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Magna Entertainment and the NTRA released a joint statement yesterday indicating they have "reached an agreement" that will bring Magna's seven racetracks, which defected three months ago, back into the organization, according to Matt Hegarty of the DAILY RACING FORM. Under the agreement, the NTRA "has committed to changing the way it selects its directors, and promises to work to free racetracks" from state and federal regulations. As part of the modifications, Magna Chair Frank Stronach will take a seat on the BOD as a permanent rep of Magna. BOD seats will also be reserved for Churchill Downs and the NYRA. Reps of four other tracks will be elected regionally (DRF, 1/18). The agreement will see the seven tracks renew their NTRA memberships for '01 and '02, with an "opt-out clause" at the end of '02. The changes to the BOD structure "must still be approved" by the NTRA BOD (THOROUGHBRED TIMES, 1/18). The decision by Stronach "will add at least" $1M to the NTRA's operating budget in '01. As part of the agreement for Magna to rejoin, the NTRA announced it would revise its winter-spring TV schedule on ESPN and ESPN2 to include a "full complement" of races from Magna-owned tracks, including Santa Anita and Gulfstream Park (bloodhorse.com, 1/17).
MLB Commissioner Bud Selig "claimed he received 'overwhelming' support" from the owners "in his crusade to change" the game's economic system at the MLB owners meetings yesterday in Phoenix, according to Mark Gonzales of the ARIZONA REPUBLIC, who writes that Selig "instructed his negotiations to aggressively pursue changes, such as the implementation" of a competitive draft, an int'l amateur draft and the trading of draft picks, "in future talks with" the MLBPA. Selig "also implored management's negotiators to seek proposals outlined" in the Blue Ribbon on MLB Economics report "aimed at improving" competitive balance among the teams. Selig said, "We're not going to have any public comment (on labor). Neither is anybody else. The only thing I'm going to say to you is that it's been a circus-like affair in the past, and it shall not be that way in the future" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 1/18). The AP's Ronald Blum writes that MLB's proposed economic plan does not have the support of Mets co-Owner Nelson Doubleday. Doubleday said, "We need to change the landscape. If we're going to change this system, it has to be changed at every level." More Doubleday, on MLB's proposed competitive balance draft: "I personally think it's an outrage. It's a sham. It's everything baseball shouldn't be for. ... What you're saying is you don't have to scout. We'll do that for you. Why spend money on scouting when you can take eight of our best players, or four of them or two of them." But Orioles Owner Peter Angelos said, "We would do it to achieve balance. I think that's a goal to strive for." In other news, owners extended Turner Broadcasting's agreement to televise Braves' games nationally on TBS and that MLB extended MLBP's deal to sell teams' licensed goods through May 31 (AP, 1/18).
THE PETER PRINCIPLE: ESPN's Peter Gammons said last night owners are trying to "map out their strategy for what they're going to try to bring to the players at the end of the season when the [CBA] is up." Gammons said, "They're talking about different forms of revenue sharing, they're talking [about the competitive balance draft], they're trying to figure out how they can get the small markets and the big markets to agree on some way to bring about competitive balance. Also, come up with some ideas of things that the [MLBPA] will agree to. ... They can talk about whatever they want, it doesn't mean anything until November of next year when they really go to the players. Bud Selig has to know how strongly the Mets and the Yankees feel about not wanting to share money with Montreal and Kansas City and Minnesota and he has to be able to take the field, be able to do the politics and get the owners in line before November" ("Baseball Tonight," ESPN, 1/17).
NFL owners voted yesterday to pool the visiting-team share of gate revenues beginning in '02, "knocking down a major obstacle in the path to realignment," according to Rick Gosselin of the DALLAS MORNING NEWS, who notes that owners approved the measure by a 29-1 vote, with two abstentions. Under the current system, the gate is split 50-50 in the preseason and 60-40 in favor of the home team in the regular season. Under the new system, the preseason and regular season would have 60-40 splits, but visitors' shares from "all games would be pooled, and all 32 teams would receive an equal share" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 1/18). NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue: "Our traditional revenue sharing policies have served the league well. The additional step enables us to base future realignment on its merits, not on resulting economics" (BLOOMBERG, 1/18). Chiefs Owner Lamar Hunt: "There are economic considerations of realigning with a major upheaval of traditional rivalries. This is an important step (AP, 1/17).