SBD/January 27, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

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  • NASCAR Announces Simplified Points System For Upcoming Season

    France (l) and Helton unveil simplified points system for all three series

    NASCAR last night formally unveiled a simplified points system for all three of its series, which officials hope enables fans to calculate easily what drivers' results mean for season standings. The system will award the winning driver 43 points, the second place driver 42 points and drop with each finishing spot before awarding the last driver one point. NASCAR Chair & CEO Brian France said, "The most important reason (for the change) is simplicity. ... All motorsports has complicated formulas to add up to tracking someone in the standings. This is a straightforward way to do that." The winner will receive three bonus points, drivers will receive one bonus point for leading a lap, and the driver that leads the most laps will also receive an extra bonus point. The maximum points a driver could get would be 48, which pundits noted is five-time Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson’s car number. France also announced that NASCAR would tweak the qualification system for the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Instead of filling the 12-car field with the top 12 drivers in points, NASCAR will field it with the top 10 drivers in points and two drivers in the top 20 with the most wins in a season. France said he expects the tweak to make early season wins count more and encourage drivers to go for late-season wins at tracks like Atlanta and Richmond. France and NASCAR President Mike Helton fielded a number of questions from the media regarding whether or not the points system put enough emphasis on winning. France said that winning had to be important, but that the points system could not be about winning alone. France: "There’s still 43 teams out there and you can’t expect a great season to be based on wins alone." Helton added, "We want to give the fan an opportunity, whether that fan is five years old or 85 years old, an opportunity to ... look at the race track and in their mind understand the fact that one position on that race track is worth one point. And then we think they’ve got a better opportunity to be more engaged in the race by being able to understand that."

    TRACKING CHANGES: France rebuffed a question from the AP regarding what else NASCAR considered changing because "the list of things wrong with the sport is very, very long." France joked, "There’s a positive start to the season." He then said that the sanctioning body was satisfied with the level of racing competition and wanted to see television ratings and attendance improve. He added that NASCAR was setting itself up to "take the sport in a smart direction for many, many years." Responding to a question about why NASCAR continued to tweak its postseason format, Helton said, "The fundamentals of what we do is still the same. It’s race cars on race tracks. But everybody, including NASCAR, has to keep working on elements to stay relevant and to grow and to maintain its opportunity in a changing marketplace. ... Everything we’ve got is a moving target. It always has been. We’re always going to look at stuff that we think in our opinion, based on the input we get and the knowledge we’ve got and experience we’ve got, we’re going to make adaptations to it so we can make the sport better. ... We do things when we do it for the betterment of our entire community" (Tripp Mickle, SportsBusiness Journal). ESPN.com's David Newton wrote, "The biggest question France and Helton had to address on Wednesday was why change the points system when fans have expressed more pressing concerns, such as shortening races, shortening the season and giving more points for wins, to name a few." France: "We definitely communicated with our fan council. It's intuitive. We have a points system that is hard to describe for ourselves. We were sitting around trying to articulate every portion of it. ... We were unable to do it." NASCAR "discussed the change individually with Sprint Cup organizations before making a final decision" (ESPN.com, 1/26).

    IS WINNING EVERYTHING? USA TODAY's Nate Ryan writes, "The impact on the pursuit of the championship -- aside from stiffer punishment for poor finishes -- seems negligible." Rather than "place a greater emphasis on winning, which the sanctioning body has labeled a goal the last few years, the new system's primary objective is simplicity" (USA TODAY, 1/27). ESPN.com's Terry Blount wrote, "Here's the summation of the new plan: It really doesn't change much at all. That's right. It's the same old lump of coal wrapped in a shiny new package. Just call it the old points system on a diet. The new plan has the same 'simple' problem: Not enough points for winning" (ESPN.com, 1/26). SCENEDAILY.com's Jeff Owens wrote, "NASCAR made some good moves Wednesday to liven up the Sprint Cup Series, enhance competition and make things easier for fans." But it "didn’t go far enough" on the "most important and most compelling aspect of racing -- winning" (SCENEDAILY.com, 1/26). CBSSPORTS.com's Pete Pistone writes under the header, "New NASCAR Rules Miss The Mark." Pistone: "The emphasis on winning that NASCAR has preached in recent months and years wasn't addressed at all" (CBSSPORTS.com, 1/26). In Daytona Beach, Ken Willis writes NASCAR "has played it rather safe," though the new points system is "certainly better than the former formula" (Daytona Beach NEWS-JOURNAL, 1/27).   

