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MLB owners will begin their two-day quarterly owners meeting today in Paradise Valley, Ariz., with preparation for the upcoming CBA negotiations with the MLBPA again at the top of the agenda. No significant formal action items from the owners are expected, but much like owners' meetings throughout '10, discussion toward the upcoming labor talks will be paramount. The current five-year accord expires after the '11 season. As been the case for the past year, MLB Commissioner Bud Selig has invited team GMs to take part in the meetings, as many of the discussions up for negotiation with the players involve onfield-related subjects such as the First-Year Player Draft and postseason format. Selig tomorrow afternoon will also convene another session of his Special Committee for On-Field Matters. That panel will continue to discuss an expanded postseason format and enlarged instant replay, though no changes will be enacted for the '11 season and instead will be collectively bargained for '12 and beyond (Eric Fisher, SportsBusiness Journal). MLB.com's Barry Bloom reported both an expanded playoffs and instant replay are “being discussed at the committee level,” but there is “insufficient time to implement any changes prior to the March 31 start of the regular season.” Selig said, "There continues to be fruitful talks about it, but they're definitely off the table for this year. Really, I think that's what we've been saying all along." Selig added expanded use of instant replay is “still under discussion, but there's nothing new" (MLB.com, 1/11).
Browns LB Scott Fujita and Ravens CB Domonique Foxworth during a conference call yesterday said that "concerns about injuries and insurance make the league's push to switch to an 18-game regular season a major sticking point in negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement," according to Howard Fendrich of the AP. Fujita: "To me, right now, as things stand, 18 games, the way it's being proposed, is completely unacceptable. ... I see more and more players get injured every season. ... It feels like a slap in the face." Foxworth: "We're not willing to budge on health and safety, and we'd like to gain some more ground in ways we can protect former players and current players." Both players are members of the NFLPA Exec Committee. NFLPA Assistant Exec Dir for External Affairs George Atallah yesterday said that 352 active players "went on injured reserve at some point during this season, each missing an average of 9½ games." But NFL Senior VP/PR Greg Aiello said that constitutes just a "a few hundred" of the nearly 2,600 players in the league. Meanwhile, Fendrich noted "right around the time the call was beginning," the NFL launched NFLHealthandSafety.com, a website the league "touted as 'providing information on the various ways' it's addressing those issues" (AP, 1/11). Foxworth spent this season on injured reserve, and he said, "We had a daughter five weeks ago and they're threatening to cut off my insurance when March hits. I'm on IR. I've given up my body to help advance the league." Fujita and Foxworth also were asked "whether there would be interest in forming a new league," and the question "appeared to catch them off guard." Atallah interjected, "Once the contract expires, all bets are off." Fujita: "It absolutely could happen" (BALTIMORESUN.com, 1/11).
NAMING NAMES: Fujita during the call "called Cowboys owner Jerry Jones 'irresponsible' for some comments he made about the labor situation." In an interview that aired during an extended online version of CBS' "60 Minutes" last month, Jones said that a lockout "wouldn't be devastating." Fujita: "For him to say something like that to me is one of the more irresponsible things I've heard through this whole process. Unfortunately that's just where it's at." Fujita added, "Sometimes you get the sense that the owners really are not all that unified in this whole thing. I think on one hand the commissioner has got some heat on him to get a deal done and I think he's going to feel that heat more and more from the fans especially. But I think a lot of people are fine letting this thing run down at least until the 11th hour and again try to squeeze the players into accepting a deal that's not fair to us" (ESPNDALLAS.com, 1/11). ESPN's Adam Schefter said, "The bottom line to all this is we are coming closer and closer to the new league year starting on midnight on March 4, and there's an agreement nowhere -- nowhere -- in sight right now" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 1/12). YAHOO SPORTS' Doug Farrar wrote, "You can definitely consider this conference call a specific landmark in NFL labor negotiations. We're about to go down the rabbit hole" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 1/11).
THE LEAGUE'S VIEW: In a special to ESPN.com, Aiello wrote of the NFL, "The system does not work as well as it could from the standpoint of the teams. The time has arrived for adjustments that create an opportunity to make the game and league better. The crux of the difference is this: The union accepts the status quo, while the NFL wants to improve and secure the future of the game for the benefit of fans and players." Aiello added, "The new CBA is about the future of the game and doing what's necessary to improve the quality of the game. ... The status quo is not acceptable because it will not allow us to build the game with the players as we have done so successfully in the past" (ESPN.com, 1/11). The NFLPA's Atallah shared the union's view in a special to ESPN.com last week.
