SBD/Issue 98/Franchises

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  • AC Milan Transfer Offer For Beckham Below Galaxy Expectations

    MLS Galaxy Rejects AC Milan's
    First Transfer Offer For Beckham
    MLS Galaxy MF David Beckham will return to the team after his loan to Italian Serie A club AC Milan ends on March 9 unless AC Milan makes an offer that is "substantially higher than the one currently on the table," according to Grahame Jones of the L.A. TIMES. AEG President & CEO Tim Leiweke: "We need to end the distractions, the circus and the zoo." Leiweke said the Galaxy "rejected" AC Milan's initial offer. Jones noted Galaxy officials are "believed to want at least as much as" the $10M that Spanish La Liga club Villareal paid the MLS Red Bulls for F Jozy Altidore, and "some reports out of England have suggested $20[M] as a more likely figure." Leiweke: "Clearly, if David's in a position where he wants to finish the season in Milan, and Milan in turn compensates the Galaxy so that we can suffer no damages to our fans or to our team, then we'll take a look at it. But we have made it very clear to them that we expect David back here March 9. They agree and understand we own the contract. They understand the only way we do this is if, when this is all said and done, the Galaxy benefits. ... As everyone knows, we've kept our mouths shut and stayed out of this because I didn't think there was anything to be gained by ultimately trying to negotiate with anyone through the media by responding to what people say David said or didn't say" (L.A. TIMES, 2/7). In London, Nick Szczepanik reports AC Milan officials plan to "increase their offer" for Beckham after the initial bid, believed to be $10M, "fell short of any figure" the Galaxy would consider. Milan VP Adriano Galliani: "At the moment we're very far apart, but there is a month left. Tim Leiweke decides for them. I write to him and he responds" (LONDON TIMES, 2/9).

    AFTER SHOCKS: In S.F., Tom FitzGerald wrote the possibility of Beckham remaining with AC Milan is "not good news for the Earthquakes and other MLS teams, who had banked on the iconic midfielder to boost their attendance." The Earthquakes last season averaged "slightly less than" 10,000 fans per game at the Univ. of Santa Clara's Buck Shaw Stadium, but the club averaged 32,972 in two home matches against the Galaxy, both of which were moved to Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum to "accommodate the crowds." The Earthquakes also booked both of their home games against the Galaxy for the '09 MLS season at the Coliseum, but, "in contrast to last year's Beckham hype, made no mention of him as an attraction in announcing" the schedule. Earthquakes Exec VP/Business Operations David Alioto said the lost revenue from Beckham's absence would be measured "in tens of thousands, not millions." Alioto added that "any Beckham losses to the Quakes would be more than offset by their recent sponsorship deal with Amway," and he noted that because Amway also sponsors AC Milan, the deal "might even lead to a Quakes-AC Milan exhibition match this year." FitzGerald noted the Earthquakes' two home matches against the Galaxy "could be switched to Buck Shaw with little trouble" since Earthquakes Owner Lew Wolff also owns the A's and has a "special relationship with the Coliseum management" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 2/7). In Ft. Worth, Tobias Xavier Lopez wrote the "rest of MLS clubs should be looking for compensation" from AC Milan as well, as the "only legitimate sellout" for FC Dallas last season at Pizza Hut Park came against the Galaxy (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 2/7).

