SBD/Issue 33/Leagues & Governing Bodies

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  • Giants, Dolphins To Play In Front Of Mostly European Crowd

    Taylor Feels Game In London Is
    Smart Business Move For NFL
    There will be “no more than 10,000 traveling fans” at Sunday’s Giants-Dolphins game in London, meaning that the remaining 70,000 or so will be “home grown -- or at least Europe grown,” according to Gabby Logan (LONDON TIMES, 10/26). In a Q&A with the South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, Dolphins DE Jason Taylor said playing a regular-season game in London is a “smart move business-wise. It puts a little strain on teams and organizations, but I think in the long run expanding the brand and shield of the NFL around the globe is important.” Asked his thoughts on the 26-foot animatronic statue bearing his likeness that is being used to promote the game in London, Taylor said, “It resembles me, but I think I’m a little better looking than it is” (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 10/26). Giants LB Mathias Kiwanuka said, “We’re definitely ambassadors of the league and we want to put on a show” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 10/26).

    GOING ABROAD: NFL VP/Marketing & Sales and Int'l Senior VP Mark Waller beginning in five years would "like every team to play one game outside the U.S. every season." Waller: “It’s a personal view of mine; it’s not an ownership view. We haven’t formally addressed that.” Dolphins Owner Wayne Huizenga said of the league staging a Super Bowl overseas, “If you’re really talking about going global, you’re really going to introduce the game to a lot of people, that might be one way to do it. I’m not saying it’s going to happen. Certainly there are negatives, but there could be more positives.” Giants Chair & Exec VP Steve Tisch said the league, through Sunday’s game, is “going to learn a lot about marketing, about fan response, about press response. This game certainly is going to be a curiosity”  (PALM BEACH POST, 10/26).  More Tisch: "I think the league has been pleased with the reaction we have had and there will be a lot of conversation on Monday. I expect that it will be to the effect that this has been a tremendous first step. Another barometer is what this means to London” (LONDON TIMES, 10/26). Patriots CEO Robert Kraft said of bringing a regular-season game to London, “We realized in the end that to make it successful, we had to bring real games here.” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said, “We couldn’t do that (play overseas). And wouldn’t do that. We just have too much commitment. We’re building a new stadium. And so that just wouldn’t work for us.” But Huizenga said Jones "may not have a choice. Because when the NFL votes, he will have to go. And if we do what we’re talking about doing -- playing two games a year outside the U.S. -- every team will have to go,” ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 10/25). 

     
    HOW IT'S PLAYING IN LONDON: BBC Dir of Sport Roger Mosey said, “I wouldn’t pretend that the nation is absolutely engrossed by Dolphins against Giants. But it is something that has got capacity to grow in the UK” (ESPN, 10/25).  In Ft. Lauderdale, Dave Hyde notes the Dolphins are in London “because of what the NFL says are thousands” of the team’s fans. The mid-'80s Super Bowl appearances and Pro Football HOFer Dan Marino "won a country that a technologically flattened world might now conquer” (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 10/26). In a USA TODAY sports section Cover Story, Sky Sports announcer Nick Halling, who has covered the NFL and its European leagues for 25 years, said London is the “best choice to kick off the [NFL's new int'l] strategy, although Germany has had more and longer-lasting teams in the NFL’s European leagues.” Halling said in England, there is a "solid (base) of American football fans. They are quite sophisticated. Germany attracts fans to games, but for them it’s more of an excuses to have a fun night out.” USA TODAY's Jeffrey Stinson notes there will be “31 booths inside and outside Wembley Stadium selling hats, jerseys and other NFL merchandise.”  British bookmaker Ladbrokes says that wagering on NFL games is "on the rise because of the games seen on Sky Sports.” Ladbrokes spokesperson Nick Weinberg said that interest in Sunday’s game is “up by 10%-15% over Sunday games being played in the US.” But he noted wagering on the NFL is “barely a fifth of what Britons bet on Premier League soccer matches” (USA TODAY, 10/26). British American Football Association Whole Sport Plan Manager Ken Walters said, “The Wembley game is going to have a massive impact. I was talking with a guy from the stadium the other day about our input and the conversation began: 'Oh, there are teams – great, where can I go to play?'” (LONDON TIMES, 10/26). However, in London, Robert Philip, referring to former Bears DT William Perry, writes, “Any spectacle in which a 6ft 2in, 326lb block of lard can become a superstar is, to these eyes, a freak-show rather than a sporting contest” (London TELEGRAPH, 10/26).  

