SBD/Issue 129/Leagues & Governing Bodies

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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