    Writers Deem Beckham In MLS
    Experiment Mostly As Failure
    FAILED EXPERIMENT: In Philadelphia, Phil Sheridan wrote Beckham playing in L.A. is "exactly the wrong way to develop serious soccer fans" in the U.S. It was a "novelty move based more on his tabloid fame -- something L.A. understands better than soccer -- than his on-field skills." The PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER's Bob Ford wrote, "I've always said that there are plenty of soccer fans in the country. They just don't happen to be MLS fans. If the league is able to raise its overall level of play, people will watch. If not, they'll stick with watching the English, Spanish and Italian leagues on TV. One guy, however good, isn't going to make much of an impact" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 2/6). In Chicago, Carol Slezak wrote of Beckham, "His legacy? Fail, fail, fail." Beckham was "less than dazzling on the soccer field," as the Galaxy "failed to make the playoffs during his two seasons." Beckham became "just another Hollywood celebrity, living in a Beverly Hills mansion and dining at the Ivy." Slezak: "Instead of cutting down MLS, Beckham should be apologizing for wanting out of his contract and thanking the league for giving him a chance to play in the United States. ... After all, he failed in his mission to raise MLS' profile" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 2/8). In N.Y., Michael Lewis wrote of Beckham, "You get the feeling that the only selling he and the Galaxy wanted was the marketing of his replica jerseys." Lewis: "Two more words for Becks: Good riddance" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 2/8).

    IMPACT ON U.S. SOCCER: In Miami, Michelle Kaufman wrote under the header, "Beckham Never Became The Savior Of MLS." No matter how MLS "chooses to sugarcoat the news" of Beckham's potential departure, it is a "slap at the league that gushed over him." Kaufman: "Has he had a lasting effect on the sport in this country? Not really" (MIAMI HERALD, 2/8). SI.com's Arash Markazi wrote Beckham's heart was "never really into leaving Europe behind and coming" to L.A. Markazi: "Then again, when you get dumped, you really don't have a choice in the matter." Spanish La Liga club Real Madrid had "relegated him to a reserve role," and "like most in that situation, he fell for the first person that came along and made him feel wanted again" (FANNATION.com, 2/6). However, ESPN SOCCERNET's Steve Davis wrote Beckham's tenure in MLS was "hardly a failed bit, as he certainly raised the league's profile in countless ways, which was the league's hope all along." Since Beckham joined the league, TV contracts "have been signed" and sponsors "have been added or re-signed." And the "always-important stadium initiative and expansion effort have marched confidently forward." Davis: "Anyone who thinks Beckham's presence didn't add to the coffers in a myriad of ways isn't thinking in business terms -- which is certainly the right of every fan. On the other hand, it would be difficult to deny that the Galaxy's meddling upper management sucked much of the joy from Beckham's MLS experience and played a huge role in his decision to ditch MLS" (ESPNSOCCERNET.com, 2/6).

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  • New Twins Owners Will Operate Twins Like Carl Pohlad Did

    In the wake of Twins Owner Carl Pohlad's death last month, the team has "hardly been left in the hands of meddlesome owners," according to Joe Christensen of the Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE. All three of Pohlad's sons will "continue having input" in the organization, though Jim Pohlad will serve as the team's point-man and have "final say on all Twins matters." Jim Pohlad Friday, during a meeting with reporters, stressed that the Twins will "continue trusting baseball decisions to the baseball people," and that the team "remains very confident" in GM Bill Smith. Christensen noted while Carl Pohlad "seemed to relish his role among baseball owners," Jim Pohlad "figures to stay in the background." Jim Pohlad said that he is "not interested in the spotlight." Jim Pohlad Friday "cited some values from his father's stewardship -- loyalty, stability and a commitment to promote from within -- and said he doesn't," expect the Twins to change much under" the new ownership. In addition, the next generation of Pohlads has "even more passion for baseball," which is a "big reason the family expressed no intention to sell the Twins" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 2/7).

    JUST LIKE TWINS: In St. Paul, Phil Miller noted Jim Pohlad Friday indicated that he "intends to adopt the same management style" as his father, which means "staying informed about baseball operations and making decisions about budgets and business plans but rarely influencing player transactions." Jim Pohlad did not discuss a "payroll target for this season or the future," but said that the Twins can continue to "spend roughly 51[%] of their revenues on ballplayers." The team is "believed to be well below that mark" with its current payroll of about $60M, but it also "means the front office must spend wisely." Meanwhile, each Pohlad son now owns one-third of the franchise, and Friday they said that they were "unanimous about wanting to keep the team." Jim Pohlad said it is "certainly our goal" to own the team in 20 years. Pohlad: "We have no intention of doing anything else" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 2/7).

