SBD/Issue 244/Leagues & Governing Bodies

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  • NFL TV Rights Holders Not Concerned About Potential Blackouts

    Billick Feels NFL Needs To Hold
    Hard Line On Blackout Policy
    NFL TV rights holders said that they are "not concerned about potential blackouts of regular season games" this season, according to John Consoli of MEDIAWEEK. A network official said that in "order to take a significant revenue hit, a network would have to have about 14 home market games blacked out." Another network exec said, "The blackout rule is part of the package we are buying. It has always been there, and when we do our rights deal, we know it is something that could potentially affect us. That’s part of the deal." But Consoli noted while the nets "downplayed the chance of blackouts, every network, except possibly NBC, seems to have some problem sorts on their televised schedules." It is unclear whether the "lack of concern is wishful thinking on the part of the networks," or rather a "desire not to rile up the NFL by publicly criticizing the league's unwillingness to change the blackout policy" (MEDIAWEEK.com, 9/8). Fox NFL analyst Brian Billick said the league "has to hold a hard line with regard to the fans in the cities and getting seats in the stands," even if it "kind of makes sense to maybe change the sellout rule or change the timing or the numbers." Billick: "The number one driving force behind it is even for TV to show a game that is not sold out diminishes it a little bit" ("Monsters in the Morning," CSN Chicago, 9/8).

    SHED SOME LIGHT: SI.com's Peter King wrote the NFL "shouldn't be so hardened about the blackout rule." The greater Detroit area currently has a 29% unemployment rate, and it is "unrealistic to expect that Detroit ... fill a 64,500-seat stadium regularly." King: "I wouldn't lift the blackout entirely this year, because once the genie's out of the bottle, it's going to be hard to get it back in. But I would say it would be a grand gesture for the league to give the truly deserving franchises a couple of games with home TV for non-sellouts" (SI.com, 9/7). In N.Y., Richard Sandomir wrote NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell should "lift those television blackouts -- and let the people of Detroit watch the Lions." In a city with a "wheezing automotive industry and a jobless rate near 30[%], people need diversions." Former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue lifted the blackout rule in New Orleans in '05 following Hurricane Katrina, and Goodell similarly should "waive it now." Sandomir: "Why stick rigidly to a policy made for better times? Relax it this season and revisit it next year." If the league does not lift the policy, it should at least "stream the blacked-out games on nfl.com or let local stations replay the blacked-out games on Monday mornings" (N.Y. TIMES, 9/5). In Oakland, Monte Poole writes if "ever a time was right to suspend for at least a year the blackout rule ... it's when we're choking on horrible economic conditions." Poole: "Presented a grand opportunity to extend a goodwill gesture, to serve the community at minimum cost, the NFL shrugs and counts its cash" (OAKLAND TRIBUNE, 9/9).

    Jaguars Owner Weaver Believes
    Games Will Be Blacked Out
    AN UPHILL CLIMB: In New Orleans, Jeff Duncan cited research from ESPN.com's K.C. Joyner that indicates that the Saints, playing in the NFL's second-smallest market and 16th-largest stadium, face the "greatest annual challenge to sell out their stadium." Yet the Saints have "managed to sell out 25 consecutive games" at the 69,703-seat Superdome, and "excluding the Katrina season, have sold out all but one game during the past decade" (New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE, 9/6). Meanwhile, Jaguars Owner Wayne Weaver Friday said that the "recession has hurt ticket sales to the point where officials think all home games will be blacked out." Weaver: "I want to be realistic -- we won't have a full stadium this year. We will not. This economy has just affected too many families." In Jacksonville, Kevin Turner noted the team has "come up with deals to help make tickets more affordable for fans." Weaver said that he remains "committed to the long term in Jacksonville, and he believes the Jaguars will build a tradition." He said, "Maybe it will take us another 10 or 15 years to get there, maybe longer, but one thing is for sure: we're going to get there" (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 9/6).

