SBD/Issue 34/Leagues & Governing Bodies

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  • New LPGA Commish Michael Whan Shows Desired Attributes

    Writer Says Whan Appears
    To Be Earnest, Approachable
    The LPGA yesterday named Michael Whan Commissioner, becoming the "eighth person to lead the world's most successful professional sports organization for women," and a "call to central casting couldn't have produced a character actor closer to the attributes the tour had defined as important," according to Ron Sirak of GOLF WORLD. The LPGA in Whan "may have found the man to repair relationships and rebuild the business model, but time will be the judge of that." Whan: "Golf is special to me. It's been special to me my whole life." He added, "I have a personal philosophy about leadership that maybe not everybody understands, so I'll just say it this simply. I believe in listen, learn and lead, and you do it in that order." Sirak noted Whan, who "appears to be earnest and approachable," emerged as a "somewhat surprise winner in the search sweepstakes that began soon after" former Commissioner Carolyn Bivens stepped down in July. Search Committee Chair and LPGA BOD member Leslie Greis said there was an "incredible amount of interest in the position" and the search committee had "many, many, many candidates to choose from." Meanwhile, Sirak noted Whan has "several large mountains to climb," including addressing the '10 schedule. Also, "just as important, and just as challenging, will be rebuilding morale in LPGA headquarters." There have been "two waves of layoffs this year, which eliminated at least 14 people," and there is still a "residue of a culture of fear within tour headquarters that extends beyond concern for the future of the tour" (GOLFDIGEST.com, 10/28). Golf Channel's Charlie Rymer said Whan is "really going to have to pull a rabbit out of the hat moving forward" to ensure tournament stability, but the "product is so good, I think the upside is there" ("Golf Central," Golf Channel, 10/28). 

    SOLID BACKGROUND: In N.Y., Larry Dorman writes Whan "brings to the LPGA a demonstrated ability on the business side of sports." Whan: "If you look at my background and the brand growth that I’ve been lucky enough to be part of and lead, they all started with businesses that would have said the same things -- that there are a lot of challenges and opportunities and obstacles." Whan said he plans to be "smart enough to be quiet for 60 or 90 days and to really listen to the different player constituencies and board members, people who have more knowledge than I do as it relates to the LPGA right now." Dorman notes Whan is an "experienced marketer who began his business career at Procter & Gamble, where he rose to manage the Crest toothpaste brand before the age of 30." Whan "learned about the business of golf at Wilson Golf and later at TaylorMade Adidas Golf North America." TaylorMade-adidas Golf President & CEO Mark King: "The guy is literally a superstar, in my opinion" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/29). LPGA BOD Chair Dawn Hudson said that the tour "needed a commissioner familiar with the sports business -- even if that experience didn't come working for a league." Hudson: "At this particular time, with the struggles that all sports have had and some of the controversy of the past year, we really need a commissioner who can hit the ground running" (AP, 10/28).

    BRAND BUILDER: The WALL STREET JOURNAL's John Paul Newport writes Whan's past history suggests that the "three most important issues for the troubled tour are brand, brand and brand." Whan yesterday said his top priority will be to "grow the global brand," and his second priority will be "connecting the LPGA brand with other corporate brands in partnerships." He added that his third priority "will be building pride -- pride in the LPGA brand." Meanwhile, Newport writes LPGA Acting Commissioner Marty Evans and the BOD "did a remarkable job of keeping secret Mr. Whan's pole position for his new job." His name "never surfaced publicly, but he fits the criteria that the Tour laid out even beyond brand building: business experience in golf or a sports company, an ability to build consensus in a high profile environment and a passion for and understanding of the game itself and relationships within the golf industry" (WSJ.com, 10/29). Golf Channel's Adam Barr noted Whan has experience in golf brand-building and endorsements and said, "Upper-level executives who have worked with Whan in golf told me today that he's the man with the skills and the drive to weave all these threads together. Expect him to be a tough and savvy business negotiator who brings innovative ideas, but still makes everyone in the meeting room feel comfortable and energized" ("Golf Central," Golf Channel, 10/28). Golfer Helen Alfredsson said that one of Whan's first jobs is "to reassure players that the LPGA is headed in the right direction." Alfredsson: "To get the players' confidence (is important), because that is something that's been on the low side" (GOLFWEEK.com, 10/28).