    WEATHERING THE STORM: The ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS' Miller wrote the Twins are "particularly well-positioned to ride out this economic emergency." The team's payroll is among the 10 lowest in MLB, and the economy of Minnesota is "more stable, for the moment, than that" of the Twins' division rivals. The team anticipates "larger crowds this season as fans say farewell to the Metrodome." Twins Assistant GM Rob Antony: "We have resources, for the most part our contracts are appropriately (priced), and we have ownership that wants to win" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 2/8).

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  • Knicks Preseason Italy Tour Canceled, Buzz Returns To MSG

    NBA Europe Live Canceled
    Due To Economic Recession
    The Knicks' planned preseason trip to Italy "to hold training camp and play a couple of exhibition games in Milan and Rome has been canceled by the NBA,” according to sources cited by Marc Berman of the N.Y. POST. The Knicks were going to be one of four clubs to be part of the fourth annual NBA Europe Live, but sources said that “because of the recession that also has hit Europe, promoter EA Sports has downsized the junket.” NBA VP/Basketball Communications Tim Frank denied that the NBA Europe event “has been canceled altogether and indicated at least one club will be heading overseas, but not the Knicks.” A formal announcement is expected after this weekend’s All-Star break. Berman noted having the Knicks in Italy “was a natural,” because F Danilo Gallinari is from Milan and coach Mike D’Antoni was a coach and player for Italian club Olimpia Milano (N.Y. POST, 2/7).

    GARDEN GROWING: In N.Y., Frank Isola wrote under the header, “David Stern’s Visit To Madison Square Garden Is A Sign Of Knicks’ Progress.” Stern for Friday’s game against the Celtics “was seated not far from” MSG Chair James Dolan. Last week during the Knicks’ three home games against the Lakers, Cavaliers and Celtics “electricity and competitive basketball were back” at MSG, despite the home team losing all three games. Stern: “Three great teams, the best in the NBA, come all in the same week, and the Knicks -- the scrappy Knicks -- have done very well against them. I could have imagined this a year ago but I would have imagined it a little differently.” Meanwhile, Dolan has allowed Knicks President of Basketball Operations Donnie Walsh to “restructure the club’s infamous media policy.” Walsh “has made himself and D’Antoni more accessible to the media, but some aspects of the policy appear to be out of Walsh’s control.” A team source said that N.Y. Daily News reporters are “barred from being interviewed at halftime on Knicks radio broadcasts, the only local paper so treated.” It is “not known if that order came directly from Dolan” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 2/8).

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  • MLB Franchise Notes: Phillies Sign 1B Ryan Howard To $54M Deal

    Ryan Howard's New Three-Year, $54M Deal 
    Increases Phillies' '09 Payroll To Over $130M
    In Philadelphia, Kevin Roberts writes, "In an uncertain economy, the Phillies are spending with a lot of confidence." 1B Ryan Howard's new three-year, $54M deal yesterday "pushed the Phillies' 2009 payroll over" $130M, up "$30[M] from where it began last season." That is the "biggest off-season increase" in MLB in a year where "more than half of the teams in the majors are projected to cut payroll or hold expenditures steady." Phillies GM Ruben Amaro: "We're fortunate to be in this position. ... We're taking on a risk, here. But they are calculated risks." Amaro said that "everyone in sports is worried about the economy." Amaro: "Hopefully, the economy straightens out for people so there's a little less risk" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 2/9).

    FOLLOW THE LEADER: New Padres Owner Jeff Moorad said his agreement with the team is "designed to allow [former Padres Owner John Moores] to continue to be involved for the next several years, and I look forward to that." Moorad: "I'm certainly not one to close the door prematurely, so I think we've created a method by which there can be an orderly transition of ownership, and I'm excited to be a part of that." More Moorad: "To be able to come to San Diego and be part of what I think is a challenge on the front end, but certainly a very, very special opportunity to join the Padres and to help them and assist them and assist the people that are there in the organization make the kind of strides that need to be made to make the organization great again, is an opportunity that I really felt I couldn't pass up" (XX Sports Radio, 2/6).