    FEELING THE PINCH: ESPN.com's Len Pasquarelli noted despite its "preeminent status, the NFL has learned a difficult lesson from the current lagging economy: The league simply isn't recession-proof." It was once a "touchstone for companies to attach themselves to the NFL and its nonpareil brand name," but those companies are "revisiting the viability of those decisions." Several factors, including the current economy, have "combined to force the NFL, while still financially healthy, to market its product with greater gusto," because the league that "once sold itself now is finding that it is a much tougher sell." To the fans, it is "not enough anymore to simply stage the games," and the league now "talks increasingly about the 'Sunday experience'" (ESPN.com, 9/8).

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  • Jones Says NFL Revenue-Sharing Will End When CBA Expires

    Jones Says Revenue-Sharing
    Won't Be A Part Of New CBA
    Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones Friday said that NFL revenue sharing will "go away" after the league's current CBA expires after the '10 season, according to Judd Zulgad of the Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE. Jones: "We're in the last year of our collective bargaining agreement next year, that's an uncapped year, and then you don't have it anymore right there. It goes away automatically right there. When the labor agreement is over, it will be over and when there's a new one in it won't be a part of it." Zulgad noted teams like the Cowboys this season have "played a large role in subsidizing the Vikings," who "generate the least revenue in the NFL from their home stadium." Jones said of the current model, "Eighty-five percent is far in excess of what any other leagues share. What we're talking about is above 85[%]. That's what is subsidizing this market right now is above 85[%]. That's going to stop. ... Right now (other NFL teams) are subsidizing this market. It's unthinkable to think that you've got the market you've got here, 3.5 million people, and have teams like Kansas City and Green Bay subsidizing this market. That will stop. That's going to stop" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 9/5). Jones added that he is "not going to take resources 'away from the Cowboys so that I can help the Vikings.'" In St. Paul, Sean Jensen noted Vikings Owner Zygi Wilf declined comment about Jones' comments, but said that ending revenue sharing would not make his "need for a new stadium more pressing." Meanwhile, Jones "challenged leaders in Minnesota to answer the call" for a new Vikings stadium. Jones: "It can't happen unless you've got real public leaders. They really do have to accept and recognize or educate their constituents on just how important it is to the growth of Minnesota." Jones added that he "would support a Super Bowl in Minnesota if the Vikings can get a new stadium" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 9/5).

    STAND TO LOSE: In Minneapolis, Sid Hartman noted if Jones is "successful in his attempt to eliminate revenue-sharing in the NFL, the Vikings will be losing some $20[M] or so that they have received in each of the past three seasons and will get again this year." Meanwhile, Twins President Dave St. Peter said that he believes Target Field and the Univ. of Minnesota's new TCF Bank Stadium "will help the Vikings get a new stadium." St. Peter: "The fans are going to be so happy with the two new stadiums that they will want the Vikings to get a similar stadium. I'm convinced the effect of the new stadiums will be more important than some people think" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 9/6).

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  • Danica Reportedly Will Drive In Nationwide, Truck Series In '10

    Patrick Will Continue To Run Full
    IndyCar Schedule Next Year
    Driver Danica Patrick "will 'all but certainly' be in NASCAR in 2010, but won't give up Indy car racing and will limit next year's activity" to the Nationwide and Camping World Truck series, according to a source cited by Ed Hinton of ESPN.com. The source said that Stewart-Haas Racing co-Owner & driver Tony Stewart is "the 'star candidate' to be her partner and mentor in NASCAR," and that because Stewart-Haas "has neither Nationwide cars nor trucks in its stable, a third partner will be brought into the mix." Stewart: "I can pretty much guarantee at some point she's going to be over here." Hinton noted the plan is for Patrick to "run a significant number of Nationwide races, with additional seat time in Trucks and ARCA cars." The source said that there is "no way Patrick would a) plunge immediately into the Cup level next year, or b) give up Indy car racing until she's sure she can do well in NASCAR" (ESPN.com, 9/6). NASCAR VP/Corporate Communications Jim Hunter said of Patrick, "There is no doubt she would be a welcome addition to NASCAR. She has a certain celebrity status and a charisma that we haven't seen in a while" (ESPN.com, 9/6). FOXSPORTS.com's Lee Spencer cited sources as insisting that Patrick's "primary concentration will remain on driving" in IndyCar for Andretti Green Racing (AGR) (FOXSPORTS.com, 9/8). Patrick Sunday posted on her Twitter feed, "The rumors are flying about nascar!....I did talk to Tony and he is a great guy. We are looking at nascar as I have always said" (TWITTER.com, 9/6).