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  • NHLPA Review Committee Looking To Hire Advisors, Legal Counsel

     
    The committee of four veteran NHL players reviewing NHLPA operations will seek to hire independent business advisors as well as independent legal counsel, including an attorney to respond immediately to a letter sent to the union's Exec Board by interim Exec Dir Ian Penny, the four players wrote in a letter to the board this week. Penny, who replaced former Exec Dir Paul Kelly after he was fired in late August, sent a letter to the Exec Board on October 23 questioning the conduct of committee member and AHL Chicago Wolves D Chris Chelios. Among other things, Penny questioned whether Chelios had pre-judged the matter, since he told Penny he would not survive the review. Penny also wrote that he had been constructively fired. The October 27 letter to the executive committee by the four-player group of Chelios, Sharks D Rob Blake, Red Wings D Nicklas Lidstrom and Bruins RW Mark Recchi, stated, “Since Ian’s email could create legal ramifications for the Association, we think it is appropriate to seek ‘independent’ legal advice on this matter immediately.” Those four players were put in place to review Kelly’s firing by a 25-5 vote of player reps earlier this month. The memo also states that members of the NHLPA’s advisory board and the Ombudsman have been instructed “to avoid any contact with association staff or with individual executive board members.” It also states that NHLPA divisional field representatives “have been asked not to incur any travel expenses until this review is complete.” The job of the field reps at the NHLPA, as well as at other sports unions, is to communicate with and keep the rank and file members informed on union business.

    FOUR WARNED? Kelly was at odds with Penny, current acting Ombudsman Buzz Hargrove, members of the advisory board and some of the NHLPA field reps before he was fired. The October 27 letter was sent to the 30 executive committee members, but was copied to all NHL players, agents, and NHLPA staff. A growing number of players are concerned about the four-member group, said sources who requested anonymity for fear of reprisals from the committee. Noting how the formation of the review committee was spurred by concern that Kelly was the victim of a coup, one source said, “Talking about complaining about a coup, this is now a blatant coup where (the four player committee) has taken control of the association. They have been authorized to conduct a review of how Kelly was fired and their memo to the executive board and copied to the world is a blueprint of how they intend to run the association going forward.” Meanwhile, there was no mention in the memo of a search for a new Exec Dir, and there is growing speculation that Kelly may be brought back -- something that was unthinkable when he was fired by a vote of 22-5 on August 31. Other hockey sources questioned whether any of the four players who signed the memo wrote it. The memo states, “We want to advise you that we have and will continue to consult with our own agents, other agents, our own legal counsel and several of our business contacts” (Liz Mullen, SportsBusiness Journal).

    READY & WILLING: ESPN.com's Lester Munson noted the players are "looking for someone outside the players' association who can sort things out and help them reset their union." Former NFLPA Exec Dir Ed Garvey, who in '89 crafted a report that "led to criminal charges" against former NHLPA Exec Dir Alan Eagleson, is "available again to step into the current fray." Garvey: "I would like to be considered. I know something about the way a player union can and should work and what it should be accomplishing for the players." Munson wrote Garvey has "charm, charisma and the capacity to explain difficult matters in ways that players can quickly comprehend." Munson: "If the players really want to solve their problems, Garvey can help" (ESPN.com, 10/28).

