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  • CHAMPIONS TOUR LOOKS TO GAIN CORPORATE HELP TO FORGE AHEAD

          The Champions Tennis Tour, the 35-and-over men's circuit
    founded in '93 by former ProServ President & Co-Founder Ray
    Benton and Jimmy Connors, is in the midst of their most
    successful season.  Benton and Connors began Net Assets to manage
    and promote the Champions Tour, and it has overseen the growth
    from three events in '93 to 12 events this year, including their
    first international stop in Moscow last April.  The Tour, which
    features Connors, Bjorn Borg, and Guillermo Vilas, has
    established itself in small venues by stressing a fan-friendly
    environment, with relaxed access to players for fans and sponsors
    alike.  The recent Citibank Champions event in Westchester, NY,
    drew a record attendance of 34,000 people over the five-day
    event.
         THE GOLF COMPARISON:  Benton told THE SPORTS BUSINESS DAILY
    that he and Connors formed the Tour "because we had seen what the
    Senior PGA had done and we thought we could capture some of the
    success the Senior PGA had caught."  Although it is the model,
    senior golf also poses the greatest threat to the Champions Tour.
    Benton says golf is "so hot right now, and such a high proportion
    of corporate executives play golf, that it has been a challenge
    to get their attention for tennis."  Although they currently have
    presenting sponsor U.S. News & World Report, along with Citibank,
    Coopers & Lybrand, and John Nuveen & Co. among others, Benton
    said his main challenge has been generating corporate interest.
    Roger Williams, a contributing editor to TENNIS magazine, praises
    the Tour, but says sponsorship dollars are "very very tough for
    tennis these days."  Williams:  "The bloom is off the rose in
    that regard.  I know that they had great difficulty getting an
    umbrella sponsor."  Benton said companies are less generous with
    their marketing dollars than in the past, but stressed the Tour
    is "doing fine.  But we can always do better. ... Tennis has
    bottomed out.  It is on its way back."
         WORD FROM THEIR SPONSORS:  Karen Scott Happer, Tournament
    Director for the Citibank Champions event, has worked in tennis
    for over twenty years including the Australian Open, and said she
    has never been affiliated on a project with "such excellent value
    for the money."  Happer: "If you are a sponsor I can genuinely
    say to you that a half dozen players are going to be coming to
    your cocktail party tonight.  I can honestly say ... you are
    going to have a clinic for over an hour with a Champions Tour
    professional working with your 20 kids."
         TV TIME:  Liberty's Prime Sports covers each event through
    their multi-year TV deal.  Benton said their "main breakthrough"
    was ABC's telecast of "The Challenge" held in May in Pebble
    Beach.  Benton, on the ABC telecast:  "We did a 1.8 on a Sunday
    afternoon against the NBA playoffs.  We hope to move it to June
    next year and get away from the NBA, and I think we will do
    well."
         THE FUTURE:  Looking ahead to the year 2000, Benton sees 20
    events, with 26-man draws and a minimum of $250,000 in prize
    money, along with 10-15 smaller satellite events, three or four
    events on national TV, and a major event at the end of the year.
    Benton said they will keep the venues small, and doesn't foresee
    sites with capacity greater than 5,000.  Roger Williams likes the
    Tour and commends the quality of play:  "The guys are trying
    hard, and most are in shape.  Benton and Connors made sure of
    that."   But to succeed, TENNIS Magazine's Williams believes it
    will "require very astute marketing ... If Ray Benton can't do
    it, it can't be done.  It has to have big names, the McEnroe's,
    Lendl's and others to join. ... Nostalgia is a very big part of
    the attraction here.  The big question is what will happen when
    Connors isn't there" (THE DAILY).
    

