SBD/Issue 29/Leagues & Governing Bodies

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  • Goodell Eyes More U.K. Games, But Chargers-Saints Lacking Buzz

    Goodell Says NFL Considering
    More Int'l Games In Future
    NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell appeared on ESPN's "Mike & Mike in the Morning" Friday live from London, site of Sunday's Chargers-Saints game, and said that league "may play more than one game a year" abroad in the future. Goodell said playing a regular-season game in London presents “an opportunity for us to expand our audience and continue to grow and we have a tremendous fans base over here. ... It’s a very important step in our development and the reaction has been extraordinary." He added, "I think we’ll keep doing this. We are going to commit to play next year and the year following over here. ... The negative that you have to balance this with, though, is that we have a limited number of games that are played in each home market back in the (U.S.), and it’s difficult to take a game away from the home fans. We are very sensitive to that. That’s why this is being done on a limited basis.” Goodell added, “Ultimately, you could see a franchise potentially in a market like London” (“Mike & Mike In the Morning,” ESPN2, 10/24).

    BUILDING INTEREST: Chargers-Saints is the second NFL regular-season game to be played in London, following last year's Giants-Dolphins matchup, and NFL officials said that the “goal now is to instill a more abiding interest in American football.” NFL U.K. Managing Dir Alistair Kirkwood: “Last year was a launch, this year is about the X’s and O’s of converting people to being life-long NFL fans.” USA TODAY’s Jeffrey Stinson noted the NFL has launched a Web site that “will be touted during the game to better explain the sport to would-be fans.” The league also will expand the “amount of NFL team merchandise at the game and in stores around the city.” Last year, Kirkwood said that gear “sold out at the 30 booths at Wembley.” The NFL has increased the number of seats to almost 83,000 from 80,000 last year, and Kirkwood said that as of midweek there were a “few hundred tickets” remaining.” The BBC public stations are broadcasting the game live along with Sky Sports. Last year, the BBC “only ran highlights” (USA TODAY, 10/23). Kirkwood said, “The Wembley games will go down well, but the danger is that it will come across as a circus coming into town. The biggest challenge is to use the game as a stimulation for interest in the sport. We have an opportunity over these four years to grow the sport substantially” (LONDON TIMES, 10/24). More Kirkwood: "We have a decent fan base, but the challenge is growing that base five or six times over by building a bridge from the hype around the Wembley game (to) people wanting to tune in to Houston versus Minnesota (the following week)" (SI.com, 10/24).

    BUZZ KILL: In San Diego, Nick Canepa writes under the header, “Amid Goals, Grog, NFL Not Main Attraction.” Canepa, covering the game in London, writes the game is “fine with many of those who don’t mind novelty stores. But most I’ve seen and talked to here can’t be bothered with big men wearing pads and helmets damaging the hallowed Wembley Stadium turf” (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 10/24). Canepa Wednesday wrote there is “no buzz on the street. … The NFL isn’t on everybody’s mind, not even this week.” Brian Smith, a former San Diego citizen who now lives in London, said, “I’ve felt no more buzz for this game here than last year’s (Giants-Dolphins). The game may have sold out in a few hours, but most people don’t have a clue it’s going on” (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 10/22). ESPN’s Michael Wilbon: “The game’s sold out, but the Brits have already turned thumbs down on American football. … American football is not wanted in Western Europe" (“PTI,” ESPN, 10/21). But Chargers RB LaDainian Tomlinson said of fans in London, “I thought they were very excited about us being here. They were really interested in American football and I think that’s evident in how many tickets have been sold” (“SportsCenter,” ESPN, 10/22). Saints coach Sean Payton said, “I watched on television [Tuesday] and there was all sorts of news and information not only about this game, but our sport in general” (Saints).

    SHOULD NFL BE IN ENGLAND? ESPN’s Mark Schlereth said playing games abroad is "something that has been made up by management that doesn’t have to go over there and play." Schlereth: "I know that you want to increase the popularity to the world of this wonderful, wonderful game. But to make two teams go over to England and play is ludicrous to me” ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 10/24). In California, Marcia Smith writes, "Does it bother anybody that the NFL is over there, fertilizing its global appeal, and not here, getting loved and thinking about moving into a proposed $800[M] stadium on a City of Industry hilltop?" (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 10/24). 

