SBD/Issue 96/Leagues & Governing Bodies

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  • Kelly Less Bullish On NHL Finances, Talks Relocation To Canada

    Kelly Said NHL Should Look To
    Canada In Case Of Relocation
    NHLPA Exec Dir Paul Kelly yesterday said that while he "expects the next NHL season to open" with the current 30 teams, relocating franchises "north is the way to go if that changes," according to Shi Davidi of the CP. Kelly, speaking before last night's Conn Smythe Celebrities Dinner & Auction in Toronto, said, "I actually believe that Toronto and the greater Southern Ontario area certainly can support a second team and that sooner (rather) than later we ought to have a second team here. If we reach the point where one of the existing franchises runs into real difficulties and they can't continue to exist in that location, than I think we need to look here first, to Canada." Kelly sounded "pessimistic" about the Coyotes' chance of survival. Kelly: "We hope they survive but it's a tough market when you're in the desert and most of your [populace] hasn't grown up on the sport, playing the sport." Meanwhile, Kelly yesterday estimated that overall NHL revenues were between $2.6-2.61B, and "pointed to concern over the remaining non-guaranteed revenue sources like playoff ticket sales and concessions as the reason for the union's increase in escrow payments from the players." Kelly said the 22.5% players are paying in escrow is the "right number for the players' association." Kelly: "I suspect if you ask the league, they would probably have come in around [16-17%]" (CP, 2/4).

    FIGHT FOR YOUR RIGHT: The GLOBE & MAIL's Eric Duhatschek notes Kelly believes that the NHLPA "could look at ways of making fighting safer," which could include "ensuring players keep their helmets on during fights." Kelly yesterday said, "I don't believe fighting will be eliminated from the game, nor do I believe it should be eliminated from the game. But we have a responsibility as a players' association -- and all of us in hockey have a responsibility -- to take a good hard look at the issue in light of these recent tragedies." Kelly added, "Hypothetically, should we consider some kind of rule about helmets, that you need to keep them on during fights and do we instruct our officials that when a helmet comes off, that they should step in and stop the fight? That's one of the things we should look at." Kelly also believes that the "time has come to review the value of staged fights -- ones that do not arise in the heat of the moment but are set up in advance." Kelly: "My view has always been, if the fight arises out of the emotion and spontaneity of the game, if you're rising to the defence of a teammate or yourself as a result of a perceived dirty hit, then that's all a natural part of the game" (GLOBE & MAIL, 2/5). Wild LW Derek Boogaard said stopping a fight when one player loses a helmet is "just common sense." But Wild GM Doug Risebrough conceded that fighting is a "necessary component of policing the NHL game and won't go away." Risebrough: "Let's face it, there's a lot of people who come to these games to see hockey and they don't mind watching a fight" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 2/5).

    UNION JUNCTION: TSN.ca's Darren Dreger cited sources as saying that September 7th "marked the beginning of the end of Eric Lindros's time as the NHLPA's Ombudsman." Lindros, who resigned from his union position earlier this week, at an NHLPA meeting in Chicago in September allegedly asked Kelly to "leave the room so he could openly discuss his issues with [Kelly] with an audience of player representatives." Sources said that these issues "ranged from Kelly's perceived closeness to the NHL, to cosmetic concerns over which cities Kelly attended games." Kelly was "given an opportunity to respond to Lindros' complaints and the matter was quickly dismissed by the players." Some "believe Lindros was trying to undermine Kelly's authority in that meeting, while others suggest Lindros was doing his job as the NHLPA's watch dog." Lindros, when asked to comment, said, "This is an internal matter within the PA" (TSN.ca, 2/4). When asked about Lindros’ resignation, Kelly said, "We're in the business of looking forward rather than looking back. As far as we're concerned it's nothing that really requires any detailed comment" (CP, 2/4).

