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SBD/February 28, 2013/Leagues and Governing BodiesPrint All
MLS "wants to be considered among the world's premier soccer leagues" by '22, according to Tim Booth of the AP. Commissioner Don Garber said, "I think the plan has been in place for some time, now we have given ourselves a very targeted goal and it's a bold one. It's not going to be easy to achieve it but it's one we're very confident if we stay focused and things continue to align for us as they have the last couple of years." Garber said that becoming an elite league will require "major capital investment in player development, including youth programs, training for coaches and infrastructure improvements at training facilities." There also are plans for "increasing franchise exposure in local markets and expanding fan bases through new technologies." MLS' efforts "begin in earnest this season," with a primary focus on "improving player development and raising the level of play for a league that's been maligned in the past for the quality of the product." The timeline on the plans for growing MLS internationally "was supposed to coincide with U.S. Soccer entering a successful bid for the 2022 World Cup." But Garber and MLS continued to "keep that year as its target date." MLS "believes it's the next step in the evolution of a product that a decade ago was on shaky footing before seeing massive growth and success for most of the past 10 years" (AP, 2/27). Booth noted there are "other leagues taking notice of the improved quality in the league." Players who have recently "left MLS" for EPL clubs include Stoke City D Geoff Cameron and MF Brek Shea, Wigan MF Roger Espinoza, and Norwich City F Kei Kamara (AP, 2/27).
FIT FOR QUEENS? In N.Y., Filip Bondy notes Garber yesterday "warned the city ... that his soccer league will look elsewhere to expand if it can't cut a deal with officials for a new Flushing Meadows Corona Park stadium in a relatively short period." Garber: "If we're not successful we'll throw our hands up, and it'll be far sooner than three years we throw our hands up." He added, "Then we'd take a step back and see if there's another market." Bondy notes Orlando has been "mentioned as a possible alternative site for a 20th MLS team, though Garber sounded committed for now to Flushing Meadows" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 2/28). Garber said the proposed Corona Park stadium is "the biggest challenge we ever faced" (NEWSDAY, 2/28).
NORTHWEST PASSAGE: Garber said of the league battling MLS supporters over the Cascadia Cup trademark, "We didn’t go about this process right. ... We went and believed that the Cascadia Cup would be protected better if we were able to register that trademark, and we should’ve gone about it differently." He added, "We should’ve called up those folks that were the caretakers of it and had conversation and figured out how we could mutually achieve our goals." Garber: "I think the guys are making progress; they haven’t resolved anything. But I’ll say to you, and I want to say this to all the fans: I’m very confident that we will reach an agreement that will make everybody happy" (SEATTLETIMES.com, 2/27).
SURVEY SAYS...: SI.com's Grant Wahl conducted an MLS preseason player poll and asked which team had the best owner. Galaxy & Dynamo Owner AEG led with five votes, followed by Sounders Majority Owner Joe Roth with four. Red Bulls Owner Dietrich Mateschitz came in third with two votes. Wahl wrote, "The only surprise to me is not seeing Kansas City or Portland on this list." AEG is "seen as an organization that's willing to spend money and take care of its players." Revolution Owner the Kraft family was ranked as the worst in MLS with five votes, followed by Crew & FC Dallas Owner the Hunt family with four. Wahl: "Not particularly surprising, considering the Krafts and the Hunts have had this kind of reputation for a while with people who follow the league closely" (SI.com, 2/27).
UFC returned to Asia last year with two "well-received live events” in "UFC on Fuel TV 6" in Macau and UFC 144 in Japan, and "if all goes according to plan in 2013, the promotions could double that total,” according to John Morgan of MMAJUNKIE.com. UFC Exec VP & Asia Managing Dir Mark Fischer said, "We're obviously coming back to Japan and we want to come back to Macau, and I think we want to add two more to the schedule and really go from there.” Fischer added, "We're looking at trying to do four this year. We would like to move to maybe five or six next year. ... It's really just a question of putting the resources together and applying that against the demand the best we can." Fischer said of possible fight locations, "Mainland China and Korea are definitely in consideration. In addition, we're looking at several markets in Southeast Asia. For example, without committing, the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore are all in contention for where we may go.” He added, “We would be very interested to do 'The Ultimate Fighter: Japan.' We don't have a specific plan yet, but we are in discussion with a number of people.” Morgan notes this weekend's "UFC on FUEL TV 8: Silva vs. Stann" will be the promotion's “first Asian event" this year. Fischer said that the combination of “former PRIDE superstars, up-and-coming Asian talent and recognizable UFC veterans should provide a memorable experience for Japanese MMA fans” (MMAJUNKIE.com, 2/28).
