SBD/Issue 84/Leagues & Governing Bodies

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  • MLB GMs Have Productive Session With Selig At Owners' Meetings

    Selig Says Meeting With GMs
    Was "Very Constructive"
    MLB GMs, participating for the first time at quarterly owners' meetings being held in Paradise Valley, Arizona, conducted a five-hour session yesterday, nearly half of which was with MLB Commissioner Bud Selig. Neither Selig nor the GMs disclosed the specifics of the lengthy meeting. But all parties involved branded the session as a candid, open, and productive dialogue. The annual First-Year Player Draft, not surprisingly, is believed to have enveloped a sizable chunk of the meeting. Several team owners and Selig have previously opined in favor of expanding the draft to include players from around the world and creating a salary slotting system for those picks. Both matters, already the subject of vigorous debate and interest around the industry, are expected to become significant matters in labor negotiations with the union next year. Selig said he intends to make the interchange between GMs and league executives a regular occurrence. "I enjoyed this immensely. This was a very constructive meeting, and I firmly believe the GMs should be part of what we talk about here," Selig said. "The more communication that you have and the more they hear each other, the better chance we have to solve problems without any trauma."

    HAPPY TO BE INCLUDED: Twenty-eight of the 30 GMs attended the session, with A's GM Billy Beane and Dodgers GM Ned Colleti unable to attend due to personal matters. Yankees GM Brian Cashman said, "It was an honor that the commissioner chose to spend his time with us that way, and it was really just good old-fashioned baseball talk" (Eric Fisher, SportsBusiness Journal). Cashman added, “I think it really worked. There’s not many times when you can sit down with the Commissioner.” Indians Exec VP & GM Mark Shapiro: “The forum for us was tremendous. It was great for us to communicate on bigger picture issues and have an exchange of ideas. Having him consult with us and seek our opinions was uplifting” (MLB.com, 1/13). Braves President John Schuerholz: “I don’t know what it was that prompted him to do this, but it was a good idea. It was stimulating for the entire industry.” MLB.com’s Hal Bodley wrote Selig likely “talked about how player signings affect the entire industry.” Bodley: “Some are good, some are foolish and that’s probably what he said” (MLB.com, 1/13).

    POSTSEASON SCHEDULE, REPLAY: Selig said there is no solution yet on fixing the oft-debated postseason schedule and reducing the number of off days, something the commissioner vowed to do in November and is among the key topics being addressed by his newly formed on-field task force that meets for the first time later today. "This is not as easy as it looks," Selig said. "I didn't say we couldn't do better. I do have some ideas. Yes, there are days we can eliminate, and should." Selig also said he intends to bring up expanding instant replay during the task force meeting (Fisher). MLB.com’s Tom Singer noted the topic of instant replay “hardly arose” during yesterday’s meetings. Several GMs “declined to get into specifics discussed behind closed doors and deferred questions about the future of instant replay to Selig” and VP/Baseball Operations Jimmie Lee Solomon. Solomon, when asked whether wider instant replay would be a talking point at the meetings, said, “No. It won’t be a topic here” (MLB.com, 1/13).

    Pirates Have Built Dominican Complex To
    Better Facilitate Int'l Player Development
    MAKING SMALL TALK: Selig said he did not expect additional small-market teams to come under union pressure following the surprise joint announcement Tuesday that the Marlins would raise their major league payroll prior to the opening of their Miami ballpark. "There are a lot of small-market clubs spending a lot of money, frankly," Selig said. "I think that was a situation with Florida that we've been working on for a long time, and I think it was a good result." Added Pirates Owner Bob Nutting, whose team is also regularly among the lowest spenders in the league on major-league payroll: "I think the fixation just as the major league club's single-number payroll doesn't tell the whole story for the Pirates of where we're investing and how we're building the team. I'm comfortable what we're doing is the right thing for Pittsburgh." The Pirates in recent years have spiked spending on scouting, draft bonuses and international player development efforts.

    SELIG ON MCGWIRE: Selig expounded slightly on his prior formal statement on Mark McGwire's admission of steroid use, one in which he said he was "pleased that McGwire has confronted his use of performance-enhancing substances as a player." Selig yesterday said, "My public statement, which I wrote over and over and over, says exactly how I feel on the matter. I just don't want to add to that. I painstakingly went over it." Selig added he drafted the statement while watching the Packers-Cardinals playoff game Sunday night, and that he knew about McGwire's past with steroids "beforehand, but not by much."