    Print | Tags: ABC, Cablevision, Leagues and Governing Bodies, NBA, New York Liberty, PGA Tour, Walt Disney
  • GLASS HALF FULL OR HALF EMPTY?: FEW SHOW FOR NBPA MEETINGS

         Yesterday's NBPA regional meetings in Dallas, San Antonio,
    and Atlanta drew five, two, and 13 players to each meeting,
    respectively.  FROM DALLAS:  Brad Townsend reports that "by all
    indications, it was not a productive stop" for the union.  Mavs'
    Popeye Jones:  "You've got a deal here in place, but at the same
    time, it's not as good as the old deal, in my opinion.  You
    wonder if the owners are going to give you more -- or if you're
    just going to miss the season."  Jamal Mashburn:  "I'm in the
    middle now." (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 8/25).  Roy Tarpley:  "It
    stinks a little bit.  There's just something about it, like how
    they agreed on it overnight.  It just gives me a funny feeling.
    I think we all want to play ball next season and we don't want to
    strike, but I don't know if that's safe to say for sure right
    now" (Richie Witt, FT. WORTH STAR TELEGRAM, 8/25).
    FROM SAN ANTONIO:  Former Spur Sean Higgins:  "Decertifying
    probably would be best for the long run, better for the young
    guys coming into the league.  The present plan could ruin free
    agency. ... I want to look at the plan, study it, and then
    decide."  Former Spur Antoine Carr:  "I feel more informed now.
    Right now, I'm in the middle" (Glenn Rogers, SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS
    NEWS, 8/25).  FROM ATLANTA:  Former Hawks captain Tree Rollins:
    "If guys want to eat, they better vote."  Hawk Craig Ehlo:  "Guys
    have to get out and vote.  You can't just assume this is going to
    pass" (Jeffrey Denberg, ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 8/25).
         HOW'M I DOIN'?  NBPA Exec Dir Simon Gourdine, in San
    Antonio:  "We've talked to about 67 players so far and expect to
    speak to about 100 all told when we've finished the tour. ...
    Reaction at the meetings has been good.  We've had some players
    who are in favor of decertifying come to our meetings and they've
    helped spur some free-wheeling conversation.  We always know when
    those players arrive because they have kind of a fixed question
    list.  But we want to talk to all the players because we believe
    that this deal, although not perfect, is a good one and it's far
    superior to decertifying the union.  It could be chaos if that
    happens and the season could be in jeopardy" (Glenn Rogers, SAN
    ANTONIO EXPRESS NEWS, 8/25).
         WE FEAR NOTHING:  Pro-decertification agent Marc Fleisher
    called Gourdine's August 21 letter to agents "an act of
    desperation."  Fleisher:  "He infers that the agents fear
    retaliation (from the union), which is a flat-out joke.  I know
    of no agents, with one possible exception, who aren't supportive
    of decertification" (PHILA. DAILY NEWS, 8/25).
    

    Print | Tags: Atlanta Hawks, Leagues and Governing Bodies, Time Warner
  • ISU GIVES SOME STRUCTURE TO FIGURE SKATING SEASON

         The Int'l Skating Union has "linked five existing
    competitions to form what it calls a Grand Prix circuit and has
    added a new event, the Grand Prix Final," according to Neil
    Stevens of the CANADIAN PRESS.  Now the world's top skaters will
    be vying for more than $2.5M this season.  Much of the financing
    comes from a TV deal with Fox.  The '97 Grand Prix has been
    awarded to Canada.  The purpose of the "bold initiative" is to
    keep skaters on the Int'l Skating Union scene longer
    (CP/Vancouver PROVINCE, 8/25).
    

    Print | Tags: Leagues and Governing Bodies, News Corp./Fox
  • LEAGUE NOTES

         The Packers have filed a $1.5M grievance against hold-out
    tight end Keith Jackson and the NFLPA.  Jackson's attorney called
    it a "thinly veiled threat designed to persuade him to report"
    (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 8/24). ...Arena Football is profiled
    by Roger Thurow in this morning's WALL STREET JOURNAL.  Thurow
    writes Arena football "has grown up to become a respectable
    commodity, particularly sought after by owners of professional
    teams in other sports who also own arenas they need to fill
    during the summer" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 8/24)....NEW YORK
    magazine's Richard Turner writes on the state of horse racing:
    "Telegenic and interactive, horse racing looked like a sure bet
    in the dawning electronic age. But it was passed in the stretch"
    (NEW YORK, 8/28 issue)...MLB's Public Relations Manager Jim Small
    was interviewed by KYODO NEWS.  Small spoke on Hideo Nomo and
    suggested a baseball "World Cup" with a U.S. team playing other
    nations in an int'l tournament (KYODO NEWS, 8/24).
    

    Print | Tags: Green Bay Packers, Leagues and Governing Bodies, MLB
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