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SBD/October 17, 2012/Leagues and Governing BodiesPrint All
The NHL "injected life into a stagnant labor negotiation Tuesday, making a surprise offer to the NHL Players' Association that was highlighted by a 50-50 split in hockey-related revenue and a full 82-game season starting Nov. 2," according to Pierre LeBrun of ESPN.com. The NHLPA "held a conference call Tuesday evening to discuss the offer with the players' negotiating committee and the union's executive board." NHLPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr "didn't say exactly when the union would invite the NHL back to [the] bargaining table with a reaction to the offer." But he said it would be "sooner rather than later." A source said that the "tentative plan is for both sides to speak by phone Wednesday, with the NHLPA seeking clarification on number of points, and then for the two sides to meet again Thursday." Sources said that the deal "also calls for a 2012-13 salary cap of $59.9 million, but teams can go over that cap all the way up to $70.2 million in Year 1 as part of transition" to the new CBA. The sources added that by Year 2, teams "must comply with the cap" (ESPN.com, 10/16). In N.Y., Jeff Klein notes the "surprise offer" was the "first significant movement in negotiations since the league's owners locked out the players Sept. 15." A main point in the NHL's latest proposal is "the provision to protect the value of current contracts," meaning that owners "will have to honor the big contracts they gave players in the two-month buying spree that preceded the lockout." The proposal also "increased revenue sharing among clubs from less than $150 million to $200 million, but short of the union’s proposed $240 million." In addition, the NHL’s offer "raises the requirements for unrestricted free agency to 28 years old or 8 years’ service, from 27 years old or 7 years’ service" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/17).
HIGHLIGHTING THE MAIN POINTS: The league earlier today posted on its website, "NHL's Proposal To NHLPA To Save The 82-Game 2012/13 Season" (NHL.com, 10/17). In Toronto, Lance Hornby highlights the league's offer under the header, "Breaking Down The NHL's Latest Proposal" (TORONTO SUN, 10/17). On Long Island, Steve Zipay notes a revised 82-game season "would mean each team would have to play an extra game every five or six weeks, and some games would be added to the end of the schedule in April." If a deal is "reached by Oct. 25, training camps would open Oct. 26." All of the "details of the proposal were not revealed Tuesday, but the main elements" include:
- The league and players would split hockey-related revenues 50-50 in each year of the deal.
- Free-agency eligibility would rise to 28 years old, or after eight seasons, from age 27 and seven years. The first NHL offer was age 30 and 10 years.
- Five-year limits on new, non-entry level contracts. There had been no limit.
- Three-year entry-level contracts would be cut to two years and salary arbitration would remain in place. The NHL had proposed five-year entry-level contracts and abolishing arbitration.
- An increase in revenue-sharing for financially struggling teams to $200 million a year, up from about $170 million.
- A salary cap for 2012-13 of $70.2 million, but with a twist: Players on one-way contracts sent to the AHL would count against the cap (NEWSDAY, 10/17).
STICKING POINTS: THE HOCKEY NEWS' Ken Campbell cites a source as saying that the "definition of HRR would remain the same as it is in the current agreement." Campbell noted that is "a significant shift for the NHL, one that has the potential to change the tone of the negotiations from dismal to, the very least, hopeful." The proposal "does have some significant spending curbs included." There is "still much negotiating to be done." Campbell: "For example, what to do with escrow?" The NHLPA "remains vehemently opposed to any sort of rollback -- by their definition meaning less money in their pockets" (THEHOCKEYNEWS.com, 10/16). The GLOBE & MAIL's Shoalts notes one "possible stumbling block is the owners' demand to eliminate the ability of teams to hide bad contracts in the American Hockey League." The owners "want the salaries of players in the AHL who are on NHL contracts to be included in the salary cap if they are above a certain amount" (GLOBE & MAIL, 10/17). The GLOBE & MAIL's Sean Gordon notes the offer is "not really that far off the first-year offer of the NHL's last proposal in terms of the revenue split, which was 49 per cent." If there is one point on which the players "will not retreat, it's keeping 100 per cent of the value of their current contracts" (GLOBE & MAIL, 10/17). In N.Y., Pat Leonard notes the "most glaring remaining sticking point is that the NHL still wants to limit the length of player contracts" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 10/17). In L.A., Helene Elliott notes the union "is expected push back on the proposed five-year maximum for new contracts and the delaying of free agency" (L.A. TIMES, 10/17).
