SBD/Issue 238/Leagues & Governing Bodies

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  • NHLPA Exec Dir Paul Kelly Reportedly Under Fire, Could Be Ousted

    NHLPA's Exec Committee Could
    Vote To Remove Paul Kelly
    NHLPA Exec Dir Paul Kelly is "facing intense scrutiny" from union members and his status "may be challenged" when the NHLPA's Exec Committee meets Sunday and Monday, according to union sources cited by Darren Dreger of TSN. Sources added that NHLPA interim Ombudsman Buzz Hargrove is "expected to make a presentation to the committee" at the regularly-scheduled meetings in Chicago, "identifying concerns within the association about Kelly's leadership." No details have emerged about the nature of the concerns. The sources said that it is "possible the executive committee could vote to have Kelly removed and, in accordance with the NHLPA constitution, could do so without consent from the full membership of NHL players." Sources indicated that NHLPA Advisory Board member Ron Pink, who is believed to have applied for the NHLPA Exec Dir job before Kelly accepted the position, would have "strong interest in the job if Kelly is ousted" (TSN.ca, 8/27).

    ANSWER IS BLOWIN' IN THE WIND: The GLOBE & MAIL's Tim Wharnsby reports NHLPA Exec Committee members "recently participated in what could be described as a leadership review," part of which was to "interview each member of the NHLPA staff." It is believed that "dissent surrounding Kelly's leadership began to pick up steam" at NHLPA meetings in Las Vegas in June, and "alarm bells certainly went off in February" after Ombudsman Eric Lindros suddenly resigned. Wharnsby notes "opinions are wide ranging as to whether members have been pleased with the job" Kelly has done in his 22-month stint, and some players "pledged to grill Kelly on a variety of internal matters," including Lindros' resignation (GLOBE & MAIL, 8/28). In Calgary, Steve MacFarlane notes NHL players Thursday "weren't willing or informed enough to comment" on the matter. Kings LW Ryan Smyth: "I don't know much about it, so I'm not really going to comment on it." Sharks D Dan Boyle said, "I heard a couple guys talking. I'm honestly not that informed about it and I don't know enough" (CALGARY SUN, 8/28).

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  • Several NFL Teams Could Face Local TV Blackouts This Season

    Vikings Still Have Plenty Of Tickets To 
    Sell, Despite Acquisition Of Brett Favre
    At least four NFL teams this season “face potential local TV blackouts of their home games because they have not sold enough tickets,” according to league sources cited by Mark Maske of the WASHINGTON POST. Other sources estimated that the number “could be as high as eight clubs,” although “several of those teams are likely to find ways to secure sellouts.” In addition to the Vikings, who have “about 7,000 season tickets still available,” the Chargers and Jaguars also are “having trouble selling tickets.” Maske notes the list “also could include” the Raiders, 49ers, Lions, Rams and Bengals. Last season, 247 of 256 regular-season games -- 96% -- “aired in the local market of the home team,” and that figure has been above 95% since the ’05 season. But NFL sources indicated that “locally generated revenue may be down for some clubs this year.” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said teams are “still in the middle of selling” tickets. He added, “There are challenges out there, but I think our clubs are responding very well. We’ve still got a few more good weeks of selling.” Sources said that “teams in strong markets have had to work harder than usual in some cases but have experienced few major problems selling tickets.” One NFL team owner said, “If you’re in a good market, you most likely did okay. The NFL is still a good buy. But there are a few markets out there that aren’t very good, and I think they’re having some problems” (WASHINGTON POST, 8/28).

    BUCKING A TREND: In St. Petersburg, Justin George reports the Buccaneers are "facing slow ticket sales for the first time since Raymond James Stadium opened in 1998." The team has "sold out regularly" in recent years, but tickets remain for the team's regular-season home opener on September 13 against the Cowboys. The Buccaneers in response have "taken the unprecedented steps of offering season ticket buyers monthly payment plans, seats that don't require deposits or long-term contracts and $32.50 upper level tickets for children." The team's Web site also is "advertising half-season packages that range" between $260-325 per seat (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 8/28).

