SBD/Issue 129/Leagues & Governing Bodies

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  • Goodell Says Owners May Vote To Add Regular-Season Games

    Goodell Says Longer Season
    Unlikely To Begin Before '11
    NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell yesterday said that owners “might vote in May about the possibility of lengthening the regular season to 17 or 18 games per team,” according to Mark Maske of the WASHINGTON POST. Goodell, at the Owners Meetings in Dana Point, California, said, “We’ll have a very good sense of the ownership and our clubs as we come out of this meeting. Then we’ll make a determination of when that vote is necessary. But I think it’s dependent in large part on our relationship with our (television) partners and the players.” Texans Owner Bob McNair said of additional games, “We all recognize that would add value for the fans. But there are a number of questions: What do you do with your roster? What impact might that have on injuries? What do you do with injured reserve? … We’ll be going through that process. But those are a lot of questions that have to be answered. And we don’t have those answers yet” (WASHINGTON POST, 3/24). Goodell: “How can we create greater value with the content that we have? Making it attractive, while making sure that you don’t overexpose your product is another issue. This would stay within that 20-game framework, which is still roughly two months less than any other professional league” (L.A. TIMES, 3/24). Goodell said that the longer regular season is “unlikely to begin any earlier than 2011” (N.Y. TIMES, 3/24).

    TV TIMEOUT: NBC Sports & Olympics Chair Dick Ebersol said he has had “only casual conversations” with the NFL about the proposal to add games, and has not made up his mind on whether he favors it. “It depends on a lot things, particularly where will those games be scheduled. … Will they be in August? Will they be in January? I mean those are wildly different times in the television economy, in terms of your ability to sell and to sell the product at a certain price. I mean, are they going to add two games in August or are they going to have them in January? We don’t even know that." Ebersol acknowledged that more regular-season games in January would be preferable than regular-season games in August, and that the NFL might want NBC and other networks to pay more for more regular-season games. Ebersol: “In my 42nd year of being in the television business, about two-thirds of them in sports, there is never a conversation you have with the NFL that doesn’t involve more.” SportsCorp President Marc Ganis said that if the NFL makes the change, it is possible it could move the whole season back, so not only the Super Bowl, but the NFC and AFC championships could be played in February. “You could have two great NFL weekends during sweeps month” (Liz Mullen, SportsBusiness Journal).

    TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING? Pilson Communications President Neal Pilson said of the possibility of the NFL adding more regular-season games, “It’s not as attractive to the networks as you might think. I would not be jumping through hoops to get this done.” Optimum Sports Managing Dir Tom McGovern said, “In this marketplace, no one is looking to add inventory. If you build it, (advertisers) don’t always come.” Former A-B VP/Global Media & Sports Marketing Tony Ponturo: “We’ve all watched businesses break a little bit in the current economy, so you wonder about keeping what you have healthy. It may be a time when broadcasters have to examine whether it’s worth having the NFL as a great showcase for their other programming” (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 3/23 issue).

    Kraft Says Extending NFL's Calendar
    Might Create 100 New Jobs
    GAINING MOMENTUM: USA TODAY’s Jarrett Bell writes the “prospect of extending the NFL’s calendar and staging the league’s signature event in the latter half of February is gaining momentum.” Steelers Chair Dan Rooney said, “I’m for 17 games, not 18. We need three preseason games.” Patriots Owner Robert Kraft: “We’re going to play these games anyway. How do we make them as meaningful as possible?” Bell notes an “expanded scheduled could increase roster sizes and bolster the number of developmental players on practice squads.” Kraft: “It might create 100 new jobs.” But Colts Owner Jim Irsay said, “The biggest concern is that I’ve liked the way we’ve had the playoffs as a really elite thing to get in. There are 32 teams and only 12 get in, unlike the NBA and other leagues where a lot of people get in. It’ll probably be hard to keep it that way when you’re talking about more games at the end of the season” (USA TODAY, 3/24).

