SBD/February 8, 2011/Leagues and Governing BodiesPrint All
The MLBPA is "concerned that owners may be unwisely investing millions of dollars in deferred compensation owed to players," and during upcoming negotiations for a new CBA "will ask for stricter rules to be implemented that would better safeguard the cash and bar owners from playing fast and loose with it," according to sources cited by Josh Kosman of the N.Y. POST. The Mets "owe roughly $20 million in deferred compensation," and as a result team Owners Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz' involvement in the Bernie Madoff scandal "is expected to become an issue" when MLB and the union open discussions on a new CBA. A source said that the MLBPA "will use the Mets' problems as leverage." Contract talks are "due to begin shortly after teams arrive for spring training, which starts for some teams on Sunday." MLB told the union "in the last several days that former Mets players who are owed deferred compensation, including Bobby Bonilla, will be covered" (N.Y. POST, 2/8). Bonilla played for the Mets from '92-95 and in '99 (THE DAILY).
BEHIND IN THE COUNT: In N.Y., Ken Belson cites legal experts as saying that should Wilpon and Katz "choose to fight" in court a lawsuit from Madoff's trustee, Irving Picard, "they could well face a very hard road, whatever the merits of their claims of innocence." A court case "would cost millions of dollars in legal fees, prolong their public association with Madoff potentially for years, and perhaps even drive down the value of their remaining financial holdings, including the Mets." If Wilpon and Katz "took their case to a jury, the burden of proof would be on them to establish that they never had any serious reason to suspect Madoff was a fake." Belson notes Picard, "having been rebuffed at the negotiating table, would probably have fewer incentives to settle for less than the full amount he originally sought" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/8). In N.Y., Clyde Haberman writes no matter "how the lawsuit plays out, the rancid air of impropriety now permeates the Wilpon-Katz Mets, unlikely to be cleansed soon, if ever." The situation is "hardly improved by that name above the ballpark," Citi Field. Citigroup's naming-rights sponsorship "remains a symbol of all that went haywire on Wall Street and propelled the United States economy toward disaster." By "clinging to the Citi name," the Mets are "saying they have no qualms about identifying themselves with a central player in one of the biggest financial debacles in this country’s history." Haberman notes the city of N.Y. "cannot compel the team and Citigroup to agree to a divorce, amicable or otherwise," but as "the Mets’ landlord, the city could lean awfully hard." However, Frank Barry, a spokesperson for Mayor Michael Bloomberg, said, "We're going to honor the lease agreement, which gives them the authority to designate a sponsor" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/8).
Former NHLer Rob Blake joined the league office last month as the “first hockey operations executive based outside" NHL HQs in N.Y., and he “hopes to give a voice to players who toil beyond the Eastern power axis,” according to Helene Elliott of the L.A. TIMES. In its “eagerness to develop a following in Europe, the NHL overlooked an audience closer to home: its Western Conference.” Western teams “routinely jump time zones on winding trips and are stuck with less experienced referees working their games.” NHL executives “often attend games in the East but rarely venture past the Hudson River," and as a result some players “feel overlooked by fans, league officials and the media.” Blake, who spent all 21 seasons of his NHL career with Western Conference teams, said, "I lived that firsthand. Being a player out here in the West and playing my whole career here, you do kind of feel that you're forgotten. Everything's central to New York and Toronto.” Blake will work out of L.A. and "be around" the Kings, Ducks, Sharks and Coyotes “as a sounding board and conduit for players' concerns.” He will travel to N.Y. and Toronto “every month or so” for meetings. Blake's first "major project" in his new role as NHL Hockey Operations Manager was working with VP/Hockey & Business Development Brendan Shanahan to “revamp the All-Star game.” Blake also will “work with the competition committee and the summer development program, which tests potential rule changes” (L.A. TIMES, 2/8).
HOT BUTTON ISSUE: In N.Y., Larry Brooks noted the NHLPA “has consistently argued against punishments that fit the crime of head-targeting," and this is “going to be an interesting issue by which to gauge” NHLPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr. NHL CBA negotiations “are a year or so away,” but hits to the head and the “fallout from the increasing attention paid to the concussion issue are a matter of clear and present danger Fehr and his new leadership group … must address immediately.” Brooks: “If there is a stain on Fehr's record leading the MLBPA, it is that union's leadership's failure to address and protect the health issue of its players relating to steroids and other PEDs” (N.Y. POST, 2/6).
Waste Management Phoenix Open Tournament Chair Mike McQuaid said that the PGA Tour “likes the Open’s spot on the schedule aligning with the Super Bowl week.” In Phoenix, Peter Corbett notes the Super Bowl “could be pushed back later into February, to Presidents Day weekend, if the NFL extends its regular season from 16 to 18 games.” PGA Tour Exec VP/Communications & Int'l Affairs Ty Votaw said that the Tour “has had discussions with the NFL but it’s too early to speculate on the ramifications of any changes to the football schedule.” Votaw: “There are so many different ways it could play out.” The Phoenix Open has been “weather-challenged the past two years,” drawing an attendance of 365,052 this year, down 14% from ‘10 and “the smallest Open crowd” since ’93. This past weekend's event was the “third consecutive year of declining attendance since 2008, when the tournament set a record” with 538,356 fans (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 2/8).
CHANGE OF HEART: In London, Ben Smith noted FIFA President Sepp Blatter yesterday “backtracked on a plan to switch” the ‘22 World Cup in Qatar from summer to winter. Blatter admitted that “his proposal to move the World Cup was now on hold,” despite "previously saying that he 'expected' the tournament to be held in January instead of June." He also “ruled out a recent suggestion that the tournament could be co-hosted by other neighbouring nations.” Blatter: “Everything is settled now for summer and with all 64 matches in the territory of Qatar. In the bidding documents it was clearly established that the executive committee reserved the right to change anything in the bidding process, but here in this case it must come from Qatar” (THETIMES.co.uk, 2/7).
SIGN UP DAY: In Milwaukee, Tom Haudricourt reported Brewers Owner Mark Attanasio has “accepted a position” on MLB’s Labor Committee and “will take part in negotiating” a new CBA with the MLBPA. Attanasio: “I look at the situation with the players as a partnership. Without players, we don’t have a game. There’s a lot of work to be done” (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 2/6).