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MLS: The SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL's Jamie Trecker reports that MLS "cut its financial bleeding" by 50% this year, "saving $10[M] million in expenses from closing its Tampa and Miami teams and cutting overhead for a total savings in the neighborhood" of $15-17M. While "no team is profitable yet," the Crew, Wizards and Revolution "are within a half-million dollars or so of breaking even. Almost every other team is running a deficit of at least" $1M a season. Sources "have indicated that [the Fire] could lose as much as" $4M this year, while the MetroStars' losses "could run as high as" $5-6M (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 12/2 issue).
NBA: In Toronto, Michael Grange writes Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban's fellow owners think that his "willingness to flaunt the cost controls the league won in the 1998-99 lockout is a threat to the well-being of the entire enterprise." One NBA exec: "We wanted to level the playing field so everyone can compete on drafting, coaching and player evaluation. Not who has the most money. Is it good to have exciting teams like Dallas? Absolutely. ... But if we don't pay attention to fiscal responsibility, we're ... like hockey." Cuban said the luxury tax "can be very valuable to the league, but I think it's structured completely wrong. There are two elements to the tax, cost and revenue. We reward people for keeping costs below a threshold, but we don't reward them for generating more revenue than the threshold. ... It creates a disincentive. Plus ... why not take a chunk of the tax money and use it in an advertising campaign for the league rather than putting it in owners' pockets?" (Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 12/2).
The NHL over the last 18 months "turned over the detailed financial records of four teams to the Players' Association, in hopes of convincing the union that the owners truly face a collective fiscal crisis," according to a source of Kevin Paul Dupont of the BOSTON GLOBE, who noted the NHLPA examined the records of the Sabres, Bruins, Kings and Canadiens. The source called the move a "way of bridging a gap of disbelief that has existed for years between the parties." The source: "The PA had their pick: Whatever four clubs the players wanted, the players got. All the figures. They should be able to see it for themselves. Money in. Money out. And the money is going out at an alarming rate. No one's cooking the books." The league chose "neither to confirm nor deny this development" (BOSTON GLOBE, 12/1).NHL Players Staying Out of ’06 Olympics?
SIZING UP THE OTHER SIDE: In N.Y., Larry Brooks noted that participation of NHL players in the '06 Olympics is "a chip to be played during collective bargaining." NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said, "On balance I think it was a good thing that we participated in Salt Lake City, but I don't think that necessarily means we should go to Italy. We'd have to have a longer break than the 12 days we took in 2002, there's more travel, we'd be in a different time zone, and for all those reasons I think we'd receive far less coverage than we did the last time." Meanwhile, one prominent agent figures there will be approximately 400 free agents on July 1, 2004, and Brooks wondered, "Isn't it likely that some deep-pocketed entrepreneurs have already begun to investigate the feasibility of starting a new league not only to fill the breach during the lockout that will commence on Sept. 15 of that year, but to then compete with the NHL after a new CBA has been struck?" (N.Y. POST, 12/1). In NY, Rick Carpiniello wrote under the header, "Players Lack Muscle For Labor War." Since the '92 players strike and the '94 lockout, some of the "key people on the players' side," including former players Wayne Gretzky, Kevin Lowe, Mario Lemieux and Bryan Trottier, as well as former agent Mike Barnett now Coyotes GM are "now aligned with the owners" (Westchester JOURNAL NEWS, 12/1).
TOO MUCH TO LOSE: In Toronto, David Shoalts wrote, "All of the energy from players and owners seems to be spent posturing and building the respective war chests for the expected lockout in 2004, rather than on finding a solution, either separately or together. ... Unless the principals will be happy with a 15-team league that has the marginalized status of the Arena Football League, then it's time for them to do something unprecedented in modern professional sports. It's time for labour and management to pool their best minds and come up with a creative solution for a league that has to be nimble financially because it does not get the huge television revenue of the other major professional leagues" (Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 11/30).Bob Bougher Says NHLPA
THE RHETORIC FROM PLAYERS BEGINS: Members of the Flames met for three hours with NHLPA Exec Dir Bob Goodenow and Associate Counsel Ian Pulver Saturday as part of the NHLPA's annual fall tour meetings. Flames D Bob Boughner said, "We know what Gary is looking for. But we have our position on it, and we're not going to budge. It's early now. I know there's a lot of pressure from fans and media. ... But to this point, there's been no proposal brought forth from the NHL. ... Guys have to be prepared for the worst. If something goes down, and there's a fight, it might not be a short one" (Todd Kimberley, CALGARY HERALD, 12/1).