Polian Preparing For Several Different Scenarios Regarding Labor Situation
MLB owners will begin their two-day quarterly owners meeting today in Paradise Valley, Ariz., with preparation for the upcoming CBA negotiations with the MLBPA again at the top of the agenda. No significant formal action items from the owners are expected, but much like owners' meetings throughout '10, discussion toward the upcoming labor talks will be paramount. The current five-year accord expires after the '11 season. As has been the case for the past year, MLB Commissioner Bud Selig has invited team GMs to take part in the meetings, as many of the discussions up for negotiation with the players involve on-field subjects such as the First-Year Player Draft and postseason format. Selig tomorrow afternoon will also convene another session of his Special Committee for On-Field Matters. That panel will continue to discuss an expanded postseason format and enlarged instant replay, though no changes will be enacted for the '11 season and instead will be collectively bargained for '12 and beyond (Eric Fisher, SportsBusiness Journal). MLB.com's Barry Bloom reported both an expanded playoffs and instant replay are “being discussed at the committee level,” but there is “insufficient time to implement any changes prior to the March 31 start of the regular season.” Selig said, "There continues to be fruitful talks about it, but they're definitely off the table for this year. Really, I think that's what we've been saying all along." Selig added expanded use of instant replay is “still under discussion, but there's nothing new" (MLB.com, 1/11).
PON DE REPLAY: YAHOO SPORTS' Kevin Kaduk wrote it "just doesn't make much sense" not to expand the use of instant replay after the Jim Joyce-Armando Galarraga incident and a "few more controversial calls last postseason." The decision comes as MLB "features loads of TV angles for every game and has been progressive in some other areas of technology with MLB.com and its apps on the iPhone and iPad" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 1/11).
The Izod IndyCar Series this year will add four LED leaderboards at street courses, reduce the minimum age for garage access to nine, and build a small portable stage that crew members can use to explain what fans see in the garage. The moves are part of a series of steps designed to improve the at-track experience for fans and raise awareness of drivers, said IndyCar Series CEO Randy Bernard. "We want to give our fans value,” Bernard said. “We want to say, 'We've had a tough eight years but give us a chance and let us show you our sport again.'" He said that leaderboards were not visible at street courses, so the series is adding four this year to showcase driver standings, individual drivers and sponsors. He said he wanted to lower the minimum age required for garage access from 18 to 9 years old, so that kids could "see and smell and hear the amazing cars." Bernard came up with the idea of building a portable stage that would go from garage-to-garage because as he walked around the garage last year, he wanted to know more about what crews were doing. The stage will have a 50-inch monitor and a sound system so that crew chiefs and crew members can stand on it and explain the work being done on a car. In addition to those enhancements, Bernard said the series will offer more elaborate driver introductions before each race. He added, "We want to get these drivers up more and make them bigger than life" (Tripp Mickle, SportsBusiness Journal).
SHIFTING INTO A HIGHER GEAR: The AP reports during a State of IndyCar meeting yesterday in Indianapolis, Bernard revealed that "oval races will include double-file restarts" this season, giving the open-wheel series "a distinctly NASCAR flavor." Bernard: "I'm not afraid to steal an idea. It if works, great." Prior to the meeting, Bernard revealed that IndyCar plans to open an office in Santa Monica, and it "didn't take long for Hollywood style to meet Indianapolis." As the annual meeting began, "lights were dimmed, music was turned up and drivers walked in through fog." Bruce Springsteen's "Born In The USA" "blared when the first of seven American drivers took the stage." In addition, IndyCar yesterday also unveiled "two new slogans for this season." The series will use "Real Drivers, Real Racecars, Real Fast," while the Indianapolis 500 is being dubbed, "The most important race in history" (AP, 1/11).
A CHANGE IS GONNA COME? IMS Productions Senior VP & GM Robby Greene yesterday indicated that the series with "long and rich ties to ABC has been told, presumably by NBC, to 'hold off' on contract negotiations." In Indianapolis, Curt Cavin notes "IndyCar is tied to ABC" through the '12 season, but all that "means is that ABC would have the right of first refusal if another network wanted to televise races." Nobody "within the IndyCar community is looking to sever ties with ABC, which will broadcast five IndyCar races this season, including the Indianapolis 500, but having a second network involved would be beneficial." IndyCar's deal with Versus has "not been well-received by many companies looking to sponsor aspects of the series" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 1/12).
UEFA President Michel Platini yesterday warned "top clubs that they will 'face the music' if they fail to rein in their spending as a new report showed more than half of Europe's 655 top-flight clubs reported a loss in 2009," according to Jonathan Clegg of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. Europe's top-division teams' total revenue "climbed to a record" $15.1B (all figures U.S.) in '09, but UEFA officials said that net losses almost doubled to $1.56B and that there "was 'massive' spending on player wages." The UEFA report found that "top clubs spent an average of 64% of their income on wages in 2009," with 73 European clubs spending "more than 100% of their revenue on wages." Platini "insisted that loss-making clubs would be excluded" from the UEFA Champions League, soccer's "most lucrative competition, if they do not abide by UEFA's complex new 'Financial Fair Play' rules." UEFA General Secretary Gianni Infantino described the new rules as an "indirect salary cap." He said that a panel of UEFA officials "will monitor club finances and recommend sanctions." Under the rules, European clubs are allowed a total loss of $6.49M in the "first three years of assessment, or up to" $58.4M "if a wealthy owner makes a one-off donation to wipe out losses." UEFA then "will allow progressively smaller losses from 2015 before the break-even rule becomes mandatory" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 1/12). The FINANCIAL TIMES' Roger Blitz notes 11 clubs "taking part in this season's UEFA competitions would have fallen foul of the new regulations" (FINANCIAL TIMES, 1/12).