SBD/Issue 221/Leagues & Governing Bodies

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  • AFL Suspends Operations After Owners Fail To Reach Consensus

    AFL Issues Terse Statement
    Announcing League's Suspension
    The AFL yesterday announced it has "suspended operations indefinitely" in a one-paragraph statement sent to the media, according to Jay Drew of the SALT LAKE TRIBUNE. The statement reads in part, "The AFL Board of Directors took this action after they were unable to reach any consensus on restructuring the League over the past eight months. Regrettably, the AFL's Board of Directors believes there are no other viable options available to the League right now." Drew reports Utah Blaze Owner John Garff "continues to hold out hope that a group of owners can revive the league in time for the 2011 season, but he is in the minority." However, those prospects "appear even more bleak after Tuesday's terse announcement," and as of now, "every indication nationally is that the league is dead" (SALT LAKE TRIBUNE, 8/5). Tampa Bay Storm GM & coach Tim Marcum: "We only have ourselves to blame. It's our leadership's fault. We owed $14[M], and when you owe that much something's wrong. You did it the wrong way. I really feel like we'd be playing football right now if it hadn't been for all that debt" (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 8/5). In K.C., Terez Paylor notes the decision is the "latest blow to a league that has been in a state of limbo since the owners voted to cancel" the '09 season (K.C. STAR, 8/5). In Philadelphia, Matt Gelb notes "no one answered phones at the league's New York or Chicago offices" yesterday. The Philadelphia Soul "have closed their offices since the 2009 season was suspended in December 2008," and the team's Web site "has been shut down, displaying only a message thanking fans for the last five years" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 8/5).

    HOPE FOR RETURN: Cleveland Gladiators Owner Jim Ferraro said the league is "not folding or filing for bankruptcy." Ferraro: "We're technically alive, but can I tell you if we'll be playing in 2010 or 2011? Clearly, I cannot." In N.Y., Richard Sandomir notes the AFL "has no central office, no commissioner and almost no employees." Former AFL Acting Commissioner Ed Policy said, "I think in some capacity, some of these owners will play arena football in two or three years." But Ferraro said that the owners "rarely agree on anything." Ferraro: "To get anything significant done, you need a 75[%] vote, and they can't get a 75[%] vote on anything. I don't think we can get a 75[%] vote to order a pizza" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/5). Garff said, "The most likely scenario is that we will see arena football in 2011. That's what we'd like to see and that's what we are pushing for." Garff added that the AFL suspending operations "isn't the league's death knell." Rather, he said it is a "requisite step to reorganize and play football in 2011." Garff: "When the time comes to relaunch the league, we just want to make sure we do it right" (Logan Jorgensen, DESERET NEWS, 8/5). 

    SaberCats Among Teams Committed To
    Continuing Play Somewhere Next Season
    TEAMS NOT GOING AWAY QUIETLY: Grand Rapids Rampage COO Scott Gorsline said that the franchise is "committed to putting a team on the field in the future, regardless of the status" of the league. Gorsline: "We will continue to talk about resurrecting the league. ... We're still working on it. The Rampage have not thrown in the towel." Gorsline did not rule out the team joining af2 (MLIVE.com, 8/4). San Jose SaberCats VP Hank Stern added his team "remain[s] committed to playing football" and is "actively exploring other options for putting the SaberCats back on the field in 2010" (Stockton RECORD, 8/5). The Blaze's Garff plans to keep his team playing in the future, but said, "We were dealing with time and money. We can solve the money issues, but we need more time to do it" (DESERET NEWS, 8/5). Meanwhile, the Georgia Force yesterday said they are ceasing operations after news came to light of the league suspending operations. Force President Dick Sullivan said in a statement, "There was no other viable choice. Despite significant efforts on the part of many AFL and team representatives, the League was unable to create a new business model that we and others could support" (Force).

    AF2 SAFE: af2 Iowa Barnstormers co-Owner Jeff Lamberti said that if the AFL folds, it "won't greatly affect the minor-league version because the af2 is solvent and self-funded." In California, Jason Anderson notes possible new plans include "combining af2 and defunct AFL teams to create a revamped league." af2 Stockton Lightning President Dan Chapman: "I don't think anything is out of the question at this point. If there are AFL operators that would like to come to the af2, my opinion is that would be a good thing" (Stockton RECORD, 8/5). In Des Moines, Johnson & Witosky report af2 teams "could be in a new league as a result of the potential demise" of the AFL, and "whether it would be new in name only or an expanded, two-tiered league will be determined in the next couple months." Lamberti said that if the AFL were to file for bankruptcy, the af2 "may form another league to stay out of the proceedings" (DES MOINES REGISTER, 8/5). In Pennsylvania, Jonathan Bombulie notes the AFL owns a 50.1% stake in the af2, "so if the parent league files for bankruptcy, the minor league will have a new majority owner." Once the ownership situation is decided, the af2 "will have to decide how to structure its league going forward." Bombulie: "Might it simply change its name and continue with business as usual?" af2 Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Pioneers Owner Cosmo DiNicola: "We won't be announcing anything until after our season ends Aug. 22" (Wilkes-Barre CITIZENS VOICE, 8/5). af2 Albany Firebirds President & CEO Garen Szablewski: "If they go into bankruptcy, it shouldn't be a problem because the league (af2) doesn't have much financial value, other than the individual value of league teams." Lamberti: "In our opinion, worst-case scenario, we simply become a separate entity and continue as we have" (TROY RECORD, 8/5).