    WOULD BE PART OF FUTURE NEGOTIATIONS: The Washington Post’s Maske said it is “almost a given that the owners will seek” an expansion of the regular season. Maske: “There needs to be a way even in this terrible economy to increase the revenues in the next set of television deals, and the one way to do that is to give television more regular-season games.” However, he noted owners would have to “come up with a deal with the players as part of the labor talks for how much additional compensation the players will get for those games” (“NFL Total Access,” NFL Net, 3/23). Goodell said the league would “have to have an agreement with our television partners to be able to do it, otherwise those games would not be televised. So we would have to modify our agreements.” Asked if television revenues would increase, Goodell said, "The reality is, I think it is improving the quality of the content. What we have to do is sit down with our partners and go through a negotiation” (Mullen).

    OTHER TOPICS BEING DISCUSSED: In Boston, Ron Borges notes Goodell “hinted more firmly than he has in the past that a rookie salary cap also is being seriously discussed this week” (BOSTON HERALD, 3/24). In addition, Goodell “mentioned possibly creating a developmental league.” Goodell: “I would like to explore that in the next negotiations” (AP, 3/23).

    LAST RESORT? In L.A., Sam Farmer writes, “How bad off could the league be if the owners are holding their annual meetings this week in Dana Point at the posh St. Regis Monarch Beach?” (L.A. TIMES, 3/24). NFL Senior VP/PR Greg Aiello said that the league “received a corporate rate of about $350” nightly per room. Asked about his room rate, Goodell said, “I don’t know. I haven’t looked” (USA TODAY, 3/24). Goodell added, "We committed to this (four years) ago.” In L.A., T.J. Simers writes Goodell left the "impression the NFL could not cancel this stay." The league, "like so many other big corporations, has been laying poor people off, and while they might’ve gotten a group rate here to reduce costs on expenses, including a swanky poolside party Monday night, why moan and groan about the tough times while living it up?” (L.A. TIMES, 3/24). In Philadelphia, Paul Domowitch writes under the header, “Site Of Annual Meetings Suggests NFL Might Be In AIG’s League” (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 3/24).

    Rooney Couldn't Play Role In Labor
    Talks While Ambassador To Ireland
    NEW LEADER MUST EMERGE: In a special to the GREEN BAY PRESS-GAZETTE, Ira Miller writes while some owners “have suggested Rooney could continue to serve as a key mediator even after he’s confirmed by the Senate” as the ambassador to Ireland, Rooney “firmly squashed that suggestion.” Asked if he could play a role in labor talks, Rooney said, “No. Not with my new job.” Rooney’s “absence could be all the more significant because there is new leadership on both sides” in Goodell and Smith, and there is “not another owner who commands the following that Rooney does on both sides of the aisle.” Bears Chair Mike McCaskey: “We need to fashion a new labor agreement, so we’ll miss him there. … But it’s like a team, … you’ve got to have somebody else able to step in.” Miller writes, “One such somebody could be Bob McNair,” who has “emerged as a reasonable man whose voice is heard by other owners” (GREEN BAY PRESS-GAZETTE, 3/24).

    FOREIGN AFFAIRS: SI.com’s Peter King noted in her address to NFL owners Sunday, former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that she “thought Great Britain, Germany and Australia would be good candidates for NFL franchises.” Rice: “Find countries with a mass sports culture, and where they play either rugby, Australian Rules football or soccer.” Meanwhile, McNair asked Rice whether Russia “has become more of a rogue nation, and whether she thought Russia would join OPEC.” McCaskey asked about the “dangers of his daughter, 20, practicing her college-learned Arabic in Yemen” (SI.com, 3/23).

