SBD/Issue 76/Leagues & Governing Bodies

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  • Next NFL CBA Bargaining Session Set For Tomorrow In N.Y.

    Smith's Letter Touches On
    Rookie Salary Cap, Blood Testing
    The NFL and the NFLPA will hold their first formal bargaining session of the new year tomorrow in N.Y. to discuss a new labor agreement in which owners are asking players to give back about 18% of the compensation they receive under the current labor deal. The session will mark the ninth time the two sides have met since June to hammer out a new deal, in which the owners are seeking significant economic concessions from players. The NFL rolled out its economic proposal in early November, and both sides had agreed to keep the details secret, but ESPN obtained a letter NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith sent to player reps and reported the details of the internal union memo last night. The owners are asking for a rookie wage scale and for expenses to be deducted from their costs, including costs of building new stadiums. Based on the proposal, the union is able to calculate that the owners want players to take a pay cut of about 18%, sources said. A management source would not comment on the details of the proposal last night (Liz Mullen, SportsBusiness Journal). ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported in addition to the rookie salary cap, Smith's letter also touched on "blood testing, benefit cuts, a nearly 20[%] 'giveback' and a work stoppage." Smith wrote, "We proposed to address the rookie issue with a 'Proven Performance' plan that would redirect $200[M] from rookie cost to veterans, cap rookies to three-year contracts so 'busts' were out of the league quickly, and provided incentives to lowest spending teams to remain competitive by forcing money back to the vets on those teams." Mortensen cited union sources as indicating that the "likelihood of a rookie hard cap being in place by 2011 is remote because, as Smith inferred again, management is preparing for a lockout that season." However, a management source said that owners are "considering making a proposal that would make a rookie cap effective immediately, in April, as an addendum to the current labor agreement, even if the two sides fail to reach agreement on an extension." Sources also said that the union "has calculated that owners spent just 51[%] of revenues on player costs in 2009, in spite of the belief that they are mandated to spend almost 60[%]" (ESPN.com, 1/3).

    STILL HOLDING OUT HOPE: Packers President & CEO Mark Murphy said he is "hopeful that we can reach an agreement with the players" before the salary cap is removed for the '10 season. Murphy: "It's not going to be easy, but at the end of the day, I'm hopeful we'll create a way." In Green Bay, Tony Walter noted any developments on the labor situation "likely will remain under the public radar." Murphy: "I don't think fans will notice anything in the short term, except maybe in some of the (player) signings." He added that it will "seem like business as usual on the football front" (GREEN BAY PRESS-GAZETTE, 1/2). In Pittsburgh, Prine & Brown reported 439 NFLers will "hit the market as unrestricted or restricted free agents" this offseason. It remains to be seen if "big-market franchises ... could 'buy' a championship by plucking a handful of the best remaining talent from lower-revenue clubs" during an uncapped year. However, the final eight playoff teams "only will be able to sign a free agent for every one they lose." Each NFL team will receive an "extra 'transition' tag to allow them to keep the rights of another valuable player" (Pittsburgh TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 12/31).

    THE SILENCE BEFORE THE STORM? ESPN’s Adam Schefter last week on “Mike & Mike in the Morning” predicted there would be a work stoppage in the NFL in ’11, and today he said, “What was alarming to me about that is usually when you say something that can be construed as semi-controversial or inaccurate, you very quickly hear from people. They call you right away and say, ‘You may want to correct this on air. That’s not right.' I never heard one word about the fact that we were mentioning that there may not be football in 2011, that as it stands today, there won’t be football. Nobody said anything about it, and that struck me as odd and peculiar and unnerving and unsettling” (“Mike & Mike in the Morning,” ESPN2, 1/4).

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  • Goodell To Push For Incentives For Teams To Play Starters

    Goodell Looking For Solution To Playoff-Bound
    Teams Resting Starters At End Of Regular Season
    NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will "push hard on the Competition Committee to develop solutions that will give teams incentive to play their healthy starters through the end of the regular season beginning in 2010," according to league sources cited by ESPN's Chris Mortensen. The incentives "could include extra draft picks." Mortensen noted NBC studio analyst and former coach Tony Dungy told Goodell he "believes coaches wouldn't object to such decisions being taken out of their hands." Mortensen: "Goodell also had a cordial phone conversation with Colts Owner Jim Irsay and John Madden, who is now a special advisor to the commissioner on football matters, who suggested that coaches should be required to declare before a game which players will play or be removed." Sources indicated that Goodell "really believes that for fans who buy" season tickets, teams not playing their healthy starters is a "broken trust, maybe even more distasteful than what happens in preseason" ("Sunday NFL Countdown," ESPN, 1/3). SI’s Peter King said Goodell “is not just disturbed” by teams resting players but “angry about it." King: "He’s angry because six of the 16 games (yesterday) on a regular-season week could have been used by a team for something other than trying their best to win the game.” Goodell "wants some way to make this more of a level playing field so that the fans, who pay regular-season prices, don’t see a preseason game in Week 17” (“FNIA,” NBC, 1/3).

