SBD/Issue 21/Franchises

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  • AFL VooDoo Cease Operations Despite Strong Attendance Figures

    VooDoo Decision To Cease Operations Surprising
    As Franchise Considered One Of AFL's Strongest
    Saints VP/Communications Greg Bensel said that AFL New Orleans VooDoo Owner Tom Benson yesterday informed the AFL of his "plans to terminate operations of the franchise," according to Hogan & Allee-Walsh of the New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE. Benson in a statement said that the decision to fold the team, which began play in '04, "is not an indictment on this marketplace," and added that he "believes in New Orleans." AFL VooDoo Owner & Exec VP Rita Benson LeBlanc said in a statement: "It is a sad day for our community and our organization, but circumstances prevented us from continuing in the AFL." Hogan & Allee-Walsh note it "doesn't help that the VooDoo is the secondary tenant at the New Orleans Arena, meaning the VooDoo must yield to the Hornets on most matters and can't generate much income from the building outside of ticket sales." But the move "caught many observers by surprise, especially considering the AFL is coming off one of its best years in terms of viewership and merchandise sales." The VooDoo, which has hosted the past two ArenaBowls, also led the AFL in '07 with an average crowd of 16,645 in eight home games and "set an AFL record for season-ticket sales with more than 13,000." Though VooDoo attendance dropped to fifth in the league at 14,321 this past season, the club "still was considered one of the stronger franchises in the AFL" (New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE, 10/14).

    MORE TO FOLLOW? WGNO-ABC’s Ed Daniels cited a source as saying that "other teams may soon fold.” Daniels noted the VooDoo were "one of the more successful franchises in the AFL, but the league itself is having financial troubles.” Daniels: "Arena Football did very well here over the first couple of years, and I think it did okay last year, but there were a few more empty seats, and that’s been a problem around the league" (ABC26.com, 10/13).

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  • Ashley Talking To Seven Interested Parties About Newcastle Sale

    Newcastle Owner Reportedly 
    In Talks With Seven Interested Buyers
    Investment bank Seymour Price CEO Keith Harris, whose company has been charged with brokering a sale of English Premier League (EPL) club Newcastle United, said that Newcastle Owner Mike Ashley is "speaking to seven parties interested in purchasing Newcastle and he has not lowered his asking price," according to Alex Livie of SETANTASPORTS.com. Ashley has "set no deadline for a sale," but Harris "feels progress is likely to be made over the course of the next month." Livie notes it "has been suggested Ashley has been forced to drop his asking price" from US$792.1M, but Harris said that that is a "figure which has been pulled from thin air." Harris: "Nobody that I know knows where the ... figure ever came from" (SETANTASPORTS.com, 10/14). Harris said that Ashley "will sell Newcastle United to those he deems the best qualified to take care of the club's long term future." Harris said Ashley "wants to make it clear that although he wants a maximum price, he want[s] to make sure it goes into hands of people who can nurture it for the future" (London TELEGRAPH, 10/14).

    HAM IT UP: In Manchester, Matt Scott reports EPL club West Ham United yesterday was the "subject of a takeover approach by Dubai's sovereign-wealth fund Zabeel Investments," the company controlled by Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum that last Friday declared its interest in English Coca-Cola Championship League club Charlton Athletic "in the form of an 'indicative bid.'" But the approach to West Ham was "far more discreetly conducted" than the Charlton bid. West Ham sources confirmed that "contact was made but insist there are 'no talks' after" Owner Björgólfur Guðmundsson "rejected the offer." But Scott notes it is "believed that talks are continuing with Guðmundsson on a personal level" (Manchester GUARDIAN, 10/14).

    HANGING AROUND: EPL club Arsenal co-Owner Alisher Usmanov, who owns the largest stake in the club at 24.9%, last night said that he has "no intention of selling his stake in Arsenal despite the global economic crisis." Usmanov said that it "was 'inconceivable' that he would sell" his stake, and he "declared he wanted to increase his stake to 25% -- an 'objective' that he said he announced last year" (Manchester GUARDIAN, 10/14).