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  • Have Patience: No Timetable For Goodell, Smith To Discuss CBA

    Writer Says Smith Has Essentially
    One Year To Complete Labor Deal
    NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said that there is “no timetable or schedule for talks to be held” with new NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith concerning the league's CBA, according to Howard Balzer of the GREEN BAY PRESS-GAZETTE. Goodell said Smith is "transitioning from his job, so there will be a schedule developed later." Goodell, who met with Smith on Friday, said, “He’s an impressive guy and I look forward to working with him” (GREEN BAY PRESS-GAZETTE, 3/24). Washington Post reporter Mark Maske said of Smith, "He has a ton of work (to do). A person coming from outside the NFL and the clock is ticking. We have essentially one year to get this labor deal done if you're going to save the salary cap system. You're going into an uncapped year a year from now, so I think from the owners' perspective, there's a lot of uncertainty. Here is a guy that they don't know. ... There has to be a learning curve on both sides now." Maske added the "long-standing labor peace that the NFL has had is threatened in a way it hasn't been before." Maske: "You look at it now: DeMaurice Smith coming in, he faces pressure in two different ways. He faces pressure as the new guy in that will he end this long-standing labor peace? Or does he agree to givebacks after Gene Upshaw got 60% of the revenues for the players in the last set of talks? I don't think the players want to give any of that back. The owners want them to. So from both sides, it's a very difficult set of negotiations” ("NFL Total Access," NFL Network, 3/23).

    LOOMING LABOR UNREST: Goodell said of the possibility of an uncapped season in ’10, “I don’t believe that will be the case.” Goodell: “Right now our entire focus is how do we make sure we understand our priorities in the collective bargaining process and work to create an agreement.” Goodell said that player costs “increased by $500[M] over 2008 and 2009” (USA TODAY, 3/24). But in St. Louis, Jim Thomas writes the NFL and NFLPA are “edging ever closer” to a labor impasse. The current economic recession “has magnified the issues separating both sides,” and “compounding the issue from an owner’s standpoint is the fact that more and more NFL teams are at least partially financing new stadiums.” Texans Owner Bob McNair: “The owners have more debt; the league has more debt. These stadiums cost so much, and in the past, they were municipally financed.” Goodell: “There’s a lot of risk out there, and that risk is falling on the owners. I think there’s got to be a recognition of the costs that are associated with operating NFL franchises. That includes stadiums. That includes operating teams and building stadiums” (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 3/24). McNair added, “We need a structure that works long-term. We can’t expect the fans to pay more and more and more. We have to hold all our expenses down and labor is just one of them” (AP, 3/23).

    BRACING FOR A STOPPAGE: SI.com’s Don Banks wrote, “I’ve gotten -- really for the first time -- a growing sense that the league’s impending labor showdown will all but assure a season with no salary cap in 2010, with a decent bet for a subsequent work stoppage in 2011.” People in the league are “not only bracing for an uncapped season, they’re preparing for it as if it’s almost a given at this point.” Patriots Owner Robert Kraft said of an uncapped year, "It's not scary at all to us. There are a lot of pluses to it. It's definitely not a doomsday scenario, and it might have to happen to get things right." One GM said, “I can’t imagine we get a deal before there’s a work stoppage at this point. The players are going to dig in, and that’s where this thing is headed.” An NFL team source said that “some owners have implemented far-reaching contingency plans into their business operations that reflect the potential for no season in 2011.” A league source also indicated that some NFL owners with “particularly huge slices of debt service on the new stadiums that they own and operate have even prepared for a possible work stoppage in 2011 by having ‘Force Majeure’ clauses inserted into their contracts -- which frees one from liability when an extraordinary event or circumstances beyond the control of the parties prevents one from fulfilling their obligations” (SI.com, 3/23).