    PAPER WEIGHT: The major British papers gave a good bit of editorial build-up to the game, which broke through coverage of soccer, F1 and other sports to garner top story-type treatment.  Pieces ranged from conversations with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, to a writer discussing his disdain for American football, to a piece on grassroots football on the island nation. Many papers on Thursday offered content on Dolphins practice squad WR Marvin Allen. Today’s coverage was more in-depth, with pieces speculating on whether Kraft could potentially seek a Premier League team and whether Premier League teams will follow the NFL’s lead and play regular-season games in places like Asia.  There have also been stories discussing such topics as injuries to key players (Dolphins RB Ronnie Brown), Super Bowl histories of each franchise, and even Don Shula’s feelings about the current state of the Dolphins. None of the articles appeared in the business sections of the respective papers, and most were placed toward the back of sports sections under the “U.S. Sports” section online (THE DAILY).

    BACK IN THE STATES: The Dolphins are calling Sunday “Double Decker Day” at Dolphin Stadium, where they will show the game on the jumbo screens. Admission and parking are free and there will be a festival with British food, drink and music, as well as British celebrity impersonators (MIAMI HERALD, 10/26).

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  • Stern To Alter Gambling Rule After All Refs In Violation

    Stern Feels Gambling Rules For
    Referees Need To Be Changed
    NBA Commissioner David Stern following the league's BOG meeting in N.Y. on Thursday indicated that an internal review has found that “all of the league’s 56 referees violated the contractual prohibition against engaging in gambling, with more than half of them admitting to placing wagers in casinos,” according to Chris Sheridan of ESPN.com.  Stern added that “none of the violations [were] major, and no referees had admitted to wagering in a sports book or with a bookie.” But he acknowledged that the gambling rules in the referees’ labor agreement were “outdated in regard to changing attitudes toward gambling in the [U.S.], and he said they’d be rewritten to allow various forms of gambling, including casino betting (but not on sports) during the offseason.” Stern: “Our ban on gambling is absolute, and in my view it is too absolute, too harsh and was not particularly well-enforced over the years. We’re going to come up with a new set of rules that make sense.” Meanwhile, NBA Senior VP/Basketball Operations Stu Jackson will “lose some of his power in the months ahead." He will “retain control over basketball operations," but a new exec will be hired "to oversee all aspects relating to the officiating staff.” Also, NBA Dir of Officials Ronnie Nunn will spend “more time on the road concentrating on the mentoring of young officials. He also will cease doing a show on NBA-TV that focused on the league’s officiating.” Stern said that the league “still did not know for sure whether former referee Tim Donaghy impacted the outcome of games he had placed bets on.” He said that the NBA was “interested in speaking to Donaghy and expected to have an opportunity to do so in the coming week or months.” (ESPN.com, 10/25). Stern said, “Mr. Donaghy acted alone. There are no other referees who bet on NBA games” (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 10/26).  Stern introduced “several initiatives to strengthen the referee program and guard against future criminal activity” (N.Y. TIMES, 10/26).

    Writers Agree With Stern's Decision
    Not To Punish Refs For Gambling 
    REAX: NBRA Exec Dir Lamell McMorris said, “I commend Commissioner Stern and the league for the way this has been handled. I appreciate the way the union and league have worked in a collaborative manner since this began” (USA TODAY, 10/26). In N.Y., Peter Vecsey writes under the header, “NBA Bets On Common Sense.” Vecsey wrote the fact the gambling rule only applied to refs, and not to players or team or league execs, "is one of the reasons the commissioner has decided, at long last, to eradicate the inequitable double standard” (N.Y. POST, 10/26). The Boston Globe’s Jackie MacMullan said she agrees with Stern's decision not to punish the refs: "There’s a big difference between what Tim Donaghy did and what these referees were doing. … Think about it, you’re on a cruise with your family, you wander down to the casino, you pull a slot machine, or maybe you throw some dice. ... If you want to punish the referees for that sort of behavior, and want to follow the rule to the letter or the law, then you’ve got a problem because over half of your referees are going to have to be punished” ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 10/25).  However, in Chicago, Greg Couch writes under the header, “Commissioner Isn’t Nearly Stern Enough: When Image Is Everything, NBA Boss Hurts It With Softer Gambling Stance.” Couch: “I can’t say for sure that he’s covering something up, but let’s just say it smells bad.”  During a teleconference after the Donaghy news, Stern said, "The legal betting will cost you your job.  The illegal betting, depending upon the context, may cost you your freedom" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 10/26).