    YANKEE STADIUM GAME ON ICE: Yankees President Randy Levine said it was "highly unlikely" the new Yankee Stadium would host next year's NHL Winter Classic, due to the club's planned staging of a new bowl game at the ballpark on December 30, amplifying growing industry feelings in recent days to that effect. "There's been no decision, but I would have to think it's highly unlikely, certainly if they're sticking to the New Year's Day (scheduling)" Levine said. "We haven't heard anything from NBC or the NHL, and we're moving ahead with the bowl game." A big part of the success attained in Boston with the '10 Winter Classic stemmed from an early installation of the ice at Fenway Park and the multitude of events held at the temporary rink, factors that could not be repeated at Yankee Stadium this December and January (Fisher).

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  • NFL, Union Labor Talks Include Possible Rookie Contract Changes

     
    During the last two bargaining sessions for a new NFL CBA, the NFL made a formal proposal to implement a rookie wage scale for this April's NFL Draft, and the NFLPA responded with a counter-proposal on changing the structure of rookie deals starting this year, sources said. Under the NFL's proposal, one source said, players drafted in April would be paid a fixed amount based on the slot in which they are selected and "a significant portion" of the savings would be distributed to retired players by improving the current pension plan for retired players. The league made its proposal on January 5 during a bargaining session in N.Y. According to another source, the union responded to the league's proposal at a bargaining session in DC Tuesday with a counter-proposal to implement the union's plan of a maximum three-year rookie deal length for this year's draft, with two qualifications. Those two qualifications are that the current labor deal be extended for two years so there would be at least two years of labor peace, and that the owners match any savings the players would be giving to owners under the league's proposal, said the source. The monies contributed by both the owners and the players would be distributed to retired NFL players, under the union's counter-proposal, the source added. The league is expected to respond to the union's counter-proposal at the next session to be held next week. Sources requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly on the CBA negotiations.

    CHANGE CANNOT COME UNILATERALLY: The league does not have the ability to unilaterally change the terms and conditions of this year's draft because the NFL CBA does not expire until March '11. But the two sides could agree to make a deal at any time or change any part of the CBA at any time. It is not clear how likely it is that the two sides would reach agreement to substantially change the terms and conditions of the '10 NFL Draft, but if they were to agree, it would be a fairly shocking development. Industry sources expect that more college underclassman may declare for this year's draft, in part to avoid a rookie wage scale in '11. Most college players, as well as player agents, have not been expecting a major change in the system in this year's draft. The implementation of a rookie wage scale is a major plank in the league's overall economic proposal, but the other major plank is for players to agree to give owners credits for costs, which would reduce the salary cap by more than 18%.

    POSSIBILITY OF COMPROMISE UNCLEAR: The league is said to want the union to agree to the rookie scale, and then separately bargain the additional cost credits to the salary cap. It does not seem likely that the union would be willing to do that. It also does not seem likely that the league would agree to the union's plan, which would include the owners agreeing to extend the current deal and give up the additional cost credits, as well as other changes owners want.

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  • Auto Club Speedway Shortens, Renames October 10 Sprint Cup Race

    Auto Club Speedway Execs Hope Shortened
    Fall Race Will Help Increase Excitement
    Auto Club Speedway (ACS) yesterday said that it "would shorten" the October 10 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at the track "to 400 miles from 500," according to Jim Peltz of the L.A. TIMES. The race, which had been called the Pepsi 500, "will now be the Pepsi Max 400, reflecting both the shorter distance and a different soft drink mix marketed by title sponsor Pepsi." This is the first time a race has been shortened since '97, but a shorter race, "among other things, would force Cup drivers and their crews to shift strategy." ACS Dir of Communications David Talley: "We think this is going to create an enhanced level of competition." NASCAR Dir of Corporate Communications Ramsey Poston said that the track "requested the shorter race and NASCAR approved it." Poston: "If shortening the race makes it more exciting, then we're all for it." But he "cautioned that Auto Club Speedway's action would not cause a domino effect among other racetracks on the 36-race Cup schedule." Peltz notes Phoenix Int'l Raceway (PIR) yesterday said that it "plans to increase the distance of its spring Cup race to 600 kilometers from 500, or to 375 laps from 312" (L.A. TIMES, 1/14). YAHOO SPORTS' Busbee & Hart reported one of PIR's "defining elements is the way the track and the fan experience change as day turns to night." With the race starting an hour earlier than in previous years, it is set to end "right around the 7 p.m. sunset rather than cruising on into the night." The spring race at PIR "is the first night race on the NASCAR slate, and track officials note that NASCAR was amenable to the extension in order to preserve that distinction" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 1/13).

    MIXED SIGNALS: ESPN.com's David Newton wrote, "Many race fans and many of us who cover the sport have been screaming for shorter races to make the Sprint Cup Series more interesting and exciting." At least ACS President Gillian Zucker is "listening to the fans and to NASCAR, which is meeting with drivers and owners to discuss ways to improve the sport." But Newton wrote, "What does PIR do in the face of all of this? It adds laps." The move "seems like nothing more than a gimmick to sell tickets." Newton: "Just look at the promotion. The so-and-so 600, formerly known as the so-and-so 500, is offering the first 100 fans to purchase tickets in the grandstand the chance to drive six laps around the track" (ESPN.com, 1/13).