    McNair Says People's Spending Habits
    May Not Be The Same As In The Past
    ARE OWNERS POSTURING? In N.Y., Judy Battista writes it is “difficult to tell whether the NFL’s hand-wringing is because the league is suffering or because it is beginning the posturing that will take place during negotiations with the players.” McNair: “We have to recognize that after this, things might not be the way they were before. People, their habits in the future might not be the same as in the past, their spending.” Goodell conceded that he “expected season ticket renewals for 2009 to suffer in some markets” (N.Y. TIMES, 3/24). In L.A., Sam Farmer notes the “focus of Goodell’s state-of-the-league talk to owners Monday was the financial challenges ahead and the innovative thinking required to attack them.” But Farmer wonders, “Are teams truly concerned about their ability to pay the bills in the midst of an economic crisis, or are they merely posturing for what figures to be a nasty battle over sharing revenues with players?” (L.A. TIMES, 3/24). Eagles President Joe Banner: “There certainly are businesses out there who are being much more affected than us. But we’re certainly affected. In an ordinary year, you have some club-seat holders that move or somebody passes away or their economic condition changes. But it’s usually a pretty modest number. This year, it’s more than that.” More Banner: “Our car dealership sponsorship is virtually gone. And that's a very big category. Some of the bank categories are very challenging. To the extent that people that support us are impacted, whether it be a fan or (sponsor), we're impacted" (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 3/24).

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  • NFL To Open '09 Season With Titans-Steelers On Thursday Night

    The NFL yesterday announced its opening-weekend primetime and Thanksgiving Day games for the '09 season. The season will begin with the Steelers hosting the Titans on opening night, Thursday, September 10, on NBC. In its 40th season, "MNF" will debut with Bills-Patriots and Chargers-Raiders on September 14 (NFL).

    '09 NFL Kickoff Weekend National Primetime and Thanksgiving Day Games
    DATE
    DAY
    GAME
    NET
    START
    9/10
    Thurs.
    Titans-Steelers
    NBC
    8:30pm
    9/13
    Sun.
    Bears-Packers
    NBC
    8:30pm
    9/14
    Mon.
    Bills-Patriots
    ESPN
    7:00pm
    9/14
    Mon.
    Chargers-Raiders
    ESPN
    10:15pm
    11/26
    Thurs.
    Packers-Lions
    Fox
    12:30pm
    11/26
    Thurs.
    Raiders-Cowboys
    CBS
    4:15pm
    11/26
    Thurs.
    Giants-Broncos
    NFLN
    8:20pm

    THANKSGIVING FEAST: USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand writes NFL Network on Thanksgiving Day "got what looks like the day's best matchup for its prime-time slot" with Giants-Broncos. The ground rules for NFL scheduling include "allowing only three NFL teams to appear in prime time as many as six times, and to do so one of their games must be on the NFL Network." And no team "can appear on NBC more than four times" (USA TODAY, 3/24).

    THANKS, BUT NO THANKS: In Pittsburgh, Scott Brown reports the NFL "had coveted the Ravens" for the September 10 season-opener against the Steelers, but the Ravens "reportedly did not want to play another night game in Pittsburgh." The Ravens "have visited the Steelers for prime-time games in each of the past two years." Brown writes NBC "didn't get a bad consolation prize" with Titans-Steelers (Pittsburgh TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 3/24). Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said of the Ravens' decision, "I thought it was interesting, you know. But to each his own" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 3/24).

    SPECIAL OCCASION: In San Diego, Kevin Acee notes the September 14 Chargers-Raiders game is the "second half of an all-AFL 'Monday Night Football' doubleheader on ESPN, and all four teams involved will wear replicas of their AFL uniforms" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 3/24). Meanwhile, Patriots Owner Robert Kraft said of Bills-Patriots leading off the September 14 "MNF" doubleheader, "It's pretty special for us to start our 50th season knowing that it's ABC/ESPN's 40th season with football. ... Being on the national stage, we're going to have some fun things planned that day to kick off the season." In Boston, Christopher Gasper notes "one of those fun things could be the Patriots wearing throwback jerseys," as the team as part of the AFL celebration will "wear replicas of their 1963 jerseys at least two times this year" (BOSTON GLOBE, 3/24). In Buffalo, Allen Wilson writes, "In terms of storylines, the NFL could not have picked a better matchup for its Monday Night opener." Bills-Patriots will mark WR Terrell Owens' debut with the Bills, and the Patriots expect QB Tom Brady to return after missing the '08 season due to injury (BUFFALO NEWS, 3/24).