     
    HOME FIELD ADVANTAGE: In New Orleans, Teddy Kider noted the Saints are the designated home team, and a tunnel leading to the Wembley Stadium field has “huge Saints decals covering its walls.” Kirkwood said that the NFL is “planning to put Saints branding throughout the inside of the stadium and pass out black flags with the slogan “Be A Saint” to all 83,000 spectators.” There also is “expected to be an NFL-organized, Mardi Gras-themed tailgate party, with a capacity of 20,000 people.” Kirkwood: “Last year, because it was the first of its type, the focus was on the novelty of it, and it was very much promoted as the International Series game. Whereas I think this year we’ve done a much better job of promoting the home team” (New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE, 10/22).

    LIVE FROM LONDON: In San Diego, Jay Posner notes CBS will broadcast Chargers-Saints to 33% of the country in the 1:00pm ET window. Jim Nantz and Phil Simms will call the game, and CBS Coordinating Producer Lance Barrow and the net's top production crew will also be on site. Barrow said that he will “have the same allotment of cameras and video machines available Sunday, albeit in a different production truck.” He has been “told the camera and video operators who will fill in for regular crew members who didn’t make the trip have the requisite knowledge of American Football.” Barrow’s “hope is that the telecast doesn’t look any different than a normal NFL game” (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 10/24).

    SOMETHING TO LEARN FROM: In London, Kevin Eason writes when English Premier League (EPL) CEO Richard Scudamore announced his plan to play a 39th game abroad, the "football world exploded with derision.” Yet the NFL “has overcome the same objections from fans in the United States and, for the second year running, is staging a match an ocean from its homeland that will spin a profit for each of the 32 NFL franchises.” Unlike the EPL’s “rapacious every man-for-himself attitude to cash, though, the proceeds are shared in a league in which the biggest teams are only as strong as the weakest.” Kirkwood said, “It is not exactly the same situation as the Premier League. But there is a level of co-operation between teams to ensure their own survival and a healthy league” (LONDON TIMES, 10/24).

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  • Selig Considering Schedule Changes For Postseason Next Year

    Selig Could Make Schedule
    Changes To Next Year's Playoffs
    MLB Commissioner Bud Selig, meeting again with reporters prior to Game Two of the World Series Thursday night, said he is thinking about making schedule changes to next year’s playoff schedule. While Selig remains staunchly in favor of the current World Series schedule that begins the event on a Wednesday and spreads over only one weekend, the shift that began last year added four days off to the playoffs. Selig wants to compress the first two postseason rounds by taking back two or three of those off days. Selig, meanwhile, discounted any chance of scheduling a World Series game for a daytime start time, saying such a move would corrode TV ratings. The calendar is also an issue as next year’s relatively late start to the season following the World Baseball Classic could push the end of the '09 campaign to as late November 5 (Eric Fisher, SportsBusiness Journal). Selig said of the postseason schedule, "We've got to look at ... maybe not having so many off days and days when you have only one game." But Selig added that "playing day games on weekends is not an alternative." Even if MLB "wanted to schedule day games, TV slots would be difficult if not impossible to find during football season" (AP, 10/23). Selig: "You want to be good broadcast partners. Every sport does that. But if we can find a way to shorten it, and I'm not talking about a lot -- two days, three days -- that would be fine." He added, "I like the way the World Series starts right now. I'm just talking about the first two rounds" (MLB.com, 10/23).

    CLOUDY SKIES: With the series now shifting to Citizens Bank Park, talk Thursday night was already focusing on Saturday’s weather forecast, which currently calls for rain in Philadelphia. Selig: “It’s looking a little better (for the evening), but we’re spending a lot of time watching that, listening to the meteorologists. They’re going to get rain. It’s just a question of when and for how long. It’s pretty tough to estimate.” Selig as of Thursday night remained optimistic Saturday's game would be played (Fisher).

