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SBD/May 31, 2012/Leagues and Governing BodiesPrint All
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman last night said that he "expected to begin negotiating with the players association in the next few weeks" on a new CBA, according to Kevin Allen of USA TODAY. Bettman, speaking to the media before Game One of the Kings-Devils Stanley Cup Final, said, "My guess is in the next few weeks we would begin in either small groups or large groups to set the table about what we each might want to talk about." The current CBA agreement expires Sept. 15. Allen notes the league "has not formally said what its objectives are," but based on the NBA and NFL labor talks, "the expectation is the NHL will want players to accept a smaller percentage" of the $3.1B in revenue. Their current share is 57%. NHLPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr said of talks, "I'm sure it will be started in the next few weeks. But I would not confuse a big formal kickoff session as the start of bargaining." Fehr added that more than 20 players "would be involved with the union's negotiating team" (USA TODAY, 5/31). The GLOBE & MAIL's Eric Duhatschek notes some believe that the two sides "are inevitably on a collision course, seven years after they lost a full season (2004-05) to a lockout." But Bettman "brushed aside that suggestion, on the grounds that the two sides have not had 'a substantive discussion' on what they may be looking for in collective bargaining, so to suggest that they are at loggerheads already would be premature." Fehr: "I have learned that making predictions in this business is a bit of a foolish enterprise" (GLOBE & MAIL, 5/31).
TALK OF A LOCKOUT GROWING: THE HOCKEY NEWS' Ken Campbell wrote there seems to be an "enormous amount of chatter in the hockey industry that the league will lock the players out on Sept. 15 and have them return to work at the end of November." There is "still an enormous gap between the have and have-not teams regardless of how high revenues have climbed." There are "several issues to be worked out concerning contract terms and revenue sharing, which are issues that will be as important for the teams to resolve among themselves as it is with the players." Campbell: "All indications are this will be another round of claw-back negotiating on the part of the NHL, which is fully aware that public sentiment is rarely in the favor of millionaire hockey players." The league is also "cognizant of the fact the players sacrificed a year of their careers the last time around. Will the ones who did so be willing to do the same again and lose millions in career earnings they will never, ever get back?" (THEHOCKEYNEWS.com, 5/30). ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun wrote the "growing sentiment around the industry is that talk won't get real serious until September, when the threat of canceling camp or games enters the picture." LeBrun: "I don't think there's much chance there won't be any hockey at all next season, but the start of the season is certainly in jeopardy" (ESPN.com, 5/30). CBSSPORTS.com's Ray Ratto wrote there is a "timing to all such labor-management dances." Neither side wants to "look too eager, or too strident, or too cavalier, or too fretful." A deal "gets done on its own timetable." Ratto wrote, "All that said, this is still stupid." There is "no compelling reason why they can't sit down during the Final and at least hash out a framework for the arguments to come" (CBSSPORTS.com, 5/30).
OLYMPIC PARTICIPATION: SI.com's Sarah Kwak noted another "sticking point of CBA negotiations may be NHL players' Olympic participation in Sochi 2014 and beyond." Both Bettman and Fehr "expressed some concern over the Games' impact given the upcoming locations." Kwak noted there will "likely be immense pressure from NBC (rightsholders to the NHL and Olympic Games) and the players themselves, who seem to relish the opportunity to play for their countries." Fehr said, "In a vacuum, most players -- perhaps an overwhelming majority of players -- would like to stay involved with the Olympics. But that's if you ask them the cold question. If you get into, if you'd like to go to the Olympics, then this, this, this and this, then you might get some differences" (SI.com, 5/30). Bettman said that the NHL in the Olympics is "not a negotiating chip for the next CBA and it's 'a joint issue' for the NHL and the NHLPA" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 5/30).
THROWING OUT THE RESEARCH: SI.com's Kwak reported Bettman last night announced that two years after the "reintroduction of the NHL Research and Development Camp, the league has done away with the summer event, where it can test the viability of rules changes." The NHL will instead "hold a meeting of players, general managers and coaches to discuss the state of the game and proposed rule changes" (SI.com, 5/30). The GLOBE & MAIL's Duhatschek notes at the August meeting, the NHL will "address the always controversial state of officiating -- and the perception that standard of enforcement slipped" during the '11-12 season. NHL Senior VP & Dir of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell said that the summer get-together "will try to clarify exactly [how] teams want the game called" (GLOBE & MAIL, 5/31).
