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ATP Tour players have created a world-wide program to increase the appeal of tennis among kids and will subsidize it with $1.5M from Tour and World Championships prize money. The ATP Tour Players' "Kids Fund" program will include a street festival competition. In addition to funding the program, the ATP's Top 50 players each will make at least 10 appearances a year at activities such as clinics, autograph and photo sessions, Q-and-A sessions and other promotions. The Fund is part of the ATP's "Agenda for Progress" (ATP) SLOW DOWN: In an effort to enhance the quality of competition, the Tour will work with other int'l tennis federations to develop ball/court standards to regulate the speed of the indoor game (ATP).
As the two sides in the labor negotiations broke for the Thanksgiving holiday, observers and media members noted the continued progress but were quick to add that there are many issues yet to be resolved. ESPN's Steve Levy: "Hold on to that optimism." NHLPA Exec Dir Goodenow: "There's still a lot of issues yet to be resolved before there can be an agreement. That's the best report I can give you." NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman: "It's not just a question of sitting in the room. There are issues that you have go back and think about, you have to talk to your constituents -- and I mean this on both sides" ("SportsCenter," 11/22). The two sides meet again on Friday, possibly back in Boston. CARVING UP THE LUXURY TAX: "It is becoming apparent from conversations with team owners that there is anxiety among some of them that a settlement is needed soon and that some owners aren't as committed to the luxury tax" as Bettman. Kings co- owner Joe Cohen: "The tax should be the last thing we look at." Cohen added that if Bettman can accomplish creating a "drag" on salary escalation through other means, "then a tax can be less important" (Joe Lapointe, N.Y. TIMES, 11/23). Bruins President & GM Harry Sinden said management will not know whether it will need a tax until the other issues (rookie cap, arbitration, etc.) are in place: "When we're finished, we'll add it up and see where we are" (Stephen Harris, BOSTON HERALD, 11/23). One source close to the NHLPA said the players will break off talks if the tax returns: "If the league is holding back on the tax proposal in order to present it later, it is a grave error" (Dave Fuller, TORONTO SUN, 11/23). NHL sources reiterated that the tax "will have to be addressed before a deal is struck" (Kevin Paul Dupont, BOSTON GLOBE, 11/23). The season "now appears to depend solely on finding an alternative to a payroll or luxury tax, or dropping the idea altogether" (Tim Campbell, WINNIPEG FREE PRESS, 11/23). ARE ANY DEALS DONE? "It can be safely stated that they haven't marked off any major issues off the checklist," according to Bob McKenzie in this morning's TORONTO STAR. Below is a run- down of other possible resolutions: FREE AGENCY: In Vancouver, Tony Gallagher reports, "There would be no Group 1, the players having surrendered that some time ago. Group 2 would be liberalized in that it would be less restrictive in terms of the draft choices going back to the team losing the player. Group 3 would be liberalized as well but the right to match would be retained to protect the losing club." Furthermore, unrestricted free agency would be granted to all players 28 or older after eight years of service (Vancouver PROVINCE, 11/23). McKenzie reports on Group 2, the two sides haven't agreed on compensation levels or arbitration. On Group 3, the players "aren't keen" on the league's insistence on a "franchise-player" system (TORONTO STAR, 11/23). ROOKIE CAP: Bob McKenzie reports the two sides are "millions apart" on what the restrictions would be (TORONTO STAR, 11/23). Tony Gallagher reports the players have "reluctantly agreed" to a hard cap (VANCOUVER SUN, 11/23). THE "REGULAR" SEASON: The league has targeted April 26 as the last day of the shortened season, with 54- and 60-game schedules both under consideration (Bob McKenzie, TORONTO STAR, 11/23). The questions of whether players will be paid in-full for a short regular season, or whether the playoffs will be cut also face both sides. It is "rather apparent that a shortened regular season would be a financial blessing to teams so long as there is a regular playoff. Perhaps this is what owners mean by a 'meaningful' regular season" (Roy MacGregor, OTTAWA CITIZEN, 11/23). The players are also expected to be paid for any training camp period (Tony Gallagher, Vancouver PROVINCE, 11/23).
Officials representing the new World Golf Tour and two officials from Fox met with a key PGA Tour official to discuss the upstart tour's place in golf. PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem did not attend the meeting, and neither did World Tour organizer Greg Norman. Edward Moorhouse, Exec VP for Legal and Int'l Affairs, represented the PGA Tour, and John Montgomery Jr. and his brother Scott, representing the World Tour. Norman, was reached on vacation in Sydney: "We are willing to make adjustments and concessions and the U.S. Tour is working along the same lines. No one wants a confrontation. No one wants to batter their heads against the wall with lawyers for the next three years." In a statement released by the PGA Tour, Moorhouse indicated it was "highly unlikely anything could be accommodated in short term." He described yesterday's meeting as "an attempt to determine what kind of flexibility the promoters had in their scheduling plans." Moorhouse will present Finchem and the PGA Tour's Tournament Policy Board next week with a report on the meeting. The board will listen to Finchem's recommendation and then decide whether to allow PGA Tour pros to participate in the World Tour (Leonard Shapiro, WASHINGTON POST, 11/23).
With the CFL Baltimore franchise in a position to win the CFL's Grey Cup, the viability of the CFL in Canada is being tested. "For years, Canadians have feared that their nation is being stolen by their neighbor to the south. ... and Canadians awoke to the news that an expansion team from Baltimore" may win the Grey Cup, writes Jim Hunt of the TORONTO SUN. "Since the Yanks have taken over much in this country that is worth taking, why should the CFL not go along with the trend" (TORONTO SUN, 11/22). In Washington, Anne Swardson writes that "the southern migration of Canadian football mirrors the gradual transformation of the [NHL] from a Canadian institution to a predominantly American phenomenon and raises fears that the one sports Canada had left to itself is being sucked away" (WASHINGTON POST, 11/22). The CFL is proposing a rule change that Canadian teams no longer must employ a minimum of 20 Canadians on their roster of 37, under the belief that teams "on both sides of the border should be allowed to hire whoever they wish (Frank Cosentino, Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 11/22). A proposed 3-year agreement between the CFL and CFLPA would reduce the league's mandatory Canadian content from 20 players per team to 15 beginning next season. The numbers would drop to 12 and 10 in the second and third years. There would be five Canadians on the practice roster at all times, while teams would be allowed to start an unlimited number of imports. The CFLPA's collective agreement with the CFL expires following this season (Kent Spencer, Vancouver PROVINCE, 11/23).