    EASING IN: In Indianapolis, Curt Cavin wrote Patrick "has to get her feet wet before she takes the full plunge, so this makes sense." But he added, "As I've said, I think it's an uphill battle at best. She does not have experience with this type of car and while her NASCAR team owner figures to be patient with her development, the public won't. They'll expect her to be competitive and the spotlight will be intense" (INDYSTAR.com, 9/8). ESPN's Rusty Wallace said, "She needs a sponsor that’s going to stick with her through thick and thin for three solid years." ESPN’s Ray Evernham added, “It would be great for our sport and I think that she can make it” (“NASCAR Countdown,” ESPN, 9/6). The AP's Jenna Fryer wrote, "What is clear is that a fast-track move to the premier Sprint Cup Series is not in Patrick's best interest. There doesn't seem to be a top-tier team with the financing to give her that opportunity. And even if it were feasible, Dario Franchitti's failed 2008 venture into stock cars showed most team owners that drivers need to ease into such a transition" (AP, 9/8). However, ESPN's Ricky Craven said, "She’s very good, and I think a lot of people are underestimating her a little bit. I think that she has the ability to adapt maybe better than some of the drivers we’ve seen from IRL” (“ESPN First Take,” ESPN2, 9/7).

    BEGINNING OF THE END: SI.com's Lars Anderson predicted Patrick would sign a three-year deal with AGR that allows her to "compete in a handful of Nationwide and Truck series races when the Indy cars aren't running." Anderson: "After that, in 2013, she'll be in NASCAR fulltime" (SI.com, 9/7). Meanwhile, in Indianapolis, Bob Kravitz writes under the header, "IRL Can't Survive A Danica Defection." Patrick's "eventual defection to NASCAR won't kill the sport, but it will deal the open-wheel types a painful and possibly even fatal blow." IRL officials "don't want to hear this, but without Patrick -- their one and only marquee talent and celebrity -- IndyCar is as insignificant as celebrity billiards." Patrick's departure "will put the brakes on all the momentum the series gained when unification with Champ Car finally happened," as without Patrick, the IRL "has nothing, and nobody, to sell" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 9/9).

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  • Deutsche Bank CEO Seth Waugh Criticizes PGA Tour's Rising Purses

    Waugh (c) Says There's Pressure On PGA Tour
    To Reduce The Purses It Demands Of Sponsors
    Deutsche Bank Americas CEO Seth Waugh said that there is "pressure on the PGA Tour to reduce the purses it will demand sponsors to fund in the coming years or at least hold steady on them," according to Randall Mell of GOLF CHANNEL. Deutsche Bank's four-year deal to title sponsor the second event of the FedExCup playoffs expires after next season, and the company owns an option for two more years. But Waugh after Sunday's third round of the Deutsche Bank Championship "sounded like a man who wants to renegotiate his two-year option, or negotiate better terms in a longer extension." He said that he "didn’t mean to negotiate through the media, but in openly answering questions about the nature of title sponsorship in these tough economic times, he laid out what he and other companies will be thinking as the PGA Tour seeks to extend existing contracts." The event's purse jumped from $7M to $7.5M this season, and Waugh said, "I would not have raised purses last fall, not because they couldn’t, but because it was the wrong message. Every model of every business is under pressure, and you have to create more value for people, either by doing it cheaper, or by creating more value. ... They have to think their way through that, having people feel good about the experience, as opposed to being dictated as to what it is.” Waugh noted that six months ago he "wouldn't have been optimistic his company would pick up its two-year option or negotiate an extension, but he is now." Mell noted Deutsche Bank's costs are "scheduled to go up again under terms of the two-year option," and Waugh asserted that the Tour "has to re-think what it's selling" (GOLFCHANNEL.com, 9/7).