    VEGAS: Stern indicated that if an “NBA-quality” arena were built in Las Vegas, it would “enhance the city’s chances” of landing an NBA team, but he was “quick to point out there are no immediate plans to expand and didn’t promise Las Vegas would be first in line for an expansion team.” Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman said that while he would “welcome the NBA to Las Vegas, he would not ask the sports books to take NBA games off betting boards.” Stern “remains uncomfortable with that position, but ultimately, the owners will decide if Las Vegas has an NBA future” (LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, 10/26).

    COLLEGE: NCAA Coordinator of Men’s Basketball Officials Hank Nichols said that the NCAA is “hitting gambling issues harder in a series of preseason officiating clinics it conducts every year.” NCAA Division I men’s basketball referee Ed Hightower said because of the Donaghy affair, “Certainly, anyone affiliated with the game has a heightened sensitivity. We will be more in a fishbowl than we’ve been in some time.” Texas Tech men’s basketball coach Bob Knight, who in an interview in ’98 said a game official is “the most susceptible guy in any (sports) gambling scheme,” said, “I wrote Nichols a letter to remind him about a month ago. I sent him a copy of the article (from) 10 years ago” (USA TODAY, 10/26).

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  • NLL, PLPA Formally Announce New CBA That Saves '08 Season

     
    The NLL formally announced a new seven-year CBA with the Professional Lacrosse Player’s Association (PLPA) through the 2014 season, the longest labor deal in the 22-year history of pro indoor lacrosse. The ’08 season was initially canceled last week after a deal was not reached (NLL). In Philadelphia, Gary Miles reports the parties agreed to a 5% increase in the maximum veteran and franchise-player salaries, and a 6% increase for other players. A dispersal draft will be held “if any teams cannot play this season because of problems with arenas in regaining playing dates they gave up” last week (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 10/26). NLL Calgary Roughnecks Owner Brad Banister said, "It took a lot of hard work by myself and [NLL Edmonton Rush Owner] Bruce Urban to convince the league to reopen negotiations" (CALGARY HERALD, 10/26). NLL Colorado Mammoth G and PLPA treasurer Gee Nash said, “There’s a commitment that the players grow with the league. We’re satisfied that did occur, and in turn, we gave the league more in terms, a seven-year contract. The challenge now is for [NLL Commissioner Jim] Jennings to take the league to the next level” (DENVER POST, 10/26).

    RAMIFICATIONS OF DECISION: In Toronto, Allan Ryan notes some teams are “expressing concern” about getting back game dates at arenas after the clubs released them last week. Also, the expansion Boston Breakers will begin play in ’09 as opposed to ’08 as originally expected. Jennings said, “I wish I could say it was a great negotiating ploy but I can’t. It was dead as dead could be. I know I was quoted as saying the season was impossible to get back, but I’m glad I was wrong.” NLL Toronto Rock player Chris Driscoll said, “Lacrosse is still in the growing stages. It’s a delicate thing and, in my opinion, I don’t think lacrosse would’ve come back (had the season been lost)” (TORONTO STAR, 10/26). NLL Portland LumberJax F Ryan Powell said, “We just waited a little bit too long to start the negotiating process. I was really disappointed that there wasn’t going to be a season. It would have been a big step backward” (Portland OREGONIAN, 10/26). NLL Arizona Sting GM & coach Bob Hamley said, “We needed a long-term agreement. ... Now we can try to get this game to the next level.” The new ’08 schedule should be released next week (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 10/26).