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  • Selig Says He Is Proud Of Umps During Playoffs Despite Miscues

    Selig Feels Expanding Instant Replay
    Would Break Pace Of The Game
    MLB Commissioner Bud Selig said while there have been several missed calls during the postseason, he is “proud of what the umpires have done.” Selig: “We had a little series of bad calls, there's no question about that. … There were very controversial calls. Actually, a couple of them weren't so controversial, they were just wrong. But I have faith in the umpires.” CBS’ David Letterman noted “everybody's talking about the umpiring in the playoffs,” to which Selig said, “Why am I not shocked that that was your first question.” Letterman: “It's all anybody was talking about.” Selig said of implementing broader usage of instant replay, "I'm not afraid of change. We've made more changes in the last 17 years than ever before. But … baseball's a game of pace, and when you go to a game, you can't have calls being looked at, pitchers waiting on the mound for three or four minutes. It breaks the pace of the game” (“The Late Show,” CBS, 10/28).

    NEEDS TO BE LOOKED AT GOING FORWARD: Fox’ Joe Buck said while he did not believe expanded use of replay should be implemented during the World Series, “it needs to be looked at going forward in 2010 during the postseason alone.” Buck: “I just think there's too much technology out there and sophisticated viewers that look at these things in high definition and I think expect people to get it right. Maybe umpires after awhile would embrace knowing that they had that security blanket, that they didn't have to wake up the next day after a 10-1 game like they did after Game Four of the ALCS and read and look at all the missed calls” (“PTI,” ESPN, 10/28). L.A. Times columnist Bill Plaschke: "Bud Selig has done some great things for baseball. But for his legacy right now, I think it hangs in the balance with instant replay." Denver Post columnist Woody Paige said, "There has never been a lower time for baseball in regard to its umpiring. We've seen over the years in World Series mistakes made, but we haven't seen in the postseason mistake after mistake after mistake. Come into the new technology, new millennium, Bud” ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 10/28).

    THIS IS HOW WE DO IT: In N.Y., Mike Puma notes the umpires working Phillies-Yankees World Series Game One "got one right," as a "group discussion in last night's fifth inning led the umpires to overturning an initial missed call." Phillies SS Jimmy Rollins caught an infield bloop, then threw to first for a double play, and replays confirmed that the umpires were "correct in their reversal." Crew Chief Gerry Davis said, "We got together to make sure we were all on the same page." Puma notes it "certainly was a step in the right direction for the umps during a postseason marred by bad calls" (N.Y. POST, 10/29).

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  • League Notes

    USA TODAY's Brennan Feels Selig Is Wrong
    To Welcome McGwire Back Into League
    USA TODAY's Christine Brennan writes MLB Commissioner Bud Selig "blew his lines" by welcoming former MLBer Mark McGwire back as the Cardinals hitting coach. Selig "shouldn't have welcomed McGwire with open arms," and instead should have "sent a message throughout baseball ... that McGwire's stunning lack of cooperation in the nation's struggle to address the scourge of steroids would face serious consequences." Brennan: "To steal an overused line, Selig should tell McGwire that it's time to finally start talking about the past" (USA TODAY, 10/29).

    OVER THE HILL: The attorney for Vikings DTs Kevin and Pat Williams said that the two have "not been asked to testify at a hearing before Congress next week" regarding the NFL's StarCaps dispute, correcting a comment from earlier yesterday when he said that "his clients would appear." U.S. House Committee on Government Reform spokesperson Karen Ligthfoot said, "We do not expect them to be invited." NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith will testify before the committee (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 10/29).

    GOLDEN GOAL: YAHOO SPORTS' Martin Rogers writes the "stories and subplots offered up" by this year's MLS Playoffs, which begin tonight, "deserve more than just a passing interest." Previous incarnations "have been underwhelming," but things are "setting up for an intriguing November, offering proof that MLS is on the right track in its attempt to combine a product that appeals to a domestic market without compromising soccer's long-held traditions." The "resurgence of the Los Angeles Galaxy, helped by a revitalized David Beckham, adds some genuine star power to the playoffs" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 10/29).

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