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  • BASEBALL EXPANSION MOVES ONTO THE NOT-SO-FAST TRACK

         "For months, baseball officials have insisted that labor
    negotiations and the expansion process were proceeding on
    separate tracks," writes Marc Topkin in today's ST. PETERSBURG
    TIMES.  "On Wednesday, they merged."  In presenting a new
    proposal to the players, the owners included expansion plans
    which call for two teams in the "near-term" and two more in the
    future.  And Red Sox CEO John Harrington, who heads MLB's
    expansion commitee, "indicated it would be problematic to get
    owners to approve expansion unless the labor dispute is resolved
    first."  Harrington:  "When I go to the ownership meeting, if we
    don't have the labor agreement resolved, it could be like, 'Hey,
    we don't even want to consider (expansion).'  I would anticipate
    that."  The committee will hold a conference call today to
    discuss a number of issues, including the price, payment terms
    and league assignments of new teams, potential inter-league play
    and potential franchise sites.  Harrington doubts a decision will
    be made today on the fee, expected to be between $125-150M (ST.
    PETERSBURG TIMES, 2/2).
         BUY TWO, GET ONE FREE:  The chances the Washington-metro
    area would get a franchise "seemed to increase" with Harrington's
    statement that owners could opt to award three franchises -- not
    just two -- in the first round of expansion, according to Mark
    Maske of the WASHINGTON POST.  Northern VA, represented by two
    different groups, "appears to be running third" behind Tampa-St.
    Pete and Phoenix.  The group headed by telecom exec William
    Collins is the favorite in Northern VA.  He and Bart Fisher, the
    leader of the other VA group, are scheduled to meet February 10.
    Collins "says he has no interest" in merging (WASHINGTON POST,
    2/2).
         THE SCHEDULE:  Harrington said that the committee plans to
    seek two votes from the owners at "face-to-face meetings":  One
    on expansion overall, the franchise fee and inter-league play,
    and the other on the specific sites (Marc Topkin, ST. PETERSBURG
    TIMES, 2/2).  While the owners had been expected to hold the
    first vote by the end of February, Harrington now expects the
    vote on the idea of expansion to come at the March 7-9 meetings
    in Palm Beach, followed by a second round of interviews and a
    decision on franchises by the end of March (Thom Loverro,
    WASHINGTON TIMES, 2/2).
    

    Print | Tags: Boston Red Sox, Leagues and Governing Bodies, MLB
  • BASEBALL HELD HOSTAGE -- DAY 175: SOME NUMBERS TO CHEW ON

         MLB owners "abandoned their demand for a salary cap
    Wednesday" by endorsing the luxury tax the players proposed
    December 22, reports Tracy Ringolsby in this morning's ROCKY
    MOUNTAIN NEWS.  However, the owners' luxury tax was "considerably
    higher" than what the players had presented.  The owners said
    their proposal was meant as a "framework" to spark negotiations.
    Braves President Stan Kasten: "You can't negotiate religion.
    When the players say, 'We won't have a salary cap,' that's
    religion.  This is numbers.  You can negotiate numbers."  With
    the players "splitting time between negotiations and lobbying for
    repeal of baseball's antitrust exemption, the union was not
    expected to make a counteroffer until Friday" (ROCKY MOUNTAIN
    NEWS, 2/2).  While Dodger Player Rep Brett Butler called it a
    "step forward," the union "privately balked at the plan."  Said
    Royals Player Rep David Cone: "It's going to be a very long week"
    (I.J. Rosenberg, ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 2/2).  Another union
    official: "If your looking through a haystack and found a couple
    of quarters, I suppose you can say that's progress" (Jerome
    Holtzman, CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 2/2).
         THE DETAILS:  The owners plan has a 4-year phase-in period.
    In the fourth year,the tax rate on payrolls in excess of $35M
    would be 75%.  On payrolls in excess of $42M, it would be 100%.
    The owners also proposed a minimum team payroll of $25M.  The
    players' December plan called for a 5% tax on the portion of club
    payrolls that exceed the league average by 20-130%; 10% on
    excesses of 130-160%; and 25% on anything in excess of 160%.  The
    owners also proposed expanding the amateur draft, interleague
    play, eliminating salary arbitration and creating restricted free
    agency for players with between four and six years of service
    (Tracy Ringolsby, ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS, 2/2).  The proposal
    included higher minimum salaries for players with one-four years
    of service, starting at $125,000 (Larry Whiteside, BOSTON GLOBE,
    2/2).  The owners also included the joint "industry growth fund"
    -- first proposed by the players (Mark Maske, WASHINGTON POST,
    2/2).  In Philadelphia, Jayson Stark notes "the other notable
    aspect" was that the owners addressed "every aspect of these
    negotiations instead of simply the big player-cost issue"
    (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 2/2).
         WHAT'S THE ATMOSPHERE?  In New York, Tom Keegan notes the
    talks "had a less bitter edge than past talks, but the two sides
    didn't get any closer to an agreement" (N.Y. POST, 2/2).
    Baltimore SUN's Peter Schmuck calls the overall mood of the union
    after the first day of talks "surprisingly upbeat" (Baltimore
    SUN, 2/2).  N.Y. TIMES headline: "Owners' Proposal Isn't New,
    Players Say" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/2).
         WHY CLINTON INTERVENED?  Three labor lawyers, all
    experienced with federal mediators, told SPORTS ILLUSTRATED that
    President Clinton would not have acted unless Special Mediator
    William Usery "could see a way to break the deadlock"
    ("Scorecard," SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, 2/6 issue).  Senate Majority
    Leader Bob Dole says the players don't have guaranteed help on
    Capitol Hill:  "They might strike out up here" ("CBS Evening
    News," CBS, 2/1).
         NEWS & NOTES:  Many minor league baseball execs "stormed"
    Capitol Hill yesterday to lobby for maintaining baseball's
    antitrust exemption.  The minor league owners and execs stress
    they are working in their own interests, "not of the majors" (Rod
    Beaton, USA TODAY, 2/2)....Meanwhile, last night, the MLBPA
    hosted a "lobbying schmooze fest" for members of Congress.  But
    as Michael Farquhar notes in this morning's WASHINGTON POST, it
    turned into "a field day for autograph-seeking fans" (WASHINGTON
    POST, 2/2)....The NLRB announced yesterday that it would rule on
    the players' complaint within two weeks (AP/TORONTO SUN, 2/2).
    