    SIMPLE SOLUTION: Atlanta Motor Speedway President Ed Clark said, "NASCAR is to be saluted for their off-season work on the significant program changes. The new elements will keep the sport fresh and interesting for both long-time fans and new followers of the sport." Driver Brian Vickers: "The difference is easy. The 43-to-one points is explainable to anyone by a text and not a long e-mail" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 1/27). Texas Motor Speedway President Eddie Gossage said, "Simple is always better. You're going to see drivers driving like their hair is on fire at the end of the race. You've got to give NASCAR credit because they're putting the emphasis on winning races" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 1/27). Driver Martin Truex Jr.: "It will be easier to follow for the fans, the television announcers and anyone involved in the sport" (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 1/27). Driver Jeff Gordon: "It'll make it easier for the commentators to talk about and analyze for the championship battle" (ESPN.com, 1/26). Driver Jimmie Johnson said, "I don't think it is much different from what we have now. It theory, it doesn't seem to be that big of a deal" (SI.com, 1/26). Driver Tony Stewart said, "There's been too much emphasis on winning versus the fact that these teams have to work hard for 36 races, and under this format, we still have to win a championship by being good for 10 races. I don't think that side of it should change. I don't think there should be too much emphasis put on winning" (SCENEDAILY.com, 1/26). Team owner Richard Petty "likes that the governing body is simplifying the system," but he "doesn't like that three points will be awarded for a win, one lap led and one for the most laps led." Petty: "That has nothing to do with the race" (ESPN.com, 1/26). 

    CALLS TO SHORTEN RACES: Driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. yesterday said that he "applauds the changes that are coming to the Sprint Cup Series point standings, but that NASCAR has another adjustment it needs to make." Earnhardt "called again for a shortening of most of the Cup races." Hitting on a "theme others have addressed previously, he said he particularly would like to see the season's two 500-mile events at Pocono Raceway shortened." France responded to Earnhardt's comments, contending that "several races have been shortened already, including events that have shifted within the schedule." France also said that NASCAR "will be open to considering more such changes in the future -- but only to a point" (NASCAR.com, 1/26). Team owner Rick Hendrick: "I absolutely think the races ought to be shorter, and I think the season ought to be shorter." Hendrick: "It's just so long. If we had three more months off, I think the fans would be more eager to get back and watch it." However, Earnhardt said, "The financial rewards from having the season as it is are too great. It's almost as if each race is a limb that you can't amputate. It's too big a deal to shorten the season. There's tons of money involved and tons of livelihoods involved, and people's careers. ... I think in my lifetime we'll see shorter races across the board at 85 percent of the events, but never a shorter season" (AP, 1/26).

    Print | Tags: Leagues and Governing Bodies, NASCAR, Motorsports
  • All-Out Blitz: NFLPA Breaking Lockout-Themed Commercials

    The NFLPA has produced a 30- and 60-second commercial showing what an NFL lockout could look like. The ads will air later today on the union's website, as well as during the NFLPA college All-Star Game on CBS College Sports on Feb. 5, the day before Super Bowl XLV. The spot opens with a lock on a gate, and the camera scans empty football stadiums and locker rooms. It features a number of NFL players saying "Let Us Play," with NFLPA President Kevin Mawae saying, "We want to play." The spot also features a number of fans, male and female, young and old, saying "Let them play." The spot ends with the words "Do your part to Let Us Play. Sign the petition at nfllockout.com," accompanied by the NFLPA logo. The NFL CBA expires on March 4 (Liz Mullen, SportsBusiness Journal). AD AGE's Rich Thomaselli noted the ads are "something of a response to the letter that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell sent to fans and season-ticket holders at the start of the playoffs earlier this month, outlining the league's position." The NFLPA campaign, via New Media Strategies, Virginia, "uses social media almost exclusively as its platform," and the ads will "appear on TV only once." Thomaselli noted the union "gets two minutes worth of spots" during the telecast of the NFLPA All-Star Game "as part of its sponsorship of the game." Otherwise, the NFLPA is "leery of doing business with the broadcast networks, which they believe are sympathetic to the owners' cause by continuing to pay the NFL its combined $4 billion in rights fees" even if the '11 season is delayed or canceled (ADAGE.com, 1/26).

    A NEW PLAYING FIELD: In N.Y., Richard Sandomir notes the NFL labor battle is the "first in sports history to be played out extensively on digital turf." The NFL and NFLPA are "jabbing, countering and needling each other on Twitter, Facebook and on Web sites devoted entirely to the possible lockout." After Goodell yesterday revealed that he would take a $1 salary in the event of a work stoppage, NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith responded on his Twitter account, indicating that he "would work for 68 cents if an agreement is reached" by the Super Bowl. Their online "dueling is designed, in part, to woo fans to their corners." NFL Exec VP/Communications & Government Affairs Paul Hicks is a "central figure in the league’s strategy to disseminate information as quickly as possible, like Goodell’s recent letter, which was e-mailed to five million fans and explained the league’s collective-bargaining position." Hicks: "You need to sell your idea and use every opportunity you can at a speed that is not generally normal in a business environment." Hicks and his counterpart, NFLPA Assistant Exec Dir for External Affairs George Atallah, "play their similar roles in different ways." Hicks is "rarely quoted" and does not use Twitter. Atallah, however, has "become a public personality because of the labor dispute; he uses Twitter regularly and is frequently interviewed." Atallah said, "I have a responsibility to make sure the players’ side is accurately portrayed and to the media to be a credible source of information. Player engagement leads to fan engagement." Sandomir notes on "any given day, the online exchanges and competitive claims might look alternately substantive or silly." But there is a "sense that the league and the union have learned from politics, and the need to respond to their opponent’s positions" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/27).