FRANCHISE UPDATES: Bettman said that the league's sale of the Coyotes to former Sharks CEO Greg Jamison "was still in process." He said Jamison was "continuing to put his equity together." Bettman added that Jamison is working with the city of Glendale "to conclude a lease agreement that will be voted on at a city council meeting next week." The council vote is "expected to go in favor of Jamison, but the libertarian Goldwater Institute may challenge the agreement as a violation of state law." Bettman said, "We haven't got a Plan B for Phoenix" (NYTIMES.com, 5/30). He added, "I can't say anything with 100 percent certainty. I think the likelihood is, based on everything we know today, the process should conclude successfully, but it's not something I'm in a position to guarantee." He added that "relocation talks of any official nature have not taken place with any prospective city" (ESPN.com, 5/30). Bettman also said that Devils Chair & Managing Partner Jeff Vanderbeek "is moving closer to keeping control of the club by refinancing the franchise's debts." He said that it "appears Vanderbeek will not be forced to relinquish his shares in the Devils despite the fact the team owes approximately" $80M in debts. In Newark, Rich Chere notes Bettman also "indicated that July 1 is not the deadline to settle debt and ownership issues and indicated the deadline is some time after that date." He also said that a N.Y. Post story suggesting the Kings are for sale "is not true" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 5/31).
NBA Commissioner David Stern and Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver yesterday said that the league “is committed to sending top players to the Olympics only through London, and then wants to look into saving them just for the world basketball championship and having the Olympics reserved for those 23 and under, as soccer does,” according to ESPN.com. The “biggest change could be the look of the Olympic teams in 2016.” Silver said, “We think international soccer has an excellent model and in the case of soccer, of course, there's the World Cup of football, which is the biggest sporting event in the world every four years, and then in the off years, for the World Cup, they play, in essence, with some exceptions, a 23-and-under competition at the Olympics." He continued, "And there's a recognition certainly [Maverick’s Owner] Mark Cuban, other owners have raised repeatedly the issue of our players playing in essence year round when you add the Olympics to our newly renamed world championship of basketball to our World Cup of Basketball. So when you have the Olympics, the World Cup of Basketball, we are taking a very close look at whether it makes sense from an NBA standpoint and a global basketball standpoint for the top players to be playing at that level on a year round basis, and somewhere (every) summer.” USA Basketball Chair Jerry Colangelo has said that he “doesn't want to discuss the proposal until after the Olympics, believing it is a distraction to bring it up now.” ESPN.com noted it is “unknown how FIBA would feel, knowing how much basketball has grown in the 20 years NBA players started playing in the Olympics” (ESPN.com, 5/30).
CHANGE ON THE HORIZON: TRUE HOOP’s Henry Abbott wrote Stern “signaled that he will urge a newly formed competition committee to consider significant rule changes -- for instance, the elimination of basket interference, video analysis to punish floppers and increased video review of flagrant fouls.” Stern said, “There's no shortage of issues to be discussed from rules enforcements to video replay to a variety of other issues.” No new rules “are certain,” but even if the new committee “changes, owners must approve them, which is an uncertain process.” Abbott noted Stern “is careful to point out ‘we don’t have any expectations for the new committee'” (ESPN.com, 5/30).
IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard said that he "doesn't regret" posting a tweet Tuesday saying an IndyCar team owner is trying to get him fired, according to Curt Cavin of the INDIANAPOLIS STAR. Bernard in a text message said he "didn't say anything hurtful or negative, just stating the facts." He also stated on Twitter that the team owner is not Roger Penske. Team owners Bobby Rahal, Ed Carpenter and Jay Penske yesterday said that "they are not involved." Meanwhile, team owner Michael Andretti acknowledged that he "has been told he's the culprit." While Andretti "admits criticizing Bernard, he denies seeking his ouster." Andretti: "I unloaded on Randy the other day, but it wasn't about his job; it was about trying to fix some things. There's no lynch mob. It's not about getting his job. It's about helping (the series)." Carpenter said that his stepfather, IndyCar BOD member Tony George, "is not involved despite being Bernard's predecessor." Rahal said that the "complaining team owners need to realize there is no magical solution to growing IndyCar." Rahal: "I like what Randy's done. I'm not saying everything he's done has been perfect, but (the sport) is certainly better than what it's been" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 5/31).