    RED WITH ENVY? In DC, Thom Loverro wrote of the Nationals new marketing slogan, "Get Your Red On," "Did the Nationals steal red from the Washington Capitals, whose marketing campaign is 'Rock the Red' this season? The Nationals say they were in the red before the Capitals, pointing out that the Lerner family conducted a red-themed promotion when it took over the franchise" in '06. Nationals VP/Communications Chartese Burnett: "Now I'm not going to say that anyone stole it from us. You know, you look around and you see sports teams that have had similar themes, but I don't think it's fair to say we got anything from the Capitals. And as good ideas go, it's OK to steal. But I don't want it to go unsaid that we had a very good rallying around 'Get Out Your Red' when the Lerners took over" (WASHINGTON TIMES, 2/7).

    FRESH FISH: The Marlins "sold more than 40,000 individual-game tickets Saturday -- the most at a Fanfest since" Marlins Owner Jeffrey Loria bought the team in '02 (MIAMI HERALD, 2/8).

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  • Franchise Notes

    Ravens Season-Ticket Prices For '09 Season 
    Will Increase $5-15 Per Ticket
    In Baltimore, Jamison Hensley reported the Ravens in a letter are "notifying season-ticket holders the prices of their seats will increase $5 to $15 per ticket" for the '09 season. The "majority of seats in the bowl" of M&T Bank Stadium will "increase by $10, and some upper-deck seats will go up by $5." But the "biggest bump of $15 is for some club seats and lower-level seating around midfield." The Ravens said that they "need their average ticket price to be in the top third of the NFL to stay competitive." The increase "will also help with stadium improvements," as the Ravens are "looking to upgrade their Smartvision boards in the 'near future' and are in the process of completing a $4[M] club-level improvement project." The Ravens have increased ticket prices every other season since '01 (Baltimore SUN, 2/7).

    PLATINUM SETTING: In Buffalo, Mike Harrington reported the Sabres' new platinum pricing level for seating at HSBC Arena has "apparently kept fans away from the last two home games against normally prime opponents like the Maple Leafs and Canadiens because of sticker shock." Platinum prices for non-season ticket holders range from $78-$233. Sabres Managing Partner Larry Quinn: "I would say we were probably too aggressive doing this. It's pretty simple. Our gold pricing has generated as much revenue as our platinum so obviously (platinum) is not priced right. That's the bottom line." Wednesday's game against the Maple Leafs drew 17,355 fans -- "more than 1,300 shy of a sellout and the team's lowest figure since 16,909" fans against the Flyers on April 7, 2006. The team "set the new platinum range this year" for the three visits by the Maple Leafs and Friday's game against the Canadiens, which drew 18,161 fans. Thus far, the games are zero for three on selling out the arena. The Sabres "dropped gold prices by about 15[%] heading into this year while bumping up the others." Quinn said that the Sabres "will keep platinum next season but will be reevaluating the price structure" (BUFFALO NEWS, 2/8).

    PRICE IS RIGHT? Jets Exec VP/Business Operations Matt Higgins said the Jets "will not raise ticket prices" for the '09 season at Giants Stadium. On Long Island, Neil Best noted the "last time the Jets did not raise prices was between" the '01 and '02 seasons, "in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks." The NFL Giants "have not yet announced their prices" for '09, but they are also "expected to keep them at '08 levels." NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell last month said that "three-quarters of teams will keep prices flat this year" (NEWSDAY, 2/7)....In Boston, Fluto Shinzawa noted prices at Bruins games next season for first-row seats along the glass "will increase from $150 to $165," while prices "will decrease for seats in the four corner loge sections" from $89 to $85. Prices for seats in "all other sections will remain the same next season" (BOSTON GLOBE, 2/7).

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