SBD/April 17, 2013/FranchisesPrint All
Just after Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson yesterday announced that a "local investor group was finally ready to present its formal bid to buy" the Kings, NBA officials "revealed they have scrubbed plans to vote this week on a competing offer to move the team to Seattle," according to a front-page piece by Lillis, Kasler & Bizjak of the SACRAMENTO BEE. NBA Commissioner David Stern two weeks ago said that a postponement was "possible due to what he called the complicated and unprecedented situation the league faces." League officials said that a "select group of about a dozen team owners will meet today in New York ... to review the two proposals." Those owners "will recommend a winner" to the full 30-member BOG. Johnson yesterday "implied that the dollar amount of Sacramento's bid would not match Seattle's newly sweetened offer." He "declined to describe Sacramento's bid but said he believes the NBA and the Maloof family will be comfortable with it." The Seattle group "upped the ante last week, announcing it was increasing its offer" from $525M to $550M. The Seattle bid group yesterday also announced that it had "signed a deal to upgrade that city's existing KeyArena ... for the team to play in next year" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 4/17).
BIDING TIME: Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn said that the NBA was "looking to 'tee up' the decision with its discussion this week" and that Stern "was in the 'same place' he was after a meeting" with reps of each city in N.Y two weeks ago. In Seattle, Bob Condotta in a front-page piece notes the news of a delay appeared to catch Johnson "off-guard" during his news conference. A source said that it is "thought the Sacramento offer did not include the increase," nor did it include a $30M nonrefundable deposit made by the Seattle group to Kings Owner the Maloof family. Meanwhile, if hedge fund manager Chris Hansen's plans to improve KeyArena are approved by the Seattle City Council, Hansen's ArenaCo firm will assume operations of the venue in July '13 "through the duration of NBA basketball being played at the facility." Hansen’s group will "guarantee Seattle" at least $2M in rent annually. An additional $750,000 would be "paid to the city annually" if an NHL team is brought to KeyArena. The rent is "for two years, with a third-year option." Under the deal, Hansen has the "option of selling the naming rights to KeyArena." KeyBank’s naming-rights deal "expired in 2010, but Seattle Center kept the name for continuity" (SEATTLE TIMES, 4/17).
ON THE ROAD AGAIN? In Seattle, Jerry Brewer writes the NBA has "relocated so many franchises throughout its history that the league's logo should be modified to show Jerry West dribbling atop a moving van." This "isn't about playing the loyalty card." It also is "not about redemption." And it is "definitely not about Seattle 'asking for a mulligan.'" Seattle has a "superior, more polished" $490M arena plan and an ownership group "with deeper pockets." Sacramento has a "passionate mayor and passionate fans so desperate to keep the Kings that they've nearly done the impossible given less than 90 days, but its pitch is full of faith and loyalty and uncrossed T's instead of binding agreements and legal documents." It is a "simple decision, owners, unless you make it difficult" (SEATTLE TIMES, 4/17).
Browns Owner Jimmy Haslam III yesterday “denied wrongdoing in a federal investigation aimed at his family business, Pilot Flying J, and said ‘the last thing I want to do’ is put a blemish on Cleveland or the Browns,” according to a front-page piece by John Caniglia of the Cleveland PLAIN DEALER. Haslam said that the “focus of the week should be the start of the Browns' minicamp.” He planned to “return to Cleveland" tomorrow and "be involved in preparations for the NFL Draft, which begins next week.” Haslam said that he “believed the federal criminal investigation centers on allegations by ‘a very insignificant number’ of trucking company customers that were owed rebates that were never paid.” He said of the allegations, "We, of course, disagree" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 4/17). ESPN’s Adam Schefter noted, “There have been subpoenas issued to some executives in the company. Jimmy Haslam is not one of them. Keep in mind that last summer when he purchased the Browns, he stepped away from the company but began to get back involved in the company in February. He feels a tremendous passion for this company, wants to be a part of this company and he feels ultimately that his company in this lengthy investigation will be exonerated” (“NFL Live,” ESPN, 4/16).
HOT IN CLEVELAND? In Cleveland, Terry Pluto writes it is “never good when the FBI shows up at your office and raids the place.” But it is “even worse" when the IRS comes along. Pluto writes, “So you can understand why some fans are very nervous about what's happening with the owner of their favorite football team.” Perhaps “none of this will affect the Browns.” Haslam said it will be "business as usual." Pluto: “But candidly, as the owner likes to say, fans are worried about their team and the new owner.” At the “very least, the FBI probe will divide his attention,” and it is “never cheap to defend yourself in this type of criminal investigation” (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 4/17).