    PLAYING CRUCIAL TO GAME'S INTEGRITY: Goodell appeared in the broadcast booth during CBS' coverage of Steelers-Dolphins yesterday and said the "integrity of our game is the most important thing we do." Goodell: "We want our players to play, and our teams to win. I think we have to do more structurally to incent people to win and to play. ... How do you incent people to do it or reward them? I don't think you can punish people for not playing. The other thing that has to happen is you have to make it clear to the public that you're not going to be playing somebody, just like we do with our injury reports." But Goodell added he does not blame the Colts for resting their starters in Week 16 against the Jets, a game that could have made the Colts 15-0. Goodell: "I understand exactly what they did, but we've got to create that incentive" (Steelers-Dolphins, CBS, 1/3).

    NOT WORTH THE INCENTIVES? The Saints rested starters for yesterday's game against the Panthers after clinching the No. 1 seed in the NFC, and Saints coach Sean Payton said the No. 1 seed is "something that teams earn." Payton: "The idea of getting a draft pick and having your quarterback not healthy for a divisional playoff game doesn't sound real appealing to me" (New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE, 1/4). Dungy said he does not believe "there’s enough compensation" to keep starters in games after teams' playoff seeds have been set. Noting the season-ending injury to Patriots WR Wes Welker during the team's game yesterday against the Texans, Dungy said, "Look at the injuries today. ... How many draft choices am I going to get to lose Wes Welker in a meaningless game? It wouldn’t matter to me as a coach" (“FNIA,” NBC, 1/3). CBS' Charley Casserly said during his stint on the Competition Committee, the committee "could not ever figure out a rule where you could enforce to tell the teams, 'You've got to play the players.'" Casserly: "It's just not enforceable." But Casserly added, "I think you could incentivize teams playing harder at the end of the season by ... reseeding the playoffs based on the best record" ("The NFL Today," CBS, 1/3). In San Diego, Nick Canepa writes the idea of giving teams that have made the playoffs draft picks to play their starters is "so idiotic, it's stupid." Canepa: "The have-nots are going to OK giving the haves more draft choices so they can get better and beat their brains in some more? The NFL is too smart to be so silly" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 1/4).

    THE TEAM'S PREROGATIVE: Titans coach and Competition Committee member Jeff Fisher said teams "have a right to do what they choose or see fit from the standpoint of what's best for the club" when it comes to making the Super Bowl. Fisher: "I think that's always going to be the case" (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/3). In Pittsburgh, Scott Brown wrote, "Teams like the Colts, Patriots and Bengals have earned the right to do what they please in their final game -- or games in the case of Indianapolis" (TRIBLIVE.com, 1/3). In San Diego, Tim Sullivan wrote under the header, "Risking Starters Not Worth Gamble" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 1/1). However, one AFC coach feels the Jets may have gotten an "unfair advantage by playing two teams in the last two weeks that already had playoff spots secured and weren't playing the way they'd play a regular game." The coach said, "It's a matter of fairness. I don't know what can be done, but I'd like to see every team that plays a game with playoff implications have to play their best players" (SI.com, 1/4).

    Welker's Injury Could Cause More Teams To
    Take A Tentative Approach With Week 17
    FIFTH PRESEASON GAME: In Ft. Worth, Scott McCoy writes, "When exactly did it become OK to treat the final week of the regular season like the final week of the preseason?" Goodell "understands there is a bit of a credibility issue at stake for the league with fans who buy season tickets for eight games, then are sometimes treated to seven games and a glorified exhibition." But McCoy writes the "worst news of the day" was Welker's injury, which "means that across the league, coaches and general managers saw their shadows, and we're guaranteed six more winters of bleak Week 17s" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 1/4). But the WALL STREET JOURNAL's Jason Gay writes, "The question remains: Was it really necessary for Mr. Welker to suit up for the last game." It is "easy to do this with the benefit of hindsight" -- had the Patriots beaten the Texans and Welker remained healthy, Patriots coach Bill Belichick "would have been lauded for his courage in securing the Patriots the No. 3 slot, since the Patriots have been putrid playing on the road" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 1/4).

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  • U.S. Soccer Federation Decides Not To Sanction NASL, USL

     
    The U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF) last week "chose not to sanction" the upstart North American Soccer League (NASL) or the existing USL for the '10 season, according to Tom Timmermann of the ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH. The USSF "gave the leagues seven days to try to work out an interim solution for 2010." The USL, which is down to four teams, is "suing three NASL teams, saying it has violated contracts by jumping leagues." The NASL has 10 teams, "most of which were formerly in the USL." USSF President Sunil Gulati: "In the best interest of soccer in the United States, we decided to not sanction either league at this point. However, we did encourage both leagues to come together in the next week and attempt to develop another plan which would allow a single league to be approved on a provisional basis." Timmermann noted what the USSF "most likely wants is for the leagues to reach a settlement on the lawsuits." It is "possible the leagues could reach an agreement to operate under one umbrella next season." The NASL issued a statement "expressing optimism the problems will be solved and the league would start play in April" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 12/31). In Vancouver, Marc Weber noted nine teams have "committed to the NASL for the 2010 season, but the USSF determined that neither league was able to meet U.S. Soccer's minimum requirement of eight 'viable' teams for the upcoming year." The NASL Vancouver Whitecaps "are jumping to" MLS in '11, so this "drawn-out dispute is surely as annoying for the club as it is confusing for fans." But Whitecaps President Bob Lenarduzzi Wednesday said that the franchise "remains committed to the NASL cause." Weber noted the NASL Montreal Impact "could also move to MLS at a future date" (Vancouver PROVINCE, 12/31).

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