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The Arena Football League announced yesterday it will eliminate its salary cap and replace it with "the first player 'payroll tax' in American sports history." AFL Commissioner James Drucker: "The payroll tax helps solve the dilemma faced by all leagues -- how to dramatically increase player salaries without forcing teams in small markets out of business because teams in large cities can generate more revenue -- from sponsorships and ticket sales -- than teams in smaller cities." A.C. Nielsen ranks the 13 AFL markets between No. 5 (San Jose) and 73 (Des Moines) in terms of TV homes. The tax is funded by teams, not players. The program requires teams to pay a 40% tax on player salaries over $240,000 with funds divided among teams below the $240,000 level. Drucker maintains the tax will benefit AFL players, fans and teams: "The tax eliminated the salary cap so large market teams can sign better players by increasing their salaries and the tax redistributes money within the league to strengthen small market teams" (AFL).
NBPA VP Charles Smith told the N.Y. POST's Peter Vecsey that he believes the union and the NBA are "very close" to an agreement on a new CBA. Smith: "In fact, I think it already would have been settled and signed had there been more pressure to get it done by a certain deadline." While Smith attributed some of the delay to the time constraints on player reps during the season, Vecsey notes that NBPA President Buck Williams (whose Blazers trail the Suns, 2-0) "could be freed up real soon for full-time negotiations." WHERE DO THEY STAND? A recent union memo noted the players' acceptance of a cap and the league's acceptance of a one-round draft. Still, NBA Deputy Commissioner Russ Granik noted there are "some very, very important issues still to resolve." On the table, according to Smith: The level and flexibility of the cap; revenue-sharing (the players want a 50-50 split of "everything"); division of merchandise sales; and, the "Larry Bird exception," which allows a team to re-sign its players at any cost. On the properties split, the owners are offering a guarantee of $75M over the next three years, while the players want 40% of all revenue from logo and player likeness merchandise and a guarantee of $50M/year through 2002. Smith called the Bird rule the "toughest issue of them all." While the players would prefer the status quo, Vecsey reports the owners "either want to phase out the exception or limit it so that it's not totally open ended" (N.Y. POST, 5/2).
The American and National Leagues and the MLBUA announced yesterday that they had reached agreement on a five-year CBA ending the lockout. Highlights of the deal, as listed in the joint release (AL/NL/MLBUA): -- Salary structure increase to range of $75-225,000 -- All umpires receive $20,000 post-season bonus -- Umpires who work All-Star Game will receive an additional $5,000 -- Umpires who work Division Series will receive an additional $12,500 -- Umpires who work League Championship Series will receive an additional $15,000 -- Umpires who work World Series will receive an additional $17,500 -- Per diem increased to $220, with cost of living adjustments in subsequent years -- The deal is good through December 31, 1999 -- Umpires return to work Wednesday, May 3, 1995 OFFICIALS SALARIES IN THE FOUR MAJOR LEAGUES: LEAGUE LOW HIGH MLB $75,000 $225,000 NBA 67,000 177,000 NHL 35,000 181,000 NFL 30,800 68,000 (ESPN, 5/1). REAX FROM BOTH SIDES: MLBUA General Counsel Richie Phillips: "This is an agreement in which everybody won. The Leagues have ensured five years of labor peace with the umpires, and from the umpires' point of view, the economic advances we felt we needed are included." AL President Gene Budig: "The agreement passes the test of fairness and we are pleased to have the entire Major League Baseball family back in place" (AL/NL/MLBUA). MLBUA President Jerry Crawford, on the players' support: "They did us a real service by going in and playing, they showed what we were worth, and it meant a lot" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 5/1). MEDIA REAX: In Chicago, Dave Van Dyk writes, "It may be one month late, but baseball has total peace and all the real pieces back" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 5/2). In Atlanta, Thomas Stinson notes, "The union settled for less than the 47 percent raises it sought but gained substantially on postseason renumeration" (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 5/2). In Philadelphia, Jayson Stark writes that baseball profits by creating "an incentive system that will reward umpires who do the best work with a new tier of bonuses" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 5/2). Management put the overall pay hike at 16%, but Murray Chass notes, "individually, umpires could do much better." In fact, 30-year veteran Harry Wendelstedt could earn a maximum of $282,500, a 37% raise (N.Y. TIMES, 5/2).
CFL Commissioner Larry Smith "will be flying to Miami today in hopes of working out details that will establish a new franchise in the Florida city in time for the 1996 season," according to Marty York in this morning's Toronto GLOBE & MAIL. But the proposed move into an NFL city has some CFL officials concerned. One CFL GM: "If we go into Miami, the NFL would obviously have a clear conscience coming into Toronto or Vancouver." Smith is scheduled to meet with FL Gov. Lawton Chiles, Miami Mayor Steve Clark, Orange Bowl officials and assorted marketing execs. Bruce Frey, a real estate investor who was outbid for control of the Dolphins by Wayne Huizenga, has the option of buying the now-defunct Las Vegas Posse for $2.5M or a new expansion franchise for more than $3M. Accompanying Smith on the trip will be Calgary Stampeder owner Larry Ryckman. According to Ryckman: "I think Bruce Frey would be an excellent owner in our League." The CFL hopes to formally announce the addition of a franchise in Miami on June 24 during an Orange Bowl exhibition game between the Birmingham Barracudas and the Baltimore CFL team (Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 5/2).