Celtics President Rich Gotham said that the decision to cancel last night’s game at TD Garden against the Pacers “truly didn’t require much debate” following Monday's bombings at the Boston Marathon, according to Mark Murphy of the BOSTON HERALD. Gotham said that playing the game “wouldn’t have been respectful” to the victims. He said, “After learning about it, within an hour we picked up the phone and called the NBA to get their opinion on going ahead with this game. The mutual feeling was that it would be OK to cancel this game. Some things are bigger than basketball.” Gotham added Celtics Managing Partner & CEO Wyc Grousbeck was “very involved in this decision." Gotham: "We talked to all of the different elements (within the league) about what the different implications are. In this case we talked about the implications after we made the decision, not before. We wanted to make the right decision, and then worry about whatever the complications might be.” He noted last night's game was scheduled to be fan appreciation night and said, "We felt that would be a tough thing for everyone” (BOSTON HERALD, 4/17). Gotham noted that the Celtics are “working on a commemorative patch to wear for their final regular-season game” tonight against the Raptors, with plans for a "more extensive patch for the playoffs.” He also said that Celtics management has “not yet sat down with TD Garden officials to discuss increasing security for the playoffs.” But Gotham added it is “certainly something we’ll be doing along with the Garden, and along with the City of Boston and the police” (BOSTON GLOBE, 4/17). Gotham: “Our venue is going to be safe when we play our next game” (USA TODAY, 4/17).
RED SOX PLANS ON HOLD: The Red Sox are scheduled to begin a 10-game homestand Friday against the Royals, and Red Sox President & CEO Larry Lucchino said it is too soon "both in terms of enhanced security and a ballpark ceremony" to discuss how the team plans to respond to the bombings. Talks with MLB officials include “plans to wear a uniform patch honoring the bombing victims, a ceremony before the game Friday and fundraising activities.” Lucchino in a statement said, "In the coming days, we will join with others to find ways to show the victims of this heartless, cowardly act our sincere support, and to demonstrate to all, our community's unity, strength and resilience.” He added that there was “no conversation about not playing” last night’s game against the Indians. Lucchino: “Part of the urging we have received from the public has been to get back to normality as quickly as possible” (ESPNBOSTON.com, 4/16).
The bombings at the Boston Marathon and their aftermath were the first topics discussed during the opening panel of the ‘13 Sports Facilities & Franchises conference, which is being held at the N.Y. Marriott at the Brooklyn Bridge. D’Backs President & CEO Derrick Hall, whose team is in N.Y. for a series against the Yankees, said he noticed heightened security at last night’s game, but it did not seem to create any issues for fans. Hall: "If it takes fans a few more seconds to get in, they know why. They're patient enough, and as long as they plan to get there early, they understand that it's for their best interest." He added that the attacks were another reminder that “we can never let our guard down.” Hall: “It’s important that everybody feel safe. You can never do too much.” Sabres President Ted Black said that following the marathon, he did not need to set up a meeting with team security or stadium operations staff because they rushed to him to talk about precautions and procedures. He also said he couldn't go into specifics about many of the security procedures that were being discussed or put into place. “There’s a lot going on underneath the surface,” said Black. Hall recounted a similar experience with his staff, adding, "It's remarkable how sophisticated we are now with our staff. They come to me right away" (Adam Harris, Assistant Editor).
YANKEES, CUBS INCREASE SECURITY: ESPN N.Y.’s Andrew Marchand reported there were a "few more uniformed officers outside the stadium than normal" for last night's D'Backs-Yankees game. The Yankees said that their "policy is not to comment on security measures" at the ballpark, adding that they are "working with all levels of law enforcement to ensure a safe environment" (ESPNNY.com, 4/16). Uniformed and plain-clothed officers "seemed to be everywhere on the streets" (Bergen RECORD, 4/17). There was a "rare uniform NYPD presence at the gates" at 1:30pm ET yesterday, and the number of bomb-sniffing dogs was increased inside the ballpark (N.Y. POST, 4/17). Meanwhile, ESPN CHICAGO’s Jesse Rogers reported the Cubs have "ramped up security" for this week’s series against the Rangers. A Cubs spokesperson indicated that all employees will “’operate with a heightened awareness’ while additional specific measures will be in place for the near future.” Those include garbage cans “being removed from the exterior of Wrigley Field,” not allowing large bags into Wrigley Field and having a canine unit “stationed outside of the facility” (ESPNCHICAGO.com, 4/16).