    THE BACK-AND-FORTH CONTINUES: Atallah yesterday during an appearance on the "ProFootballTalk Live" podcast prior to Smith's tweet about taking a $0.68 salary said the promise from Goodell and NFL Exec VP & General Counsel Jeff Pash to take $1 salaries is "another sign that they're preparing" for a work stoppage. When asked if Smith would take a reduced salary, Atallah said, "I'm not sure. Put it this way: We're not going to issue any press releases about our contingency plans to make ourselves look more sympathetic. ... The only way we can get our fans to be sympathetic at this point is to guarantee there won't be a lockout and sign a deal as soon as possible" (PROFOOTBALLTALK.com, 1/26). ESPN's Tony Kornheiser said of Goodell's gesture, "This is one of a series of recent moves by Goodell aimed at establishing the public relations high ground." ESPN's Michael Wilbon said the NFLPA "should forget about" the move by Goodell, as "they're not going to win the PR war with the owners" ("PTI," ESPN, 1/26). ESPN.com's Bomani Jones said of Goodell, "I'm impressed by the fact that he's willing to make a sacrifice, but it's not that big of a gesture" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 1/26). Washington Post reporter Barry Svrluga: "This is all banter back and forth and I don't think it's replacing substantive dialogue. That's not going to happen in the couple of weeks leading up to the Super Bowl anyway" ("Washington Post Live," Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic, 1/26).

    NOT PULLING 18-GAME SCHEDULE: NATIONAL FOOTBALL POST’s Andrew Brandt wrote Steelers Chair Emeritus Dan Rooney’s recent comments against an 18-game schedule “certainly caused some pained looks” at NFL offices, as well as among “various NFL owners who’ve been pushing the issue.” However, the issue is “not coming off the table.” Rooney has been a “key player in past CBA negotiations,” but he has “not been active in these negotiations” due to his responsibilities as U.S. Ambassador to Ireland (NATIONALFOOTBALLPOST.com, 1/26).

    NOT TOO OPTIMISTIC RIGHT NOW: SI’s Don Banks said he believes it is “going to be at least mid-summer before everybody puts their best deal on the table” regarding the CBA talks. Banks: “That's the way things usually get done in the NFL. History says it always goes to the deadline, and I think this time we're going to find out once again that both sides will try not to blink until the games are in jeopardy." The players are “fairly united now, but it's easy to be united now.” Banks: “It will be more difficult once the paychecks are in jeopardy.” He added he thinks the players “more likely than the owners are going to cave" on the issue of an 18-game schedule ("Jim Rome Is Burning," ESPN, 1/26). In Oakland, Monte Poole writes, "Five months ago, I was certain there would be no lockout. ... Now that the sniping is under way, I'm a little less certain a collective bargaining agreement will be in place by the March 3 deadline." Goodell and Smith are "playing games with each other, orchestrating campaigns designed to catch any drop of sympathy the public may have." But what they "fail to recognize is fans don't care about their salaries" and, "quite frankly, don't care about Goodell and Smith." Poole: "Fans care about having an NFL team nearby or seeing one from their living rooms. ... They care less about the chiefs in the labor beef than they do about the price of the jersey they'll torch in a moment of outrage" (OAKLAND TRIBUNE, 1/27).

    Print | Tags: NFL, Leagues and Governing Bodies, Football
  • Creamer, Kerr Feel LPGA Founders Cup Honorable, But Not Executed Correctly

    Creamer is having a "difficult time" understanding imaginary purse money

    Golfers Paula Creamer and Cristie Kerr on Tuesday said that they “want to honor the cause, but they have serious issues with how the inaugural Founders Cup was planned and is being structured,” according to Randall Mell of THEGOLFCHANNEL.com. The Founders Cup was created by LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan to “honor the pioneers who founded the tour and to fund the LPGA-USGA Girls’ Golf Foundation.” The tournament will feature a $1.3M “mock purse,” as prize money will go to charities instead of the players. RR Donnelley, the title sponsor for the tournament, “isn't putting up the purse, but, instead, is paying tournament operational costs.” Though players will be credited for “official money won, they won't actually pocket any real money.” Creamer: “To have the purse be $1.3 million and the charity not get $1.3 million because it’s imaginary money, I’m having a difficult time with that. I don’t understand how a sponsor or company like RR Donnelley, a $10 billion company, can’t be on board to put up prize money equal to what’s given to the charity.” Kerr: “It’s a great idea but went from concept to an event on the schedule too quickly without enough input from the players. It’s turned what was an opportunity into an obligation." Creamer said that she has “addressed her concerns with Whan and that she is waiting to learn more about how the tournament’s formation is progressing before committing to play” (THEGOLFCHANNEL.com, 1/25).

    Print | Tags: Leagues and Governing Bodies, LPGA
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