    Print | Tags: Atlanta Braves, CBS, Kansas City Royals, Leagues and Governing Bodies, MLB, Sports Illustrated, Time Warner, Viacom
  • NHL-IIHF WRAP UP TALKS ON FUTURE INTERNATIONAL PLAY

         The NHL and the Int'l Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) concluded
    two days of meetings Wednesday in Naples, FL.  NHL Commissioner
    Gary Bettman and IIHF President Rene Fasel announced a
    reaffirmation of the commitment to have NHL players participate
    in the '98 Winter Olympics and plans for other international
    competitions, including a possible World Cup tournament in '97 as
    a prelude to Nagano.  In addition, Bettman and Fasel said that
    they were proceeding on plans to develop a "Pan-European Super
    League" to begin play no later than September '96 (NHL).  Fasel,
    on '98:  "We mapped out a strategy and it's time to do some more
    homework."  Part of that "homework" includes attracting NHL
    players.  "Who controls international hockey is a major
    unresolved collective bargaining issue" between the NHL and
    NHLPA.  Int'l hockey is a major revenue source for the players'
    pension fund, and both sides realize how much money would be
    generated through marketing and licensing if the NHL's stars
    played in the '98 Games.  While Fasel apologized to NHLPA Exec
    Dir Bob Goodenow for not including the players in earlier talks,
    he made it clear that it is Bettman's job to negotiate with the
    NHLPA.  Fasel:  "I will talk to my different federations and Gary
    has to deal with the players" (CANADIAN PRESS/VANCOUVER SUN,
    2/2).
         PENSION BATTLE:  Paul Saunders, Senior VP of Buck
    Consultants and an adviser to retired NHL players, testified that
    former players are owed $42,160,251 by the league as of February
    1, 1995.  The league's estimate is less, due to different
    accounting methods.  The Ontario Court of Justice will decide
    between the two amounts sometime in March.  The former players
    won control of the money when an Ontario court ruled the NHL
    Pension Society misappropriated surpluses in '82 and '85
    (CP/Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 2/2).
    

    Print | Tags: Leagues and Governing Bodies, NHL
  • THE ANTI-BLOWOUT RULE? NFL TO DISCUSS NEW PLAYOFF FORMAT

         "In the wake of a fourth straight blowout" by the NFC over
    the AFC in the Super Bowl, the NFL "will soon begin internal
    discussions on the feasibility of changing the playoff format,"
    according to Leonard Shapiro in this morning's WASHINGTON POST.
    One top NFL exec:  "It's clear that we can't continue with
    sustained blowouts in our biggest game of the year."  The exec
    stressed that any plan "almost certainly would not be presented
    to club owners for a vote at their annual winter meeting next
    month in Phoenix.  However, he indicated the subject would be
    discussed by the league office and by team owners in Phoenix,
    adding that 'whether it happens in the next year is
    problematic.'"  NFL sources said the "likely scenario" is for NFL
    Commissioner Paul Tagliabue to have his staff report to the
    Competition Committee, which would then make a recommendation to
    the full ownership.  One system discussed would seed the 12
    playoff teams (still six from each conference) from 1-12, with
    No. 1 and No. 2 placed in separate brackets.  Any playoff format
    change would require at least a 3/4 vote of the NFL's 30 owners,
    and be "satisfactory" to the NFL's network TV partners
    (WASHINGTON POST, 2/1).
    

    Print | Tags: Leagues and Governing Bodies, NFL
  • VANCOUVER WILLING TO CONCEDE NFL FRANCHISE TO TORONTO

         Although NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue indicated the NFL
    could expand into Canada, maybe as soon as '97, the city of
    Vancouver does not expect to be a home for the new team.  Warren
    Buckley, President of BC Pavilion Corp., which runs BC Place, the
    home of the CFL BC Lions, said there has "been little or no
    discussion about expansion for a full-time NFL franchise here.
    ... Toronto is different.  They have ownership behind them
    (Labatt)."  Buckley did say that there have been discussions
    about hosting an exhibition game in the future (Bill Comrie,
    Vancouver PROVINCE, 2/1).  Also in Vancouver, Archie MacDonald
    writes, "If we subscribe to the notion that there is fire where
    there is smoke, we can expect the [NFL] to be burning brightly in
    Toronto before the turn of the century" (VANCOUVER SUN, 2/1).
    

    Print | Tags: CFL, Detroit Lions, Labatt Brewing, Leagues and Governing Bodies, NFL
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