The details of the new proposal offered yesterday by the NHL "weren't as good" as what NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman outlined to the media, according to Adam Jahns of the CHICAGO SUN-TIMES. Blackhawks D and NHLPA rep Steve Montador said, "What we learned from the negotiating meeting was that there was a number of changes to [hockey-related revenue] definitions that we regressed on because we already agreed upon the old definition after they tried to change it the first time. And that's not something we're interested in." He added, "There's a handful of things we weren't in favor of, and the (changes to the) entry-level system is the biggest one" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 10/17). Lightning RW B.J. Crombeen said, "It's not a clear-cut 50-50 deal. There's significant rollback. There's a longer time to free agency. These are all concessions we're making. ... But there's caution with our optimism. It's not something we think we're ready to sign on to" (ESPN.com, 10/16). Jets LW Andrew Ladd said, "I think that coming up to 50 (per cent) is closer. This probably should have been their starting point" (WINNIPEG FREE PRESS, 10/17). Canucks G Cory Schneider said, "I think everyone has been looking for a gesture, someone to make a move and they made a move" (VANCOUVER SUN, 10/17). Crombeen said, "It's a good thing to have them show they're going to start seriously negotiating. ... But I think there is a lot more than meets the eye with the proposal. There are a lot of variables" (TAMPABAY.com, 10/16). Flames LW Alex Tanguay said, "Fifty-fifty -- they've come a long ways from their first offer. They're willing to negotiate. They're willing to settle" (CALGARY HERALD, 10/17). In Vancouver, Ben Kuzma writes the movement "is a morale boost for players, who stood their ground" (Vancouver PROVINCE, 10/17).
LAYING A FOUNDATION: USA TODAY's Kevin Allen writes the owners' offer of a 50-50 split of HRR is "a game-changer because it takes negotiations where everyone, including players, knew they were headed." But the sides are "still many compromises away from saving a full season." If the players "don't come back with a reasonable position, the blame will shift to them." The NHL now "looks like the reasonable party by offering a plan to save the season." The "brilliant move by the league was to put the full season back in play" (USA TODAY, 10/17). The CP's Chris Johnston wrote it is "clearly the best offer -- or counteroffer, for that matter -- that has been made in the months of negotiations since last season ended" (CP, 10/16). In Raleigh, Luke DeCock writes the "broad strokes of the deal appear to be, if not completely acceptable to the NHLPA, a reasonable foundation for actual negotiations going forward" (Raleigh NEWS & OBSERVER, 10/17). A union source said there is "still nothing in the proposal that the union could term a real concession from the other side." The source added, "We in the union are treating it as an act of good faith, but we'll know in the next couple of days if it is" (BOSTON HERALD, 10/17).
WHAT'S NEXT? TSN’s Darren Dreger said the proposal "puts the ball in the court of the NHLPA." There were "concessions that were included that are systemic pieces to what would go into the new CBA, so this isn't window dressing." The players "can work off this proposal whereby they didn't feel like they could work off the league's first proposal" (“NESN Daily,” NESN, 10/16). In Detroit, Gregg Krupa writes Bettman and the owners "are retreating, at least a bit." The owners "are cracking." They "might even understand, now, their original 'take it or leave it; drop dead' offer was among the worst gambits deployed by a group of franchise owners in any pro sport." The owners and Bettman "succeeded in uniting the players behind their new leader" (DETROIT NEWS, 10/17). CSNBAYAREA.com's Kevin Kurz wrote if the players reject yesterday's NHL proposal outright, "they'll risk losing that majority support from the fan base." It is "hard to argue a 50/50 split is anything but fair" (CSNBAYAREA.com, 10/16).
