in the statement. “We will support the players on this initiative to improve the Pro Bowl. We have had many discussions with the players in recent years about the Pro Bowl and they recognize that the quality of the game has not been up to NFL standards.”
The league and union have not yet agreed to any specific measures to improve the quality of the game, one person familiar with the deliberations said. But NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and DeMaurice Smith, the union’s executive director, have worked cooperatively on the issue, the person said, at a time when tensions between the league and union have been running high on other matters.
“The players believe that the Pro Bowl is an important tradition,” Domonique Foxworth, the veteran cornerback and union president, said in the statement. “We worked hard with the league to make sure the best players in the NFL are honored for their achievements on the field.”
Next year’s game is scheduled for one week before the Super Bowl, at 7 p.m. ET on Jan. 27, and will be televised by NBC.
Television ratings for the game have remained strong. According to Wednesday’s announcement, last season’s Pro Bowl was watched by an average of 12.5 million viewers, the second-largest TV audience for the game since 2001; 13.4 million viewers watched the 2011 game.
Goodell had said the game should be canceled if it couldn’t be improved. Criticism about a lack of intensity increased after last season’s game.
“We’ve had numerous discussions over several months about what we can do to make the game more competitive,” Goodell said at a news conference following a one-day owners meeting this month in Atlanta. “And I’ve said it repeatedly, particularly since the last game, that we have to improve the quality of the game. And if we can’t improve it and if we can’t make it more competitive, then we shouldn’t play.”