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SBD/Jan. 17, 2011/Leagues and Governing BodiesPrint All
The NBA “is calling for all 30 clubs to offer a specific interest rate as part of their season-ticket refund policies for any games lost due to a work stoppage,” according to John Lombardo of SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL. NBA teams are about to begin their season-ticket renewal efforts, with "some teams hitting the market later this month." During the NBA’s '98-99 lockout, teams "offered season-ticket holders full ticket refunds plus 6 percent interest." The “planned refund approach is a noted departure from other league lockout ticket policies, which typically have not carried leaguewide specific interest rates as part of the ticket refund.” If a fan buys an NBA season-ticket package and games are lost because of a lockout, “the team would pay a full refund plus interest on a monthly basis.” The league "will determine the interest rate to be paid along with the ticket refunds closer to a work stoppage, but it will reflect prevailing market rates, which currently range" between 1-2%. One team ticket rep said, “What the league doesn’t want is the wild west, where teams offer a wide range of interest rates.” In addition to the league’s interest-payment policy, “teams will be able to offer incentives to renewing season-ticket holders to counter any possibility of missed games.” Like the NFL, NBA teams “will be allowed to craft their own policies on premium inventory” (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 1/17 issue).
SILVER SAYS STOPPAGE NOT INEVITABLE: In Houston, Jonathan Feigen reported NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver "disputed the assumption that a work stoppage is inevitable." However, Silver did indicate that no meetings between the league and the NBPA "are scheduled, that there has been no movement since the owners' proposal a year ago and union counter-proposal last spring, and could only cite the history of avoided work stoppages as a reason for optimism." Silver: "It's not inevitable. We have a long-time relationship with [NBPA Exec Dir] Billy Hunter and other union officers. ... We've been forthcoming with our financials and I'd like to believe they understand the position we find ourselves. I don't think anything is inevitable and there is a lot of time left to get a deal done." Silver added that any meetings between the two sides "during All-Star weekend would 'make sense' but be 'largely symbolic'" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 1/15).
While NFL owners meet for their "monthly labor-strategy session" tomorrow in Atlanta, about 35 new NFL player reps and alternative player reps will meet at NFLPA HQs in DC "for orientation" before they "meet and lobby key politicians on Capitol Hill," according to Peter King of SI. The players' move comes "in case they need friends in high places when the two sides are at impasse and Congress debates getting involved." King writes after the rhetoric between the two sides last week, the "sabers are rattling" (SI.com, 1/17). Meanwhile, Fox' Jay Glazer reported the league and the union "very quietly ... started talking to set-up another negotiating meeting," which will be held "this coming week or early next week." There have been "absolutely no talks the last six, seven weeks" ("Fox NFL Sunday," Fox, 1/16). In Denver, Mike Klis wrote in the "coming weeks, expect rotating statements of optimism from each camp," and there could even be a "well-publicized negotiation meeting or two." Klis: "Little will come of it. It's unlikely players will be seen at their team's headquarters come spring and early summer." The NFL's current labor situation "is eerily similar to the infamous Major League Baseball shutdown of 1994" (DENVER POST, 1/16). In Boston, Greg Bedard wrote, "If this past week of schoolboy bickering was any indication, the NFL is headed for a long and contentious negotiation once the current deal ends March 3" (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/16).
18 GAMES IS JUST TOO MUCH: The subject of an 18-game regular season was debated by several PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER reporters, and Ashley Fox wrote, "Adding two games to the NFL regular season is simply asinine. ... With an 18-game schedule, the quality of the football is going to decline and the number of players on IR is going to increase." Frank Fitzpatrick wrote, "Adding two more NFL games is not only asinine, it's cruel and unusual punishment. ... There ought to be countless ways of enhancing revenue without tinkering with the integrity of the seasons." John Gonzalez wrote, "Just cut out two of the preseason games. No need to make them into regular-season games unless the NFL wants to replace the trainers and assign M.A.S.H. units to each team" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 1/16).
AS GOOD AS IT GETS? The Wall Street Journal last week asked if this is “as good as it gets for the NFL" considering the record ratings, the current labor situation and potential safety issues. ESPN’s Michael Wilbon said, “The initial reaction, given the popularity, the massive appeal of the NFL for so many years now and being the national pastime, is no. The NFL could only become more popular.” Wilbon: “But that's not necessarily so. … What is the National Football League product going to look like if you restrict hitting to the point where people are turned off and people don't get the violence they crave? This is a legitimate question and it's one that the NFL has got to be worried about." ESPN’s Tony Kornheiser: "That's a delicate balance. A restricting of the hitting but also then you have an 18-game schedule and more people are going to get hit and more people are going to go out. I think it's perfect the way it is. I think it will continue to grow. … I don't even think that labor can hurt it. I think the moment they come back, everybody comes back with them." Wilbon: "How long might it take the 18-game season to just wear people down? … The other thing is they have to curtail the hitting” ("PTI," ESPN, 1/14).