TALKING STRATEGY: ESPN.com’s Scott Burnside wrote even the “most cynical of observers have to credit the National Hockey League for taking what can only be viewed as a bold and potentially decisive step toward ending the month-old lockout.” It is not a “take-it-or-leave-it offer, but it is one that comes with a sense of urgency for the players to digest and respond quickly.” Burnside: “We are close to finding out what [NHLPA Exec Dir Donald] Fehr is all about and what his mandate really is” (ESPN.com, 10/16). The GLOBE & MAIL's Eric Duhatschek writes Fehr and the players need to discuss the "trade-off between accepting an owners' offer that isn't everything they want it to be and the potential damage to the industry that a lengthy lockout can do." Fehr's strategy will, in "large part, determine what happens next." As much as he "says he works for the players, you can be sure that the players will ask Fehr for direction and likely follow his recommendations" (GLOBE & MAIL, 10/17). In California, Mark Whicker writes, "Like certain politicians, Bettman proposes the outrageous, winds up with the merely audacious, and congratulates his own problem-solving" (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 10/17). In Toronto, Lance Hornby writes in the "union's eyes this is not such a magnanimous gesture, as much as the league starting to soften its hard-line opening stance on HRR" (TORONTO SUN, 10/17). In Boston, Kevin Paul Dupont writes the league's new offer “establishes sensible middle ground in key areas, both in money and work provisions.” Unlike the last time Bettman "did not say publicly that a next offer would be less desirable.” Perhaps the league is "grasping the need to dial down the rhetoric and stop trying to convince players and fans alike that it has all the power in these talks” (BOSTON GLOBE, 10/17).
COURT OF PUBLIC OPINION: In Montreal, Pat Hickey writes, “While I’m not an owners’ guy, it was the NHL that broke the deadlock. That showed a willingness to get a deal done, and now it’s up to the players to move the discussion forward” (MONTREAL GAZETTE, 10/17). The NATIONAL POST’s Bruce Arthur writes this offer has “shifted the public onus on the players." The players at some point will “have to accept that this is concessionary bargaining, and try to save what they can” (NATIONAL POST, 10/17). In Vancouver, Jason Botchford writes the proposal “turned public opinion on a dime, and it puts pressure on the players, who many fans believe should just take it and move on” (Vancouver PROVINCE, 10/17). In Winnipeg, Paul Friesen writes, “Score one for the NHL owners.” The owners “played the trump card they had up their sleeve all along in this phoney lockout: the 50-50 card” (WINNIPEG SUN, 10/17). In Philadelphia, Sam Carchidi wrote, “The bottom line: The NHL, to its credit, got things going on Tuesday” (PHILLY.com, 10/16). But the GLOBE & MAIL’s David Ebner writes the owners’ offer “marks something of an internal concession.” Still, it “looks clear the commissioner has the requisite backing” (GLOBE & MAIL, 10/17). In Calgary, Eric Francis writes the players “would be crazy to turn this down,” as Bettman has given them “a chance to save face” (CALGARY SUN, 10/17). CSNNE.com’s Joe Haggerty wrote for a league that “had its focus group strategy revealed yesterday, it’s both a clever PR move and a good negotiating strategy that makes the players look greedy if they don’t embrace a 50/50 split that everybody seemed to see coming” (CSNNE.com, 10/16). In Toronto, Kevin McGran writes the offer changed the conversation “immediately from that disastrous focus-group leak that gave the players the moral high ground,” and the “pressure was placed firmly on the players” (TORONTO STAR, 10/17).
The annual fall NFL owners meetings wrapped up yesterday in Chicago, and in addition to approving Jimmy Haslam III's purchase of the Browns, the league announced, as expected, that there will be two regular-season games in London next year. In addition to the previously announced game between the Jaguars and 49ers, the Vikings will host the Steelers at London's Wembley Stadium on Sept. 29, 2013. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said, "If we can play multiple regular-season games there, that gives you a better opportunity to be successful if you choose to put a franchise in London. But again, that is the other reason for putting two games in London -- we are trying to build that fan base in London" (Daniel Kaplan, SportsBusiness Journal). NFL Network's Ian Rapoport noted playing a second game in London is “an eye towards long-term,” because Goodell “has said -- and he wasn’t shy about it -- the hope is to put a team in London for good.” Rapoport: “What they’re trying to do is build this fan base, build this market and try to get London to latch onto the NFL. The suggestion was made to host a game in Ireland. They want it in London to get this fan base to totally buy in” (“NFL Total Access,” NFL Network, 10/16). In Minneapolis, Dan Wiederer notes Vikings co-Owner & President Mark Wilf said that playing in London will "grow the team's brand." Wilf said, "Just a unique opportunity to create great awareness and exposure for the team and for the state on our international stage" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 10/17).