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  • Royals Unveil '09 Ticket-Price Structure, Average Ticket Price Up

    Royals Hoping Different Price Options Will Lure
    Fans In Spite Of Ticket Price Hike
    The Royals Friday announced an increase in ticket prices next year, the "first season in a renovated Kauffman Stadium," according to Bob Dutton of the K.C. STAR. The average single-game ticket "will cost $24.84 in 2009, an increase of nearly $2 from the average 2008 cost for a non premium game." But Royals officials said that the increase "still positions the Royals below the average 2008 major-league price of $25.43." The overall per-game ticket price "offers discounts for season-ticket and partial season-ticket plans." Seats in the new fountain pavilion will go for $7, making the seats "the cheapest ticket in the stadium but will be sold only on game day." Meanwhile, the new outfield box seats, which are "located directly above the two bullpens as well as just beyond the left-field wall in front of the fountains," will "range from $20 when purchased as part of a full season-ticket plan to $30 when purchased on a single-game basis for a premium opponent." The Royals have not yet announced "what dates will be designated for premium pricing" (K.C. STAR, 10/11). More than 35% of the seats will be priced at $16 or less, and about 58% of seats "had price increases of less than $1, with some having no price increase" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 10/13). Royals Senior VP/Business Operations Kevin Uhlich: "The current economic situation that faces our nation as a whole has grabbed our attention. ... We feel this is a fair and balanced plan that will allow fans a broad menu of price options depending on their desired amenities. Our goal is to have the increased revenues support our continued improvement on the field through scouting, player development and free agency" (MLB.com, 10/10).

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  • Franchise Notes

    NFL's Newer Facilities Cutting Out
    "Boorish" Fans, Fewer Incidents Reported
    The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Mark Yost reports the NFL has found that "newer, more upscale stadiums price out some of the more boorish fans." Eagles Senior VP/Business Operations Mark Donovan said when the team moved into Lincoln Financial Field in '03, the Eagles "not only saw a sharp drop in incidents the first year, but have seen a steady decline every year since." Observers said that the "atmosphere at the Linc is completely different from that at the Vet." Yost notes the biggest factor in the turnaround "has been the new security procedures," as Lincoln Financial Field "was the first NFL stadium to have a text-messaging system that allows fans to anonymously report trouble." Meanwhile, the Bills "are aware of the Eagles text-messaging system and would like to have it, but they simply haven't budgeted for it." Instead, the Bills have relied "on old-fashioned shame: publishing the names of those arrested at Bills games in the local paper" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 10/14).

    TV OR NOT TV? In Dallas, Diego Aparicio reports MLS FC Dallas, for "the first time since the team moved into Pizza Hut Park in 2005," has seen average home attendance decline during the '08 season to 13,023 from 15,145 in '07, which was "the club's all-time best in the 20,500-seat facility." FC Dallas ranks 13th in MLS in average attendance, and President & GM Michael Hitchcock said that "the sagging economy, rising gas prices and competition with other events were general factors." But Hitchcock "cited television coverage as a major reason for declining ticket sales." Hitchcock: "We are very grateful to receive the exposure through the national television partners. But if you look for us right now at our stage and development as a team in this marketplace, Saturday night is the best night for us to sell the market. It's better than Sunday afternoons and Thursday evenings." Aparicio notes every FC Dallas game was broadcast on TV "for the first time this year" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 10/14).

    INSIDE JOB: Redskins Exec VP/Football Operations Vinny Cerrato announced on his radio show yesterday morning that the team cut P Durant Brooks. Washington Post reporter Liz Clarke said the announcement put Redskins coach Jim Zorn "in a horrible position for the main personnel guy, Vinny, to make news on his radio show." Clarke: "My understanding of the division of labor in any football team is the GM … gets the players and once the season starts it’s the coach who decides who’s cut or not. It’s kind of simple, and for the GM to go on the radio and basically say, ‘We’ve cut this guy,’ that does a disservice to Jim Zorn" ("Washington Post Live," CSN, 10/13).

    A SIMPLE THANK YOU: In Milwaukee, Tom Haudricourt reported Brewers Owner Mark Attanasio "sent out an open letter to thank all the fans for their support this year and to reflect" on the season. The letter appeared in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel "in what amounted to a two-page ad," and is also posted on the Brewers Web site (JSONLINE.com, 10/13).

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