A COACHES UNION? CBS' Charley Casserly reported NFL coaches at next month’s NFL Combine “are going to get together and there's going to be a straw poll taken about whether to form a union." Casserly: "One of the questions is, Who would be eligible to be in the union? Head coaches wouldn't be, coordinators is a question, all other assistants would be in that union. One of the things they want to talk to the owners about is this: We don't want a situation where the teams can go out and interview coaches for a position that they already have a coach under contract for. Coaches are bothered by that, but … the owners also I think got an idea too. How about a salary cap for the coaches? That's something they might bring up" ("The NFL Today," CBS, 1/15).
The Capitals, Ducks, Kings, Oilers, Rangers and Sabres have been asked by the NHL to "partake in next season's Premiere Games" in Europe, according to sources cited by Pierre LeBrun of ESPN.com. The six teams "still haven't signed off on it and are contemplating the league invite." The "tentative plan is for six NHL games in six cities." The Rangers played in Europe in '08, but a source said that it "makes sense for the Rangers to go again since Madison Square Garden, undergoing impressive renovations/improvements next summer, won't be ready for the Rangers until mid-October." LeBrun noted "perhaps the most intriguing possibility is the Caps playing a game in Moscow." LeBrun: "You know how much Washington captain Alex Ovechkin would love that" (ESPN.com, 1/15).
TEAM-BY-TEAM: In Buffalo, John Vogl noted the NHL's "main desire with the Premiere Games is to grow the game outside North America," so Sabres LW Jochen Hecht, who is from Germany, and Sabres LW Thomas Vanek, a native of Austria, playing in Europe "presumably would be a bonus for the European fans and the Sabres" (BUFFALO NEWS, 1/16). In Edmonton, Jim Matheson noted the Oilers have "never pushed that European envelope until now, with the emergence" of LWs Magnus Paajarvi and Linus Omark, who are both from Sweden. The Oilers presumably would be "most attractive to play in Stockholm." Oilers GM Steve Tambellini: "We certainly support the league and their initiatives and would embrace such an opportunity. But it's a league decision and the talking is certainly in the very preliminary stage" (EDMONTON JOURNAL, 1/16). Meanwhile, in Calgary, Eric Francis reported the Flames "were asked by the NHL" to be one of the six teams, but the Flames "respectfully opted out." Flames President & CEO Ken King: "We need to focus on what's important and get ourselves back on track" (CALGARY SUN, 1/16).
UFL Commissioner Michael Huyghue in a message to fans Friday said that league owners in a BOD meeting two weeks ago agreed to fund an ’11 season because “they believe in the UFL and they believe in the progress” that the league has made. Huyghue wrote, “The reality is that most new businesses experience similar financial hardships. ... We are focused on continuing to build and grow the UFL on our terms, with a view towards delivering on our promises to our fans -- including to play great football. So let’s allow the off-season to run its course. We will catch up on our bills and resolve any issues with our business partners in due course. I hope people will be rooting for the United Football League not against it” (UFL). In Virginia, Dave Fairbank noted the UFL in "a few short days last week folded and relocated a franchise, and was sued by its most visible partner to recoup a multi-million dollar loan." UFL officials "decided to fold the Florida Tuskers" and move the franchise to Virginia. Meanwhile, Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban "filed a lawsuit in federal court to get the league to repay" a $5M loan. Huyghue said, "If we struggle along the way, if we stumble along the way, if we have financial problems, so be it. The point is and our focus is to continue to grow it, to make good, sound decisions and to keep our focus on providing football, and we continue to believe that we can do it." Huyghue said it "wasn't that Orlando failed" that prompted the move to relocate the Tuskers. Huyghue: "It was that even with the expectation of its growth in attendance, that the venue we had in Orlando [the Florida Citrus Bowl] was never going to be sufficient to get the kind of atmosphere we want at our games." Huyghue said that the league "still aims to field a sixth team for the 2011 season" (Newport News DAILY PRESS, 1/15).
WAITING TO BE PAID: SPORTBUSINESS JOURNAL's Liz Mullen notes UFL players are "still waiting to be paid for that league's championship game, which was played in late November." Las Vegas Locos DB Kevin Hobbs was "told that he won't get his check for that game until the end of this month." Hobbs said that "he received his paycheck for the Locos' last regular-season game, played Nov. 20, on Jan. 7 after receiving three e-mails from UFL officials telling him the check would be coming soon." He said that "it would be one thing if he had agreed to play for no pay." Hobbs: "I didn't sign up to work for free." The UFL "intends to play another season" in '11, but Hobbs "wonders about it." Hobbs: "They're saying there is going to be a season this year, and I am thinking, 'How is there going to be a season when you can't pay money due from last season?'" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 1/17 issue).