WOMEN'S WORK: ESPN’s Dan Le Batard noted last Saturday’s fight between Ronda Rousey and Liz Carmouche at UFC 157 drew 400,000 PPV buys. ESPN's Bomani Jones said, “I have a hard time believing that the mainstream is interested in watching women fight in that way. ... I’m just not sure we are advanced enough in this culture as it relates to gender that people will sign up to consistently watch women fight each other in the Octagon.” Le Batard said, “You’re not alone in that skepticism, but I’m not sure they’re trying to get people outside of the sport. What people inside of the sport appreciated, and those pay-per-view numbers reflected, was that was a really good fight. That wasn’t a fight between women. That was two good fighters putting on a good show for a round” (“Dan Le Batard Is Highly Questionable,” ESPN2, 2/26).
The four Grand Slam tennis tournaments will "pledge a doubling of their financial contribution" to the sport's anti-doping program in a "major effort to stop potential cheating,” according to Mike Dickson of the London DAILY MAIL. A summit next Tuesday in N.Y. involving the game’s governing bodies and four Grand Slams is "expected to result in a considerable beefing up” of the anti-doping system. Wimbledon, the Australian Open, French Open and U.S. Open are “likely to put in extra funds as part of the biggest shake-up yet" for a program which conducted "only 21 out-of-competition blood tests" during '11. Tennis spends only $1.6M (all figures U.S.) per year “collecting samples across the whole sport.” The four Grand Slams currently are “believed to be putting in" around $150,000 each annually. No official numbers are available, but a source “put the anti-doping contributions of the ATP and WTA Tours at a mere” $326,000 each. The specific areas that will be increased will be "blood testing, out-of-competition tests in general and the introduction of biological passports, which check for alterations in a player’s blood make-up” (London DAILY MAIL, 2/26).
SHOW ME THE MONEY: USA TODAY’s Douglas Robson cites a USTA official as saying that the Grand Slams “would roughly double their current financial contribution from about $150,000 to $300,000 annually.” The ITF also will "increase its contribution to the fund, but it is unclear if the WTA and ATP Tour, which also help pay for the sport's anti-doping program, will increase their contributions.” In light of disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong's admission of systemized doping, many top players “have expressed fears that authorities are not keeping up with those seeking an unfair advantage, especially with strength and stamina being pushed to new levels.” Tennis players such as Roger Federer, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic “have called for increased testing, especially out-of-competition blood testing.” Next Tuesday's meeting “originally was slated for June but was pushed forward because of the growing sense that the sport is not using enough resources to track down potential cheaters” (USA TODAY, 2/28).
X2 Biosystems investors Christopher Tavlarides and Jimmy Lynn “scored” this week, as their Seattle-based software company was selected by the NFL to play a "critical role in the league’s battle against head injuries,” according to Thomas Heath of the WASHINGTON POST. X2’s software “involves a six-minute test and a series of questions in which players score themselves on confusion, reflexes, dizziness, balance and concentration, including reciting numbers backwards to determine how badly they have been injured.” Tavlarides said, “There is no downside and the upside is exponential. We’re looking for it to be an international business, supported not just by professional leagues, but by development leagues, youth leagues ... the U.S. military to track concussions for soldiers in the field. The highest occurrence of concussions in all of sports is female, youth-league soccer.” Sports industry experts said that the “emergence of athlete safety, especially around head injuries, will make for a very competitive business environment.” Sports Business Group President David Carter said that the NFL deal is “a coup for X2 because it gives the company a leg up in the race to try to lock up contracts with leagues and sports governing bodies” (WASHINGTON POST, 2/28).