    NO THOUGHTS OF REDUCING BMW PURSE: BMW North America President Jim O'Donnell appeared on CNBC this morning from Cog Hill Golf & Country Club in Lemont, Illinois, in advance of tomorrow's start of the PGA Tour BMW Championship. The purse for the event is $7.5M, and CNBC's Phil LeBeau said there has been a “fair amount of talk about the purses becoming too extravagant, especially in a down economy.” LeBeau: “Have you ever thought to yourself, 'Maybe we need to rein this in? Maybe this is not the best expenditure of our money.'" O'Donnell: "No, not really because the other side of the coin is we will generate something like $3.3(M) -- at least that's what we did last year -- for charity” ("Squawk Box," CNBC, 9/9).

    IT STARTS FROM THE TOP: The GLOBE & MAIL's Bruce Dowbiggin noted with the PGA Tour "struggling every time Tiger Woods skips a tournament and both the LPGA Tour and Champions Tour in serious financial straits, some wonder if limited-field formats of the top stars would work best to draw eyeballs to the tube." One source said that the idea is "gaining popularity." The "Tiger-effect" has created a "de facto two-tier tour." With TV cameras "following almost every shot by Woods, there's simply not that much time in a broadcast for other players," and when Woods and Phil Mickelson are not playing, "viewership drops." Dowbiggin: "So while they'd never say as much, TV networks would likely embrace stars-only fields" (GLOBESPORTS.com, 9/7).

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  • Helfant Eyeing All-Star Event To Build Buzz For ATP World Tour

    Helfant Hopes All-Star Event
    Will Reach Casual Fans
    ATP World Tour Exec Chair & President Adam Helfant will introduce an All-Star showcase next year "as part of his efforts to help boost the sport's popularity," according to Howard Fendrich of the AP. Helfant: "We're looking at it as a way to extend our reach, to reach more casual sports fans and tennis fans. ... It seems to work in other sports. We'll see if it works here. Our players think it will work." Fendrich noted the "idea is to have a one- or two-day event in March, during the week before" the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, California, "including a skills competition, pro-am celebrity doubles matches and an awards show." There have been "preliminary talks about a TV deal." Meanwhile, Helfant would "like to generate more buzz at the beginning of the season." He is "not sure whether anything can be put in place by the start of 2010, but he wants fans paying more attention in the days leading to the Australian Open each January." Helfant also touched on various other topics, saying that he "does not consider doping or match-fixing a 'significant problem' for tennis," and that "there are 'some very serious conversations with a number of interested parties' that could result in a long-term deal with a new major sponsor beginning in 2010." Fendrich noted Mercedes-Benz "ended its sponsorship of the ATP tour when its contract expired in 2008" (AP, 9/8).  Meanwhile, Helfant took on his role in January and said that he has "learned that there is great concern about the global financial situation and the tennis calendar that stretches across nearly 11 months." Helfant: "There always will be issues with the calendar. We will work to refine it. But I think the system is actually working." Helfant noted attendance is "flat to slightly up," while corporate sponsorship is "basically holding." Meanwhile, tennis player Roger Federer said Helfant is "doing a good job." Federer: "I really think he's close to the players. We have good interaction. We have a great product at the moment obviously with great players at the top, great characters. I think the future looks good. It's very exciting now" (ESPN.com, 9/8).

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  • A New Summit Series: NHL Stars Meet In N.Y. To Work With Media

    The NHL and NHLPA are concluding their media summit in N.Y. today, working with 17 players to provide more than 18 media outlets with content for the upcoming season. The league and union set up on multiple floors of the Empire Hotel and gave players like Penguins C Sidney Crosby and Blackhawks RW Patrick Kane time with NBC, Versus, ESPN America, TSN, Sirius, Sports Illustrated, USA Today and others. The players today are going to the Prudential Center to film portions of TSN’s “Wednesday Night Hockey” introduction. NHL COO John Collins said the summit “brings the story of the NHL to life." Collins: "The demands of the season are so intense that this gives the media and advertising community a chance to interact with these players in a laid back setting. It's all part of getting these guys to the proper level of exposure." It is the second year of the media summit, and player participation is up from 14 players in ‘08. League execs said that last year's summit resulted in additional coverage the NHL might not otherwise get and pointed to five articles in USA Today in ‘08 that were reported and photographed during the summit (Tripp Mickle, SportsBusiness Journal). The following players are attending the summit.