ALWAYS LOOKING TO IMPROVE: 49ers CEO Jed York said if there is “something that we can learn” from the Boston bombings, the team will “study it and we'll try to make ourselves even better.” York: “I think we've done a good job working with the local police force and we're going to continue to make sure that we have a great security team at the stadium.” York said the club years ago began to look at the design of the new stadium how fans enter and exit, as that is “one of the processes that you want to make sure … that you can utilize all the new technology that can help facilitate the police department inside the stadium, all the security staff” ("Chronicle Live," Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, 4/16).
Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein yesterday said that he will "need more revenue streams if he is to make the Cubs a consistent contender," according to Bruce Levine of ESPN CHICAGO. Epstein's comments were seen as "echoing" what Cubs Chair Tom Ricketts "said the previous day." Epstein: "A lot of this depends on what happens going forward. The TV deal, the renovations and some other factors. ... We need revenues to increase in order for us to execute our baseball plan. We expect them to (increase). We have a lot of people on the business side working hard for that. We are not where we want to be right now in terms of payroll." He added, "We are doing the absolute best job we can. You ask how important are the revenues to increase our payroll. They are really important" (ESPNCHICAGO.com, 4/16). In Illinois, Bruce Miles notes although Ricketts "said the renovations would generate revenue to be used in the baseball operations, he did not say how long before" Epstein and Exec VP & GM Jed Hoyer would "reap the financial benefits." A recently published report asserted that there was "tension between the business and baseball sides because Cubs funds were not flowing as freely to the baseball side." Ricketts said the notion was "untrue" (Illinois DAILY HERALD, 4/17).
DOES MONEY SOLVE EVERYTHING? ESPN’s Israel Gutierrez said of Ricketts stating that if the renovation plan is approved, the team will win the World Series, “Wrigley Field is almost always full and they only have to be good once in a awhile to keep the faith of the fans, but to say that because they get renovations and get more income coming in that they’re automatically going to spend that money on players. Look, I’m from Miami, and there are false promises made down here (by the) baseball team all the time. So I don’t doubt that might happen in Chicago.” The L.A. Times' Bill Plaschke said it is about “money,” as “seven of the last eight world championship teams were teams that ditched old stadiums and moved into new stadiums and used those revenue streams … to win the world championship. There is a clear connection between the two. Yes, you need good judgment, you need good general managers, but first you need money” (“Around The Horn,” ESPN, 4/16).
RENOVATION IMPLICATIONS: In Chicago, Gordon Wittenmyer writes the Cubs' $500M Wrigley Field renovation deal with the city does "underscore the fast-changing reality of baseball’s economic landscape that is making big-market teams out of mid-market teams and giving even some small-market teams optimism." It also "underscores the dangers of a Cubs business plan that has sucked resources from baseball budgets -- however temporary in theory -- while assuming there will come a day when an influx of money from new revenues will allow a switch to somehow be flipped and the team made suddenly competitive again." Epstein was "pushed for a reason why renovations are a prerequisite for contending again." He responded, "Our payroll now is third in the division. That’s fine. But it should be first in the division. So this is one of the ways that we’re going to get there" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 4/17). Also in Chicago, Fran Spielman notes Mayor Rahm Emanuel yesterday "embraced the broad-strokes 'framework' he forged with the Cubs after months of painstaking negotiations." But he "made it clear that it would be up to Ricketts to sell the finer points to local Ald. Tom Tunney and his constituents." Emanuel: "We have a security plan, a traffic plan, a parking plan. We also have an agreement that the jumbotron will be in the park -- not outside the park. We have an agreement on what the night games are. Those are the types of things that are big items (where) there’s a consensus. They’ll work through now the size of the sign, just like Fenway has, that works both for the neighborhood and the ownership." Emanuel acknowledged the Wrigley rooftop owners are "part of the community," but argued there are "a lot of other interests" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 4/17). Chicago-based WSCR-AM's Hub Arkush said adding a Jumbotron to the outfield “will take away a lot of the charm that makes it Wrigley Field” (“Sports Talk Live,” Comcast SportsNet Chicago, 4/16).