WINDOW DRESSING: In DC, Mark Maske reported the NFL yesterday ratified a measure that "creates a three-day window before the opening of free agency during which teams will be permitted to negotiate with free agent players from other clubs." The measure was "recommended by the sport’s competition committee." Teams now will be "permitted to contact the agent for a player from another team who is eligible for free agency during the three-day window before the free agent market opens." But a contract "cannot be signed or submitted to the league office during that period." No direct contact is "allowed between a team and a player from another club eligible for free agency, and a player who is a prospective free agent cannot visit another team" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 10/16).
CCTV-IMG, a joint venture between CCTV, China’s state TV network, and IMG Worldwide, has entered into a 10-year partnership with the Chinese Football Association Super League (CSL), the country's top soccer league. This includes developing the CSL, helping improve management of Chinese football clubs, advising on development of training programs for young and future players and bringing of corporate sponsors for CSL events. CCTV-IMG will immediately launch a marketing effort to bring new corporate partners to the CSL, including title sponsorship of the league beginning in '14 (CCTV-IMG). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Futterman & Mozur write the deal marks IMG's "return to a leadership position in one of China's most popular sports." IMG "helped China create the country's first professional league, the Jia-A League, in the early 1990s, but the two entities parted ways in 2003 when the league turned to another company." However, during the past decade, Chinese soccer "has been racked with charges of bribery and corruption, with dozens of officials sent to jail." A new generation of Chinese billionaires has "taken over the 16-team Chinese Super League and has begun to import some of the biggest stars in the world," including former EPL club Chelsea F Didier Drogba, who this year joined the Shanghai club. Drogba's move "signaled China's emergence as a growing force in international soccer." IMG Senior VP/Global Business Development & Football Jefferson Slack said, "The Drogba signing was transformational." CSL club Qingdao Jonoon FC CEO and CSL BOD member Yu Tao said that the league "decided to work with IMG partly to build the league's reputation abroad." Under the deal, IMG "will have a hand in every level of the Chinese Super League, assisting teams with selling tickets, running club operations and training players." China also is "intent on developing homegrown stars." IMG execs said that they have "discussed assisting with training but haven't reached an agreement on a defined role" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 10/17).
MLS Timbers Owner Merritt Paulson said that the league’s franchise fees will “continue to rise as interest in the sport grows in North America," according to Tariq Panja of BLOOMBERG NEWS. Paulson said, “The last team, in Montreal, went for $40 million. You’re going to see a really big increase on the next team coming in. That’s just a product of the league coming in and growing. The people who got in on much lower valuations paved the way and did a lot of the heavy lifting in terms of getting the league to where the franchise valuations could be where they are.” Panja noted Chivas USA, Real Salt Lake and Toronto FC “each paid $10 million to join in 2004 and 2005.” The fee “jumped to $30 million for the Seattle Sounders in 2007.” Paulson said that “buying into the MLS is a business decision as much as a sporting one.” He said, “The league’s done a very good job in managing costs. There are multiple teams in the league that are cash flow positive including us” (BLOOMBERG NEWS, 10/16).
CAMPAIGN SEASON: In N.Y., Chris Bragg wrote, “In its effort to build a $300 million soccer stadium in Queens, Major League Soccer is playing to win.” Records show that "between March and June, MLS spent more than $612,000 on a slew of prominent New York City lobbying firms to handle various elements of the effort." The targets of the lobbying efforts "include local community boards, the City Council, the Economic Development Corp. and Mayor Michael Bloomberg.” Included in that amount was “$464,000 to HR&A Advisors, a real estate and economic development consulting firm.” A source said that much of what was paid to HR&A “was not for only lobbying but also for more technical aspects of the project” (CRAINSNEWYORK.com, 10/15).