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  • More Than 90 MLB Free Agents Unsigned As Spring Training Nears

    Ramirez Among More Than 90 Free Agents
    Still Available, As Some Wonder About Collusion
    MLB Spring Training camps open in less than two weeks and the league's "talent marketplace is facing a staggering reality," as more than 90 free agents "remain unsigned, and many of them simply won't have jobs when pitchers and catchers report, if they find jobs at all," according to Dave Sheinin of the WASHINGTON POST. One reason for the dearth of free-agent deals is an "industry-wide trend, visible for several years, in which teams place higher value on younger, cheaper talent at the expense of older, pricier veterans." Nationals President Stan Kasten: "We all saw last year's Tampa team, and Colorado, Arizona and Cleveland the year before that, all built on that framework. And when you see something like that that works -- we all try to pull from the best sources and use the best practices." While some observers have wondered if MLB teams are colluding against free agents, Kasten said that collusion is "'about agreeing together to' depress salaries." Kasten: "But in baseball, everyone is allowed to examine their own conditions and determine their own marketplace. And right now, the marketplace is down." ESPN.com data indicates that the 30 MLB teams spent around $1.7B total on free agents in the '07 offseason, but only $1.1B for the '08 offseason, down 35.3%. The total for this offseason "once again is expected to be around" $1.1B (WASHINGTON POST, 2/5).

    CURIOUS CASE: In L.A., Bill Shaikin reported the MLBPA "isn't sure how the economic slump can fully account for so many players out of work so close to spring training," and for now the union is "neither alleging collusion nor ruling it out." MLBPA General Counsel Michael Weiner: "We are concerned with the number of unsigned players. We have concerns about other aspects of how the market is operated." Former MLBer and agent Dave Stewart: "I would think that the teams are watching one another. I'm not saying collusion is going on. It's just difficult to understand. ... I don't see any reason why guys like [P] Ben Sheets and [2B] Orlando Hudson would still be out there. They're quality players" (L.A. TIMES, 2/4). However, ESPN.com's Rob Neyer wrote under the header, "Collusion? Don't Believe The Talk." Neyer cites a number of offseason transactions, including A.J. Burnett's five-year, $82.5M deal with the Yankees, as evidence against collusion (ESPN.com, 2/4).  

    Wolff Says A's Ticket Sales
    Are Down About 10% For '09 Season
    TAKING A HIT: FOXSPORTS.com's Tracy Ringolsby reported only 12 MLB teams "expect to increase their payrolls in 2009, and nine of the 11 teams with the biggest payrolls in the game last season are among the teams projected to reduce payrolls." Of the top 11 payrolls during the '08 season, "only the Mets, who ranked second, and Cubs, who ranked eighth, project increases" this season. The teams that "figure to add payroll will do it in minimal increments, and include five of the seven lowest payrolls last year" (FOXSPORTS.com, 2/4). BLOOMBERG NEWS' Danielle Sessa reported MLB clubs are "taking unprecedented measures to preserve revenue to combat an economy that has contracted the most" since '82. Teams are "cutting prices on tickets and concessions including beer and offering interest-free extended payment plans." A's Owner Lew Wolff said that the team's ticket sales are down about 10%, and that he is "considering 'recession promotions' such as trading a can of food that will be donated to a food bank for a hot dog." Other teams, including the Nationals, Indians and D'Backs, have begun "offering no-interest payment plans" for tickets to "keep from losing revenue." Fans can "pay for seats into June, whereas in previous years they had to be paid in full as early as December" (BLOOMBERG NEWS, 2/4). FOXSPORTS.com's Ken Rosenthal reported the recession "clearly is affecting the way" the Cardinals do business. Team officials are telling agents that they are "out of money, a stunning development considering that the team will host the All-Star Game this season" (FOXSPORTS.com, 2/4).

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  • UFC Lobbying Congress To Avoid Regulation Under Boxing Bill

    UFC, concerned that it "could come under federal regulation by a proposed new commission to regulate boxing that two senior lawmakers are pushing," spent $240,000 last year lobbying Congress to "help head that off," according to Frederic Frommer of the AP. The proposed legislation "would establish a U.S. Boxing Commission under the Commerce Department, charged with protecting the health, safety and general interests of boxers." The commission would "oversee all professional boxing matches and license boxers, promoters, managers and sanctioning organizations." UFC lobbyist Makan Delrahim said that UFC officials "don't care whether boxing is regulated, as long as their sport isn't included," and that the organization's biggest task is to "convince Congress that the sport has cleaned up its act" since the '90s. U.S. Rep. Peter King (R-NY), who is sponsoring the boxing legislation in the U.S. House, said that there was "no intent to cover mixed martial arts when the bill was drafted, and he didn't think the legislation would apply to it." King said that he would "prefer to keep the bill focused on boxing, because adding mixed martial arts might complicate chances for passage." U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), the bill's Senate sponsor, declined to be interviewed. Frommer noted the Obama administration "has yet to take a position on the bill" (AP, 2/4).