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  • Sale Of UFC Stake To UAE Company Aimed At Boosting Global Growth

    (l to r) Frank Fertitta, Dana White And Lorenzo
    Fertitta Hoping Deal Boosts UFC's Global Growth
    UFC parent Zuffa LLC's sale of 10% of the league to Abu Dhabi-based Flash Entertainment "will permit the UFC to do things unimaginable even five years ago," and the sport "will expand dramatically and that will lead to significantly better athletes opting to become mixed martial artists," according to Kevin Iole of YAHOO SPORTS. The move will make it "significantly easier for the UFC to make headway in countries like China and India, where it has been desperate to grab a foothold but had been doing little more than spinning its wheels." The UFC "has television programming in China, but it is on regional networks," and UFC Chair & CEO Lorenzo Fertitta "expects Flash to be able to help UFC quickly make inroads on the more influential national networks like CCTV." Fertitta: "If they want to go in and have a meeting with CCTV, they're going to get the meeting with the right guy at the right time vs. me going over there and trying to meet with a major broadcaster in China. It's two completely different meetings." Meanwhile, Iole noted the UFC is "expected to hold its first live event in Abu Dhabi on April 10," and the "fan base at that show will be more diverse than any previous UFC card" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 1/13).

    TALKING POINTS: Fertitta added, "We have been successful growing the brand, growing the business in these other countries so far, but we felt like in order to really accelerate our growth in the Middle East, in parts of Asia, China, where the Abu Dhabi government obviously has tremendous relationships, we felt like that they could help us get along a little faster than we have in the past" ("Power Lunch," CNBC, 1/12). Fertitta: "We feel like we have a product that travels very well and we've grown here domestically ... but now the idea is to export our product all over the world." Bloomberg TV's Greg Miles noted PPV is where the "vast majority" of the UFC's revenue is generated, and asked if the league can "grow pay-per-view as quickly in international markets." Fertitta: "There's not as many markets that are really pay-per-view ready from a technology standpoint. There are a few ... but the model for most international growth is going to more license fee or subscription type of revenue model" (Bloomberg TV, 1/12).

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  • League Notes

    In DC, Michael Wilbon writes the notion that the NFL is "better off not having" the Rooney Rule is "moronic." The Redskins and Seahawks have been called out for possibly not adhering to the spirit of the Rooney Rule with recent hires, and Wilbon writes, "If there is circumvention ... the NFL needs to punish the people who circumvent. The NFL is a play-by-the-rules organization. Players who wear their socks improperly get fined. If that's important enough for the NFL to punish, certainly ignoring a league rule designed to ensure fair hiring is important enough to punish" (WASHINGTON POST, 1/14).

    PARITY PARTY: ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun wrote four-and-a-half seasons into the NHL's CBA it is clear the "post-lockout NHL promised parity and delivered on that." However, the "flip side of that talent base being forcefully spread around 30 teams is that keeping a good team together has never been harder." Red Wings GM Ken Holland said, "Ultimately, a cap league is a cap league no matter what sport. And if you look at the NFL, Pittsburgh won the Super Bowl last year and missed the playoffs this season. It's hard to stay good for a long period of time. It's designed for parity; it's designed for competitive balance" (ESPN.com, 1/13).

    Whan Looking To Add Events
    To LPGA's '10 Schedule
    LOOKING AHEAD: New LPGA Commissioner Michael Whan said of his domestic and int'l goals for the tour, "Our brand had already gone global before I got here. I didn't come here to stunt any international growth. This will always be a U.S.-based tour that will showcase women's golf around the world." SI's Farrell Evans noted the LPGA "had 34 events in 2008, 27 in 2009" and has just 24 scheduled for 2010. Whan said, "I certainly want to put our players out more than 24 times. We'll add a couple of events to the existing 2010 schedule." Meanwhile, Whan said the LPGA needs "many partners," and there are "several brands that understand our value and the place we have in women's sports" (GOLF.com, 1/13).

    PLAYER SUPPORT: In London, Neil Harman reports top ATP World Tour players "have given their overwhelming backing to the proposed World Cup." Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Ivan Ljubicic are "as one that responsibility has to be taken to sustain the relevance of tennis to an increasingly discriminating, entertainment-conscious public." The move is "in stark contrast to the leaders of the sport." The Int'l Tennis Federation, which runs the Davis Cup, yesterday admitted that it "had seen the World Cup proposal and said that it has some 'interesting elements and timely branding given the current fascination with the 2010 FIFA World Cup.'" The ITF added, "It also has many challenges that must be faced if it is to succeed" (LONDON TIMES, 1/14).

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