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  • Stern Plays Down Troubles Despite More Teams Losing Money

    Stern Touts Attendance Figures, Sponsorship
    Renewals As Reasons For League Optimism
    NBA Commissioner David Stern Thursday during the NBA's BOG meetings said that "about half of the NBA's franchises are profitable," down from Forbes' NBA team valuations last year that stated 20 of the 30 NBA teams had positive values in '06-07, according to Jon Saraceno of USA TODAY. But Stern said that he "had no concern whatsoever that some clubs might be overleveraged and in potential trouble." Stern: "Our franchises are subject to debt limitations." Stern also "predicted the league would be flat in attendance." Stern: "Which is good news." Stern noted that revenues "should increase slightly, with strong sponsorship renewals" (USA TODAY, 10/24). On Long Island, Ken Berger noted Stern predicted that the NBA will see "slightly better gate revenue, citing a plan to stem potential losses from lower season-ticket renewals with a league-wide program of 1,000 or more seats at NBA games selling for $10 or less." Stern said of sponsorship renewals, "We're pretty optimistic that this will be a season that will be better in our industry than it will be in some other industries." But a team exec Thursday said that the owners "are worried about the economic downturn and might be inclined to let the current [CBA] with the [NBPA] lapse after the 2010-11 season rather than extend it one more year." The exec added that "only 'five to seven' NBA teams are profitable and raised the possibility of a lockout in 2011 if teams face more strain than Stern predicted." The exec: "You're going to have owners pushing for a better deal. This is one of the years the NBA is worried the overall revenues may be a little bit down." But Stern said of owners letting the current CBA expire, "It's premature for me to speculate now" (NEWSDAY, 10/24).

    RETURN TRIP: Stern said that while "logistics would make an All-Star game in Europe difficult ... fans there might not have to settle for exhibitions much longer." Stern: "To the extent that we're asked the question, what about a regular-season game, we decided, 'OK, with the lead-up to the Olympics, we'll pop a regular-season game or two or more, I don't know exactly how many, over there by the 2012 Olympics." Stern said that playing in Europe "is good for the league," and added that "even with the current financial crisis....the NBA sold out four preseason games in Europe and two in China earlier this month." He does not expect the economic crisis "to have any real affect on the league's overseas plans." Stern: "We don't think that that's going to impact us in any harsh or painful way other than perhaps our rate of growth. But growth it will be" (AP, 10/23).

    NBA To Allow Joe Maloof And Family's
    Casino To Accept Bets On NBA Games
    CARE TO BET? In Sacramento, Melody Gutierrez reports the NBA BOG voted unanimously to allow the Palms Casino Resort, which is owned by the Maloof family, "to accept bets on NBA games." That marks the "first time the Palms has been permitted to open its sports book to the NBA" since the casino opened in '01. Kings co-Owner Joe Maloof: "Everyone agreed it was an antiquated law. ... It just allows us to be on a level playing field with all the other casinos in the city." Gutierrez notes Harrah's Entertainment "has a similar arrangement with the NBA," as Harrah's Chair & CEO Gary Loveman owns a small stake in the Celtics and "has been allowed to accept wagers on all NBA games expect those involving the Celtics" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 10/24). Kings co-Owner George Maloof said that the Palms "will begin accepting bets today on the NBA" (LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, 10/24).

    NOTES: T'Wolves Owner Glen Taylor was unanimously picked to be NBA BOG Chair Thursday, replacing Heat Owner Micky Arison (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 10/24)....NBA Commissioner David Stern will be at the Ford Center for Wednesday night's Bucks-Thunder game, the Thunder's first home regular-season game in Oklahoma City (DAILY OKLAHOMAN, 10/24).



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  • Bolton Chair Gartside Calls For Restructuring Of Premier League

    Gartside (l) Calling For Restructuring
    Of English Premier League
    English Premier League (EPL) club Bolton Wanderers Chair Phil Gartside has called for a "restructuring of the Premier League that would see two leagues of 18 teams with the possible abolition of relegation," according to Steve Wilson of the London TELEGRAPH. Gartside said, "We have to start considering what the structure of the league is. And it is time to look at two Premier Leagues -- Premier League One and Premier League Two -- and the way the finance is allocated." He added the plan would "solve the problems of the winter break and supporting the England team." Wilson notes Gartside's ideas are "likely to cause consternation [in] some quarters, especially among lower league clubs who ... would effectively be barred from ever joining the elite level of English football." Gartside admitted that the proposals "might be radical but maintains that clubs should not fear change." Gartside: "It would be revolutionary but I don't think this would be as revolutionary as when the Premier League was set up, and we should open our minds to change. I know a lot of Football League clubs won't like it but a lot will." Gartside also suggested that "moves need to be made to guard clubs from foreign tycoons and a debate started on the possibility of a wage cap similar to that in the top American sports leagues." Wilson notes the "timing of Gartside's comments is important" as the EPL is "approaching a situation where overseas investors could soon become the majority, meaning forcing through any major changes to the structure of the league would require their support" (London TELEGRAPH, 10/24).