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  • IndyCar Series Hopes To Have Three Engines By '12 Season

    New IndyCar Engines, Slated For '11 Season
    Debut, May Not Break Until '12
    The economic downturn "might cause a one-year delay for implementing a new engine" in the IndyCar Series, according to Nate Ryan of USA TODAY. The series wanted to switch motors in '11, but IRL President & COO Brian Barnhart said, "My gut tells me in this economic environment, we're probably looking more toward 2012." Barnhart: "I wouldn't rule out 2011, but it most certainly could be pushed back to 2012." IRL officials Tuesday revealed that Honda, Audi, Fiat, Porsche and Volkswagen "remained in negotiations about building a new engine that probably would be lighter, more efficient and turbocharged compared with the current normally aspirated V8 model." Honda Performance Development President Erik Berkman said that Honda "would prefer a V6 engine to the four-cylinder model favored by other manufacturers, but 'we haven't said it's a dealbreaker.'" Meanwhile, Barnhart said that "one manufacturer would be seeking approval for competing in IndyCar from its board within the next 60 days" (USA TODAY, 2/4). In Indianapolis, Curt Cavin reported six engine-building companies, "including Ilmor and Cosworth, also are involved in the shaping of the series' next engine" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 2/4).

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  • League Notes

    Gadsden Putting Together Group To
    Pursue CFL Expansion Franchise
    The GLOBE & MAIL's David Naylor reports former NFLer Oronde Gadsden "has put together a group that plans to pursue a CFL expansion franchise for either" Detroit or Rochester, New York. Gadsden: "Because of the suspension of the Arena Football League and NFL Europe, there's lots of people in South Florida who don't have a chance to play. In these financial times, you are looking for something with stability and the CFL is extremely stable. ... Detroit and Rochester border Canada and people in those two cities already watch CFL on TV so it's not a big change, not like bringing it to Miami." But Naylor notes Gadsden's "biggest problem will be that -- after the ill-fated southern expansion in the early 1990s -- the CFL has apparently no interest in returning" to the U.S. (GLOBE & MAIL, 2/5).

    WHAT CRISIS? ESPN SOCCERNET's Phil Holland cited Deloitte's Sports Business Group as indicating that spending by the 20 teams in the English Premier League (EPL) during the January transfer window "hit a new record high," as the group's early reports "suggest that the clubs parted with" US$233.9M in the window. Holland: "It is true that the Premier League remains recession proof at the moment because they know their main income, derived television rights sales, are guaranteed for this season and the next." But if bids for EPL TV rights from the '10-11 season through the '12-13 season "fail to match the [US$4B] the clubs receive a share of for the current three-year rights period perhaps overall transfer spending records will stop being broken" (ESPNSOCCERNET.com, 2/4).

    VIKING'S QUEST: Vikings C Matt Birk said that he was "surprised but not deterred by the poor response from NFL players who were asked to donate part of their game checks" from the December 21 games to "assist former players who face severe health and financial hardships." In Minneapolis, Chip Scoggins noted "of the nearly 1,700 active players in the league, only about 20 donated to the cause, including" eight Vikings. Birk Tuesday acknowledged that he was "surprised that only about 1[%] of the active players donated, but he vowed to work harder to raise awareness for the cause." Birk: "It's not going to deter me from getting the message out there" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 2/4).

    PEP RALLY: Golf Channel’s Rex Hoggard reported PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem held an hour-long mandatory players’ meeting Tuesday night that was a “live version of (his) live video” he distributed to players in December. Hoggard: “He wanted players to be more engaging, more engaging to the fans, more engaging to the sponsors and to the media. It’s a contract year; he doesn’t want the players to get complacent. He knows how big this year is and he wants the economy to be front and center” (“Golf Central,” Golf Channel, 2/4).

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