    PLAYERS ATTENDING SUMMIT
    Penguins C Sidney Crosby Rangers G Henrik Lundqvist
    Penguins C Evgeni Malkin Blackhawks RW Patrick Kane
    Bruins LW Milan Lucic Blackhawks C Jonathan Towes
    Bruins G Tim Thomas Canadiens C Scott Gomez
    Ducks D Chris Pronger Wild G Niklas Backstrom
    Ducks C Ryan Getzlaf Blue Jackets LW Rick Nash
    Flyers C Jeff Carter Bruins D Zdeno Chara
    Flames D Jay Bouwmeester Rangers RW Marian Gaborik
    Capitals LW Alex Ovechkin  

    HARD-LINE STANCE: In Boston, Fluto Shinzawa wrote the NHLPA is "sending the message that it will take a hard-line stance when the CBA expires" after the '10-11 season "by terminating the level-headed [Paul] Kelly and handing over power to interim executive director Ian Penny (old guard), Ron Pink (labor guy), and Buzz Hargrove (labor guy)." In response, the NHL, "which views the split-asunder NHLPA as a laughingstock, will most likely push for at least these concessions: NFL-like nonguaranteed contracts; a reduction in player percentage of hockey-related revenue from [57% to 50%]; and no NHL participation" in the '14 Sochi Games. Shinzawa: "And that, ultimately, spells another work stoppage unless the NHLPA hires a conciliatory leader" (BOSTON GLOBE, 9/6).

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  • League Notes

    ESPN.com's Marc Stein reported the "prospect of replacement referees calling NBA games for the first time since 1995 is looming larger by the day after the latest negotiating session between the current refs and league executives broke down" yesterday. The NBA's most recent contract with its 60-plus referees expired September 1, and a source said that yesterday's bargaining session in N.Y. was "called to an abrupt halt by commissioner David Stern." Stein noted "no further talks are scheduled between the sides" with only about three weeks remaining before the league's first scheduled exhibition game on October 1 (ESPN.com, 9/8).

    Stern Expects To See 2-5% Revenue Drop
    During '09-10 Season Due To The Economy
    HOOPS HYPE: NBA Commissioner David Stern said the league told teams to expect a 2-5% drop in revenues for the '09-10 season due to the economy. Stern: "People say to us, 'Only 5% down,' but our teams are working really hard. They're being very imaginative, very aggressive." Stern said the NBA "is rushing into" the use of social sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, and "all of the sports are taking advantage of the additional means of distribution” ("America's Nightly Scoreboard," Fox Business, 9/8).

    LET'S PLAY TWO: LPGA Acting Commissioner Marty Evans said that she "would love to see a second stop in Canada" in addition to the CN Canadian Women's Open, which concluded Sunday. Evans: "If we could find a sponsor who would sponsor in Canada, I would love to talk to them. We have a full-court press on right now to not only sign tournaments that were up for renewal ... but we're very interested in new opportunities and I think a second opportunity in Canada would be fabulous." Evans added that a second Canadian stop "would not be in conflict with the CN Open, nor would she expect it to be of the same magnitude" (CALGARY HERALD, 9/6). Meanwhile, in Newark, Brendan Prunty reported the LPGA Sybase Classic "will be moving" from the Upper Montclair Country Club in New Jersey "to a new and yet unnamed location for 2010" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 9/5).

    NEXT STOP, MILWAUKEE? UFL Commissioner Michael Huyghue said that the league "has plans to add two teams a year for the next three years," and that Milwaukee "would be one of the cities under consideration." Huyghue: "We would have to find an ownership group, but Milwaukee would be considered." Miller Park Stadium District Exec Dir Mike Duckett said that Miller Park is "big enough for a football field" (JSONLINE.com, 9/4).

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