    AFL'S LEGACY: In Orlando, Mike Bianchi writes of the Orlando Predators, "In a weird way, the Preds were a throwback to a gentler time when sports were more affordable and fan friendly." Tickets "were cheap; times were good." And it "wasn't life or death; it was fun and games." Bianchi: "If only the AFL had stayed true to its mission, we might not be writing this obituary today. In the end, the league perished trying to become bigger than it was ever meant to be" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 8/5). In Pennsylvania, John Lohn writes, "Give credit to the AFL for lasting two decades, but its absence going forward will hardly draw a tear" (DELAWARE COUNTY TIMES, 8/5). In Sacramento, Bill Bradley writes, "While I was never a fan of the AFL, it lasted for 20 seasons, its fan base was loyal, and there were signs it would return next year. It seemed to have gone from gimmick to legitimate -- but apparently that wasn't enough to keep it alive" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 8/5).

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  • NBA, Players Union Hold First Talks Regarding New CBA

    Fisher Says Both NBA, NBPA Officials
    Seem To Be Trying To Do Right Thing
    The NBA and NBPA held their first formal collective bargaining session for a new labor deal for more than three hours in N.Y. yesterday, in a meeting the two sides called "cordial and productive." The two sides in a joint statement said, "There was a preliminary exchange of financial information but no proposals were made. We both look forward to another meeting before the start of the season" (Liz Mullen, SportsBusiness Journal). In N.Y., Mitch Lawrence reports NBA owners yesterday "continued to paint a bleak financial picture," using the meeting to "potentially lay the groundwork for major changes in the current system that pays players 57% of basketball-related income." Lakers G and NBPA President Derek Fisher said, "There seemed to be a feeling in the room that everybody is trying to do the right thing. I hope that will continue." Lawrence notes the next meeting is tentatively scheduled for September, and the players "expect to hear more lousy financial projections." The owners are "under a gag order" from NBA Commissioner David Stern not to discuss the negotiations (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 8/5).

    SHORTENING THE COURT: ESPN.com's Chris Sheridan reported the current CBA runs through the '10-11 season, but the owners yesterday indicated that they "will not extend" the current deal into the '11-12 season. The owners by December 15, 2010, "must notify the players" about their choice for the '11-12 season, and if they do opt out, the current CBA will expire on June 30, 2011. Fisher yesterday after the meeting said that the owners contend that "too many franchises are losing too much money to continue operating under the present system." Fisher: "There are still obviously some teams that have some issues. We didn't get into specific teams and their specific issues today, but it was a big picture look at where the league has been the last four years since this collective bargaining agreement began, and then where we think the league will be next year after some of the economic data comes in." The following chart lists the players, league officials and team owners participating in the labor negotiations (ESPN.com, 8/4).

    NBPA EXEC
    COMMITTEE MEMBERS
    NBA REPS
    NBPA Exec Dir Billy Hunter
    Spurs Owner Peter Holt
    Spurs C Theo Ratliff
    MSG Exec Chair James Dolan
    Spurs G Roger Mason Jr.
    Cavaliers Owner Dan Gilbert
    Thunder C Etan Thomas Lakers Exec VP/Business Operations Jeanie Buss
    Nets G Keyon Dooling Celtics CEO & Managing Partner Wyc Grousbeck
    Hawks F Maurice Evans Thunder Owner Clay Bennett
    Hornets G Chris Paul* Suns Owner Robert Sarver
    Magic C Adonal Foyle* T'Wolves Owner Glen Taylor
    Heat F James Jones* Hornets Owner George Shinn
    Lakers G Derek Fisher Trail Blazers President Larry Miller

    NOTE: * = Did not attend Tuesday's meeting

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  • League Notes

    Batch Not Optimistic NFL Will Be Able To 
    Avoid A Lockout in '11
    Steelers QB and player rep Charlie Batch said he believes there is a 100% chance of an NFL lockout in '11. Batch: "I'm not optimistic. And I don't think a lot of people should be." Batch added, "Nobody wants to get to that point, and you hope a deal can be struck before then, but no serious talks have begun. So how can you be optimistic and say it's going to get done? ... Everybody is trying to get to the point where we don't get to the worst possible situation. I think that's why everybody is trying to bring everything to the forefront right now" (AP, 8/5).

    THINKING CAP: In Utah, James Edward writes to "make MLS more exciting," team owners should "raise the salary cap." The league's current single-entity structure was "great for the stability of the league in the first 14 years, but now MLS needs to raise the level of play, which requires higher salaries." With the current CBA set to expire after this season, the "timing is perfect," and soccer fans in the U.S. will "pay more attention to their domestic league if they appreciate its quality" (DESERET NEWS, 8/5).

    LOOKING ON THE BRIGHT SIDE: THE HOCKEY NEWS' Ken Campbell writes, "The sense among those in the game is the worst of the economic crisis might be behind us and the NHL has enough money tied up in sponsorship and season tickets for a long enough period that it might actually not suffer too gravely after all." One NHL GM said, "I was thinking six months ago that we were headed for really big trouble, but I'm a lot more optimistic now. Based on my knowledge of the situation, things aren't near as dire as they looked four or five months ago. I would say the projections we're getting have been pretty good on the revenue side" (THE HOCKEY NEWS, 8/3 issue).

    THE RIGHT COMBINATION? In N.Y., George Willis wrote the creation of the Boxing Promoters Association (BPA) at a summit in N.Y. last month is "something that has been long overdue for a sport in need of direction," but "only time will tell whether the new association will provide the benefits its founding fathers have planned." The BPA is a "huge step in trying to save a sport that aside from the occasional mega-bout struggles to make money." Star Boxing President & CEO Joe DeGuardia "has long sought cooperation among promoters," and the summit featured reps from Don King Productions, Golden Boy Promotions, Main Events, Top Rank, DiBella Entertainment, Gary Shaw Productions and Banner Promotions. Election of officers and other details for the BPA "have yet to be worked out," but DeGuardia said that he is "confident the BPA will help the sport prosper" (N.Y. POST, 8/1).

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