ON THE HOT SEAT? SPEEDTV.com's Robin Miller wrote Bernard is "under fire from the car owners, primarily three or four, but the lynch mob mentality in the paddock is growing." Miller: "It doesn’t matter if it was Michael Andretti making the calls or that Mario wants a change; this movement was started by John Barnes and Tony George, with a silent endorsement from Kevin Kalkhoven." Roger Penske "was calling for the hangman a few weeks ago but evidently has changed his mind." Miller wrote, "In a nutshell, they’re pissed about TurboGate, excessive fines, the quality of the cars and how much more the new cars cost than promised." The owners are also "claiming that Bernard keeps giving them the runaround when they present hard numbers and concerns about specific expenses or potential problems." Miller: "I'm hearing they want Bernard sacked and either Steve Horne or Brian Barnhart, or both, to take control" (SPEEDTV.com, 5/30). The AP's Jenna Fryer reported Bernard before the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday "tried to defuse any controversy and it seemed to work as the race was generally regarded as one of the best in history." But with the reports of "an alleged revolt" the focus "now is not on the race." Fryer wrote, "Angst has escalated of late, particularly among the Chevrolet team owners." Chevy lost a pair of appeals protesting a component of rival Honda's turbocharger, and the "anger spread to other manufacturers after IndyCar levied fines throughout the garage that reached $300,000 for 19 infractions among 13 different teams" (AP, 5/30).
F1 as part of its planned $2.5B IPO is “selling every new share with an accompanying loan note, and the two parts can’t be traded or sold separately,” according to P.R. Venkat of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. The “'stapled securities’ are unusual in Asia, but seen more often further south, in Australia.” Monash Univ. finance professor Kevin Davis said that the advantages of this structure for F1 is it “could bring in pension funds that are looking for a high yield in the form of dividends or interest payments on the loan.” He added that the structure also “makes it unlikely that the company could become a takeover target, as anyone attempting to buy it would also have to buy the loans and that would come with ‘bigger transaction costs.'” Venkat noted it will allow F1 to “continue to benefit from UK rules that make interest on qualifying shareholder loans tax-deductible.” However, one investor said that many funds that "can invest only in stocks won’t be able to buy.” The investor added that because the loan notes “aren’t rated, unlike many regular bonds, that could make some other investors wary” (WSJ.com, 5/30). In London, Andrew Clark notes the F1 BOD will decide this weekend whether to go ahead with the stock flotation after "casting a wary eye over the dismal fortunes of Facebook’s public offering.” F1 investor CVC Capital Partners “intends to publish a prospectus on Tuesday, if global financial markets are judged sufficiently resilient.” A source said, “We’ve obviously been paying attention to Facebook. We’d hope to get a better after-market reaction than Facebook did” (LONDON TIMES, 5/31).
NO SURE THING: The London TELEGRAPH reports F1 Chair Bernie Ecclestone has “thrown the prospect of next year's proposed Grand Prix of America into serious doubt.” The race, on a street circuit in New Jersey with the Manhattan skyline serving as a backdrop, “is scheduled to make its debut next year.” Although the event was announced in October, “it is understood to have run into financial, and in turn, contractual difficulties with Ecclestone.” He said, “I hope everything will be okay. They are sorting things out internally with some of their funds. If they are ready for 2013 we will have them” (London TELEGRAPH, 5/31).
LPGA Commissioner Michael Whan hopes the tour’s schedule “will continue to improve in 2013," although with a large number of tournaments in the final year of their contracts, the tour "must remain diligent in retaining them,” according to Joe Juliano of the PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER. Whan said, “I’m not sure I’d ever get to say things are going well. But we’re definitely on the upswing. We’re coming off a strong year. Viewership is way up, 40 percent over last year. We’ve added $7 million in purses and five new events, four of which were in North America.” Juliano noted the LPGA has “developed a good record of organizing new tournaments and retaining older ones.” Eight of the nine tournaments whose contracts ran out in ’11 “were renewed.” Whan said, “But 27 tournaments is not the right place for the LPGA to be, and I get that. We’re not where we need to be yet.” Juliano noted the players are “feeling the energy of the LPGA’s recovery and credit Whan ... for his passion and insight.” Because of his experience representing potential sponsors, Whan “knows what executives like.” Before every tournament, “each contestant receives a two-page fact sheet that includes a profile of the event’s sponsor and other pertinent information.” Whan said, “At the start, it doesn’t say, ‘Who’s the title sponsor?’ It says, ‘Who’s writing the check this week?’ We have pictures of the guys you need to thank during the week. Here are the guys. Here are their backgrounds. If players want to tweet, here are suggested tweets” (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 5/29).
LOOKING TO MAKE A CONNECTION: The LPGA is putting players’ Twitter handles on caddies' bibs during the Wegmans LPGA Championship next week, and Golf Channel’s Gary Williams said it was an effort “to make the players more accessible, more personable, humanizing them.” Former LPGAer Annika Sorenstam said, “I welcome the idea. I think it's just fine to do that. It's a great way to communicate, a great way to follow your fans. The ladies are really doing a good job on the Twitter account. Why not? Maybe get the fans to follow them more” ("Morning Drive," Golf Channel, 5/31).