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  • NFL Players Wary About 18-Game Schedule Due To Injury Concerns

    Goodell's Proposed 18-Game
    Season Greeted With Skepticism
    NFL players are "leery" about NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's proposal to play an 18-game regular season and are treating the proposal with "widespread skepticism," according to Tim Sullivan of the SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE. Chargers G Kris Dielman: "I see what they're trying to do. They're trying to make more money. That's all great and dandy (but) I don't want to be sitting on the bench because my knee got busted up in the 17th game. Sixteen games is a grind. Eighteen would be really rough. If you go to 18 games, I think the quality of the game will be affected. I don't think it would be good for the sport." Chargers RB LaDainian Tomlinson added, "Physically, it's just so much more (wear) on you. I just think the value of a lot of players (would) go down. You'd have more injuries." Chargers K and alternate player rep Nate Kaeding: "How many weeks and years is that going to take off your career in the end? I know that's what these guys are taking into the calculation (and) I don't blame them. You look at the injured list as the season progresses and the numbers are growing. Guys don't want to put themselves in harm's way for two more weeks" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 8/28). ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer said, “Seventeen or 18 games will kill some guys. … It takes everything in your power -- everything -- to play 16 games plus the playoffs.” He noted after winning Super Bowl XXXV with the Ravens in '01, when the team played 24 games including the preseason and playoffs, it took months for him to feel right physically. Dilfer suggested maintaining the current regular-season set up, with the preseason cut back to two games and two scrimmages after training camp with teams outside of their division. Dilfer: “That solves all the problems except the money problem, and that’s what this ultimately stems from.” Pro Football HOFer and ESPN analyst Tom Jackson noted he began playing in the NFL while the 14-game schedule was in place and said 16 games is a “lot of games to play” (Rick Ellington, THE DAILY).

    PRESEASON ALSO HAS INJURY RISKS: SI.com's John Lopez noted after "just two full weeks of preseason games, 22 NFL teams already have at least one front-line player listed as out, doubtful or questionable for the start of the regular season." As a result, a "long-needed change to the preseason, shortening the schedule by at least one game and lengthening the regular season, clearly will be on the way the next time NFL owners address the issue." Lopez: "It's about time. Where once the preseason was vitally important for teams and a nice money-maker for owners, today it is unnecessary and a hazard." The value to owners of adding regular season games is "obvious, with more regular-season games leading to increased revenue via TV and radio contracts, and gate revenue and season-ticket income," but the "key component to making it happen would be making the schedule change equally as attractive and valuable" to the NFLPA. Lopez wrote adding one game to the regular season "conceivably gets both sides what they want -- money." The owners "get theirs via more streams of cash flowing in," and players "could get theirs by negotiating that with a longer season, rosters would expand by at least one or two players per team and rookie and veteran minimum-salary levels would increase as well" (SI.com, 8/27).

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  • UFC Officials Expect To Bring PPV Card To Vancouver By June

    UFC Execs Have Met With Vancouver Officials,
    Expect To Have Sport Sanctioned Soon
    UFC Exec VP Lawrence Epstein Thursday said that the UFC will "bring a pay-per-view card to GM Place next June, and is considering adjoining it to a fan exposition," according to Matthew Sekeres of the GLOBE & MAIL. UFC officials "spoke with B.C. Attorney General Michael de Jong on Wednesday and said they would meet with federal politicians over the next six weeks," and they also "met with Vancouver officials." While the B.C. and Ontario provincial governments currently "have punted the issue of regulation" for MMA, UFC officials said that they "expect to have their sport sanctioned by Vancouver, if not B.C., in the next four months." Epstein said that 15-20% of the UFC's business "comes from Canada." UFC VP/Regulatory Affairs Marc Ratner: "We're willing to spend the time and the money to go to Ottawa and do what we can." UFC officials said that they "have 40 states sanctioning bouts, and that Canadian cities in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia have been lobbying for fight cards." Sekeres notes behind Ratner, the UFC "has beaten a path to B.C., Ontario and New York, lobbying three significant holdouts on its regulatory map" (GLOBE & MAIL, 8/28). In Vancouver, John Colebourn notes a "number of events have been held in Quebec" already (Vancouver PROVINCE, 8/28). Meanwhile, in Milwaukee, Don Walker reported Wisconsin state Sen. Dave Hansen and Rep. Pedro Colon "introduced a bill on Thursday intended to regulate and establish safety standards for mixed martial arts in Wisconsin," which is "one of 10 states in the country that does not regulate" MMA (JSONLINE.com, 8/27).

    White Has Hinted Of Merger
    Between UFC And WEC
    MERGER TALK: UFC President Dana White Thursday "hinted that there may be a merger" between the UFC and the World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) organization that UFC parent company Zuffa also owns. White said that he has a "new television deal" with Versus, which hosts WEC fights. Spike has an "exclusive deal to air UFC fights on cable," but White said that "that's not a reason preventing a merger." White said of whether Spike's exclusivity deal could "get in the way" of a merger, "There are obviously some things that need to be worked out, but we can figure this thing out. We've had bigger problems" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 8/27). Meanwhile, White said being on network TV is "not that big of a goal for me." White: "I could have been on network television, (but) the deal has to be right. I'm not going to make a stupid business deal just to get on television, and the deal has never been right" (OREGONLIVE.com, 8/26).