ROOF OWNERS ON FIRE: Rooftop club owner Beth Murphy said that the clubs and the team "could work out a compromise." Murphy: "I'm sure there's some sort of mediation that could be done. Nobody has talked to us about compensation and the like of it. I think we have in some sense been painted as villains in the face of the Cubs winning the World Series." South Lakeview Neighbors Association President David Duggan said that he "hopes the rooftop clubs continue because they are a better place to watch the game." Duggan: "Wrigley Field is a 100-year-old dump that needs to be renovated to be moderately acceptable. The rooftops are producing a better product than the Cubs" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 4/17). In Chicago, Steve Rosenbloom wrote of Ricketts not going into detail about a proposed 6,000-square-foot video screen when announcing the deal, "If you want to lose a news conference, then tell Cubs fans they can’t see the centerpiece of the renovation, the biggest new revenue stream, and the item that 60 percent of those surveyed supposedly want." News conferences "should answer questions, not raise more of them." Maybe the Cubs are "getting political advice to play it this way." Ricketts' motivation is "great, even if his methods have been clunky." His financial commitment has been "greater still, and bravo for that" (CHICAGOTRIBUNE.com, 4/16). In Chicago, Dardick & Byrne cite sources as saying that the Cubs, the city and businesses in the Lakeview community would "share the cost of putting 30 more cops and security guards on the streets after games under a proposal that is part of the agreed framework to renovate Wrigley." Sources added that such a move would "more than double the number of police officers now outside Wrigley after games." But neighborhood groups said that the plan "might not be sufficient" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 4/17).
The Marlins are “trying to refinance" $165M and "borrow an additional" $10M, according to sources cited by Daniel Kaplan of SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL. The loan to date has “helped cover the team’s steep loss" of around $50M last year "from the club’s first campaign in its new ballpark, as well as pay for some of the team’s contribution to the cost of that stadium.” The sources said that the current loan deal “expires in the coming months,” though they added that default is “unlikely because the current banks will do what it takes to renew the financing.” A source pointed to, as positives, Owner Jeffrey Loria’s “support of the club, the health of Major League Baseball, the payroll reduction that is expected to swing last year’s loss to a profit, and the hope that the club will do better this year on and off the field than most assume.” However, others are “not so sure.” A source said, “That is a tough sell” (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 4/15 issue).
THE REAL DEAL? The state of the Marlins franchise was examined on ESPN’s “Outside The Lines” Sunday morning, with ESPN’s Bob Ley saying the multi-player trade with the Blue Jays this offseason was a “huge bet on the future.” In the process of “achieving the largest payroll savings ever,” however, the Marlins “continue to lose, attendance dwindles and anger rises.” Ley said, “Loria and his front office say time will vindicate them in this microwave society of instant expectations.” Yankees President Randy Levine said of Loria, “If he wasn’t trying to win and just sitting back and not doing anything, then I would have a real problem with it. But I don’t think that’s what happened here. This wasn’t a salary dump, this was a real baseball trade.” Miami-based WQAM-AM’s Jorge Sedano said, “Nobody’s going to that stadium unless Jeffrey Loria sells that team.” Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan said, “This is a franchise that has been mistreated and that’s reflecting so poorly on Major League Baseball, on the South Florida market, on [MLB Commissioner] Bud Selig and everybody who has been with Jeffrey Loria the whole way” (“OTL,” ESPN, 4/14). ESPN’s Dan Le Batard said it is “not just that people aren’t going to see a really boring, uninteresting team that cannot scores runs,” in addition on TV “no one is watching this.” Le Batard: “This team is getting the ratings of daytime game shows in Miami.” Le Batard said the Marlins “have crossed a precipice you never want to with your customer base” because “angry customers are better than indifferent customers and angry customers have become indifferent customers” (“Dan Le Batard Is Highly Questionable,” ESPN2, 4/16).
TAKE ONE FOR THE TEAM: On last night's edition of HBO’s “Real Sports," Marlins President David Samson said of he and Loria being the focus of fans' outrage, “If my presence in any way is in any manner stopping people from going to baseball games, I would sooner step aside for one person to go to a game.” HBO's Bryant Gumbel said Samson has to be “somewhat concerned that if there’s a feeling among ballplayers that this is a place you get double-crossed, it’s going to make it real hard for you to build a winner here.” Samson answered, “We’ve had no shortage of players who want to come play here and if you offer the most years and the most money to a player they’re going to play for your team whether you’re located in the far reaches of Yemen or in Miami, Florida” (“Real Sports,” HBO, 4/16).
EXPOS REDUX? CBSSPORTS.com’s Gregg Doyel wrote of Loria, “This is my hope: that he loses like no owner has ever lost. This is a man who helped kill off baseball in Montreal.” Now Loria is “killing off baseball in Miami unless something happens, something so bad -- so much losing, so little attendance -- that he sells the team.” There is “only so much room in my heart, and when it comes to the Marlins my heart is full of disgust for Jeff Loria” (CBSSPORTS.com, 4/12).