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  • Cape Cod Teams Forced to Choose Whether To Retain MLB Names

    Six Cape Cod Baseball League (CCBL) teams who share monikers with MLB clubs are facing a November 1 deadline to "abandon their names or purchase team uniforms and merchandise exclusively through licensed vendors," according to Katie Thomas of the N.Y. TIMES. The teams are being "forced to choose between maintaining a link with the major leagues and remaining true to their homespun heritage." In the case of the Chatham Athletics, "homespun is winning out," as the team has changed its name to the Anglers. The Orleans Cardinals "have also decided to change their name." CCBL President Judy Walden Scarafile said that the other teams with MLB monikers -- the Hyannis Mets, Harwich Mariners, Bourne Braves and Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox -- "will keep their names at least through the 2009 season." Harwich Mariners GM John Reid said that he has "received permission from [MLB] to continue using local vendors if the T-shirts he sells read only Harwich or Mariners, but not the two words on the same shirt." Thomas notes new designs "will need approval from" MLB. Some in the CCBL suggest that MLB is "singling out the Cape Cod League, a volunteer-run organization with a budget of about $650,000," but MLB VP/Business PR Matt Bourne said that MLB is "obligated to protect its trademarks." Bourne: "It's important to make sure that we're honoring the agreements that we've made with our licensing companies. We're not picking on the clubs. We support the Cape Cod League" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/24).

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  • League Notes

    NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said the league is "going through the analysis" of lengthening the regular season and reducing the number of preseason games. Goodell: "We haven’t come up with any final conclusion, but we think it merits discussion and consideration. ... We have to evaluate how we prepare our players, how they play during the season and how do we make the game as safe as possible for them” ("Mike & Mike in the Morning," ESPN2, 10/24). But "Inside The NFL" co-host Cris Collinsworth said expanding to 18 games was an “awful” idea because “it’s all about money.” Collinsworth: “No one who ever played in a 16-game schedule would ever advocate going to 18 games. You’re going to end up with nothing but back-up players playing in the playoffs." CBS' Bill Cowher, subbing for regular co-host Warren Sapp, said, "The quality of play will go down because you’re going to have less experienced players playing” ("Inside The NFL," Showtime, 10/22).

    BACK IN SEPARATE CORNERS: MMAWEEKLY.com's Tom Hamlin reported Affliction has "rejected a bid to partner with" UFC. Sources said that the "basics of a deal had been brokered to allow Affliction back into the organization as a major clothing sponsor," including a possible co-branded apparel line. In return, Affliction would "agree to cease operations as a fight promoter." However, talks began to break down when Affliction ran several ads during CBS' October 4 EliteXC broadcast "trumpeting Fedor Emelianenko's return," which made UFC execs "wary the deal was not being taken seriously" (MMAWEEKLY.com, 10/22).

    RESPONSE TO TRAGEDY: In N.Y., Michael Obernauer reports Russia's Continental Hockey League (KHL) "has ratified a series of new medical safety measures" which are "intended to prevent a recurrence of the inadequate medical response" to Rangers prospect and KHL club Avangard Omsk RW Alexei Cherepanov, who died after collapsing during a game earlier this month. The regulations "require two properly staffed ambulances to be on duty at all KHL games, and call on the federal ministry of health to raise the standards governing what equipment is mandatory in ambulances" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 10/23).

    EURO ALLIANCE: FROM THE RINK's James Mirtle reported the leading professional hockey leagues in Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Slovakia, Sweden and Switzerland have established a new organization called "Hockey Europe" to "help negotiate for their rights with the NHL and KHL." Finland's SM-liiga CEO Jukka-Pekka Vourinen will be Hockey Europe's first President & GM, and the organization "has its registered office in Cologne, Germany." Mirtle wrote, "United, these leagues are much stronger than on their own" (FROMTHERINK.com, 10/22).

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