    GETTING OFF THE MAT: Maryland State Athletic Commission (MSAC) Exec Dir Patrick Pannella said that Maryland's "first sanctioned mixed martial arts card" is scheduled for October 24 at 1st Mariner Arena. Canton, Maryland, gym owner John Rallo, who "spearheaded the sanctioning effort," will "promote the first event." Rallo said that the promotion "would break even with a crowd of 3,000 and that he'd be happy with 5,000." Rallo indicated that he also is "negotiating with Comcast SportsNet to get the event broadcast on cable television," and "if the show does well, Rallo hopes to run three events a year at 1st Mariner." The MSAC will receive a 10% cut of gross revenues from the event, and Rallo said that the tax "could be an impediment to attracting UFC, which recently ran a sold-out show in Philadelphia" (Walker & Van Valkenburg, Baltimore SUN, 8/28).

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  • Atlanta-Based NuRock Soccer Holdings Acquires USL From Nike

    NuRock Soccer Holdings has acquired the USL from Nike. The Atlanta-based group, led by real-estate developer Rob Hoskins and former pro soccer player Alec Papadakis, is currently a USL licensee with rights to acquire two USL First Division teams in Atlanta and Birmingham. Nike will continue to support the USL through a long-term sponsorship arrangement naming its Umbro brand the official sponsor and exclusive supplier of match balls for the USL’s pro and amateur leagues (NuRock Soccer Holdings). The USL includes about 127 professional soccer clubs, as well as 550 youth league teams, but USL President Francisco Marcos said that those franchises are “independently owned, so NuRock ultimately acquires an administrative and marketing company with annual revenue of around” $5M (BIZJOURNALS.com, 8/27). The USL leagues include teams from the U.S., Canada and the Caribbean (REUTERS, 8/27). In Miami, Adam Beasley reports NuRock's bid beat "multiple offers," including one from Brazil-based Traffic, which owns USL Miami FC, among other clubs. Traffic had “teamed with other ownership groups, believed to be" the USL Carolina Railhawks and Minnesota Thunder, to "put together a package intended to fundamentally alter USL’s makeup” (MIAMI HERALD, 8/28).

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  • Indebted Clubs Could Face Expulsion From UEFA Champions League

    Platini Has Become Increasingly Concerned
    By Massive Spending On Transfer Fees, Wages
    European soccer clubs "have been given three seasons to balance their books or risk expulsion" from the UEFA Champions League, according to Tom Dart of the LONDON TIMES. Under a new policy, a club such that has "spent far more than their income" would "face punishment and the ultimate sanction of removal from European competition." UEFA President Michel Platini said, "We are giving clubs three years to abide by the simple sentence that you cannot spend more than you own or generate." Platini has become "increasingly concerned by massive spending on transfer fees and wages," with EPL clubs "among the worst offenders in his eyes." Under Platini's proposal, clubs would "have to break even on their football budgets, only spending what they earn from ticket sales, television rights, sponsorship and prize money," though clubs "will be able to go into debt to pay for stadium improvements and youth development" (LONDON TIMES, 8/28). Platini: "If a club can get loans from a bank to buy players and then pay it back, that is not a problem. If a club gets a lot of money in subsidies from a big backer and is still in deficit in two years, that is a problem and we don't like that." The AP's Graham Dunbar noted UEFA is "creating an independent financial control panel" that would "warn and fine clubs before expelling them from competition." Platini Thursday said that he is "still looking for an 'eminent personality' to chair the panel" (AP, 8/27).

    TAKING A STAND: In London, Patrick Barclay notes Platini named EPL club Chelsea Owner Roman Abramovich "among the leading instigators of his campaign for 'financial fair play' in European football." Platini identified Abramovich, Italy Prime Minister and Serie A club AC Milan Owner Silvio Berlusconi and Serie A club Inter Milan Owner Massimo Moratti as "examples of club proprietors who wanted UEFA to end the inflation in transfer fees and salaries held responsible for increasing debts" (LONDON TIMES, 8/28). Platini: "It's mainly the owners that asked us to do something: Roman Abramovich, Silvio Berlusconi, Massimo Moratti. They do not want to fork out any more. Manchester City can spend [US$491.0M] if they want to but if they are not breaking even in three years then they cannot play in European competition" (Manchester GUARDIAN, 8/28).

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