    FANS ON ROLLER COSTER: In Portland, Ryan White writes despite Jennings saying the season was “dead” after last week’s announcement, it “clearly ... isn’t dead. It’s very much alive, much to the benefit of the owners, the players and the fans.” White: “Ah, yes. The fans. ‘The most important people of all,’ Jennings called them. So important that everyone was happy to jerk them around. ... We’re feeling used, misled and a little dirty” (Portland OREGONIAN, 10/26). In Calgary, George Johnson writes the cancellation "comes off as just another transparent, hard-line, heavy-handed labour relations ploy."  Johnson: "Don't jack around your players and fans and then bank on everyone being so overcome with joy to see you back that they'll laugh when you tell them, sheepishly, 'Just kidding'" (CALGARY HERALD, 10/26).

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  • PBR Opening '07 World Finals In Vegas To Near Sellout Crowd

    The PBR opens its '07 World Finals in Las Vegas Friday night only about 500 seats short of a sellout for all seven sessions. Those seats are all for next Thursday night's performance at the Thomas & Mack Center, the first of four sessions in the 16,700-seat arena. "Thursdays are a challenge for us," said CEO Randy Bernard, "but we'll be close." The other three sessions at the arena sold out despite Bernard bumping up the price on 1,200 seats from $80 to $250 each. Those 1,200 were right behind seats priced at $175 last year, but have also increased to $250, giving the PBR 3,000 seats at that price. The Finals open tonight with the first of three sessions in the nearby Mandalay Events Center, which seats 8,600.

    McBride Could Surpass $2M
    In Earnings This Season
    UNEXPECTED DRAMA: Justin McBride, the PBR points leader going into the Finals, was hospitalized briefly this week with a case of viral meningitis. McBride, who released a country music CD this week that's being sold on the PBR Web site, had to cancel a L.A. media tour. In a statement, he reminded fans that he is used to adversity at the Finals, having ridden with a punctured lung in '03 and a broken ankle in '04. Because of his points standing and the $1M payout to the Finals winner, McBride could take home more than $2M this year if he wins the championship, the biggest year ever for a PBR cowboy.

    EARLY SALES FOR '08: Tickets for the first half of the '08 season went on sale this week for PBR fan club members, and Bernard said about $500,000 worth were sold in the first three days. Last year the entire schedule was released at once during the first week of December, but with some late '08 details still being worked out, Bernard decided to go ahead and open sales for the first half of the year, reasoning that he might get a sales boost when the rest of the schedule comes out. "Where last year some people might have looked at the entire schedule and bought tickets for the one event closest to them, this year they might buy for a close event right now, then see another one when we release the rest of the schedule," he said. Last year, the PBR sold about $700,000 in tickets during the first week that the full schedule was released. The top-selling '08 events so far are Worcester, Massachusetts, St. Louis and N.Y.

    OFF THE CALENDAR: Missing from the '08 schedule is the Dale (Earnhardt) Jr. PBR Clash, which was held last January in Charlotte but drew only about 15,000 fans over three days. "Dale Jr. is a huge name," said Bernard, "but we might have been better off doing something with him in a market where he isn't seen quite as often." Bernard didn't abandon North Carolina, scheduling Winston-Salem for February 1-2. "I do think that is a good time of year to be in North Carolina," he said. "It's after football, but before NASCAR." The PBR dropped its New Orleans event, held this year on March 3-4, though Bernard said he is looking for another date in the city. "Our local TV ratings are unbelievable in that market," he said. "We did an 8 (rating) there. If we don't get back next year, then definitely the year after." Also missing is the Built Ford Tough Invitational in Auburn Hills, Michigan, held this year on April 13-14. "The economy there is in too much of a recession," Bernard said. "It does not make sense to be there right now, even though it's in Ford's back yard."

    NEW STOPS: In addition to the Winston-Salem date, Bernard added a January 26-27 stop in Albany at the behest of his friend George Hearst, chairman of the Hearst Corp., which owns the Albany Times-Union. The PBR turned what was a one-day Atlanta event, held this year in February, into a two-day event to be held December 29-30. It also dropped a February Tampa date, but Bernard expects to add an Orlando event to the second half of '08. The PBR will return to Baltimore on February 29, it's first time back in the city since '01, and in May will make its first stop ever in Des Moines.

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