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  • April 15 Court Date Scheduled For NFLPA Settlement Assessment

    The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has scheduled an April 15 settlement assessment conference between the NFLPA and a class of 2,056 retired players that last year won a $28.1M judgment against the union for failing to properly market them. The union appealed that verdict earlier this year. The Ninth Circuit employs professional mediators, and the April conference is scheduled to determine if the appeal can be mediated.

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  • AVP Threatening To Downgrade, Relocate Manhattan Beach Open

    AVP Wants To Add Entertainment, More Paying
    Customers, Corporate Suites To Tournament
    The AVP is "threatening to downgrade its Manhattan Beach event and take its marquee tournament elsewhere if it is not allowed to add entertainment and more corporate suites and increase the number of paying customers," according to Jeff Gottlieb of the L.A. TIMES. AVP Commissioner Leonard Armato: "We'll do it in Chicago or another community necessary to maintain its status." Armato said that for the three-day Manhattan Beach Open to "remain as what is often referred to as the Wimbledon of beach volleyball, 'the community will have to embrace everything necessary and required to keep that status.'" Armato: "The way to do that is to provide a more full and complete entertainment experience." Armato said that he "wanted to add other events, like concerts or fashion shows 'that make a major sporting event.'" He said that he "discussed his idea" with the Manhattan Beach City Council six years ago. Armato: "We've been struggling ever since to come to a mutually agreeable resolution of what the event should look like." AVP VP/Partnerships & Events Dave Klewan said, "Manhattan Beach, which we all love and is so historic, should be a slam-dunk for generating revenue. Unfortunately, we can't monetize it in the correct way." Gottlieb notes the AVP "sets up a temporary stadium with about 3,300 seats, where featured matches are played." Its agreement with the state of California's Coastal Commission allows the AVP to "charge for 24% of the seats." Tickets to last year's event cost $40-75, while there were six corporate tents, which cost $10,000-15,000. AVP VP/Operations Dave Williams said that the Manhattan Beach Open has the "most expensive fees of any stop on the 18-city tour, with the association paying about $100,000 to the city" and L.A. County. The AVP said that the tournament "brings about 20,000 people into town for the three days," but Manhattan Beach Finance Dir Bruce Moe said that city tax records "show no spike in revenue" (L.A. TIMES, 3/24).

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  • League Notes

    SI.com's Jon Heyman wrote of the MLBPA filing a grievance last week over charitable donations being written into some player contracts, "It's understandable why the [MLBPA] would be against such forced donations." While it is "supposed to be a nice gesture when donations are written into contracts, that sounds more like coercion, not donation." But it "seems a bit heavy-handed for the players union to now challenge all the donations currently written into contracts after the fact." Players signed their contracts "knowing that these provisions were in them, and presumably are happy to contribute." The amount in dispute "represents a relative pittance," but "most important, at a time when baseball needs positive publicity to offset all the steroid news, the union comes off as arguing for less charity even if the intention is only to prevent forced charity" (SI.com, 3/23).

    Castroneves Would Leave Large Void In
    IndyCar Series If He Is Unable To Compete
    CAR TROUBLE: In Detroit, Mike Brudenell writes the IndyCar Series "will be much poorer this season if Helio Castroneves is locked behind bars instead of climbing fences." Castroneves "faces prison time" if convicted of tax-evasion charges, and having Castroneves absent from the circuit "would be a major blow to open-wheel racing" in the U.S. While Danica Patrick "may rival Castroneves for publicity off the track, she can't match him as a racer," as Castroneves "has been the face of the sport the past eight years" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 3/24).

    FINE LINE: In Detroit, Dave Dye notes Capitals LW Alex Ovechkin "created quite a stir last week with his choreographed response following his 50th goal." And while the NHL "needs the gregariousness" of Ovechkin, the league "doesn't need a Terrell Owens or Chad Johnson, the NFL's obnoxious celebrating duo." Dye: "I love Ovechkin's natural emotions, not the staged stuff that makes him come off as another Owens or Johnson" (DETROIT NEWS, 3/24).

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