Rockies Owner Dick Monfort yesterday admitted that the organization was "unprepared" to deal with the heavy snow accumulation on Monday night that forced the first game of a doubleheader versus the Mets to start two hours late, according to Jorge Castillo of the Newark STAR-LEDGER. The doubleheader originally was "scheduled as a split," but the delay forced the two teams to "play the second game immediately after the first." Monfort: "We didn’t think it would snow as much as it did." The "massive snow removal effort began when the Rockies grounds crew reported to the stadium" at 5:30am MT. Other Rockies employees "voluntarily joined throughout the day." They "included Monfort, coaches, and team mascot 'Dinger' -- in full costume." Mets GM Sandy Alderson also "lent a hand" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 4/17). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Jared Diamond reports Rockies GM Dan O'Dowd "came down to help" the snow removal effort, as did Senior VP/Baseball Operations Bill Geivett. Monfort said that he "never asked his employees to come shovel." But by the time the effort "finally ended, nearly 150 people had helped out, either by shoveling snow or clearing the stands." The organization "borrowed" shovels from the Broncos to allow all employees present to help. Monfort: "Had we not had 100 or 150 people out there, we'd have never gotten it off" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 4/17).
SNOW SAGES: In Denver, Troy Renck notes the Rockies have "dealt with snow issues before." They have "played in frigid conditions, including the playoffs." But Monfort said that this situation was "unique." Monfort: "We have four games (with the Mets), and Wednesday has a chance of getting (postponed), so the best weather was supposed to be (Tuesday). I tried to come up with ideas to get the snow out of here, and they were (bad) ideas. So I grabbed a shovel, and the next thing I know it's noon." He added that the team "requested manpower help from a temp service they typically rely on, but most of those people failed to show up because of the wintry weather and poor driving conditions." The Rockies "provided free tickets to the second game to fans who attended the opener." Since the upper deck was "not shoveled, spectators were permitted to move to the lower bowl." The forecast is "unfavorable" for today's game. Monfort admitted that the Rockies "need a better plan than shovel-wielding employees" to ensure the game goes on (DENVER POST, 4/17).
Pistons Owner Tom Gores on Monday "promised a thorough and quick resolution" to the "swirling" speculation about the future of President of Basketball Operations Joe Dumars and coach Lawrence Frank, according to Vince Ellis of the DETROIT FREE PRESS. Gores said that he was "serious when he said last season he expected to make the playoffs and is disappointed the franchise didn’t come close." Gores: "I will say I expected better results. ... They’re great guys that know their business, but I’m here assessing everything. My job is to move this franchise forward.” He added, "We have to be accountable for the results of this year. ... We have a lot of (cap) room. We've set ourselves up financially, and basketball operations has set ourselves up, so I'm very excited about the future." The Pistons will have "roughly" $25M to spend this summer on free agency or trades. Gores said the Pistons are "prepared to spend" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 4/16).
MOTOR CITY MADHOUSE: In Detroit, Bob Wojnowski wrote someone "has to explain the losing and the fan apathy and the inability of anyone to firmly lead a once-proud franchise." Eventually, Gores will "have to do something impactful, as he promised when he bought the team." Gores "isn't here often, attending a handful of Pistons games while living primarily in California, so in the absence of visible action, we must hold him to his words." He is "smart enough to recognize patience wanes as the Pistons' profile keeps dropping." This offseason presents an "opportunity for bold moves, and Gores has to have the right leadership in place." But Frank "certainly didn't receive an endorsement from the owner Monday." Meanwhile, Dumars' situation is "more complicated, the biggest test of Gores' two-year ownership." If judged "solely on the current four-year stretch ... Dumars should be dismissed." But on the "whole of his executive career, including the 2004 NBA championship and six trips to the Eastern Conference Final, he warrants another shot." Dumars, who has "built up impressive equity as a player and executive, is respected around the league." So whether he "likes it or not, Gores has run smack into a crossroad." Gores "talks a good game, but we're waiting to see something impactful" (DETROIT NEWS, 4/16). Also in Detroit, Drew Sharp wrote the "prudent move for Gores is giving Dumars one last summer to rectify the mistakes that were partly his own miscalculations, partly ownership instability and partly a former NBA economic structure that too easily encouraged reckless spending." Gores is "a fan" and "has a tendency to interpret situations in opposing extremes." Part of him "envisions striking boldly. That's how Gores amassed his great fortune -- selective risk-taking." But impulsiveness could do "even more harm to a franchise that the general public largely ignores." Dumars' recent record is "far from impressive," but the "accountability starts with Gores" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 4/16).
The Yankees and StubHub yesterday reached a settlement agreement in their legal fight in Bronx Supreme Court, the result of more than seven hours of closed-door negotiations. Terms of the settlement were not disclosed, but it is expected StubHub's intended pickup location at 68 E. 161st St. near Yankee Stadium will remain closed and the company will stay outside of a 1,500-foot buffer zone around the ballpark. Yankees attorney Jonathan Schiller said, "You'll see what happens physically. We're pleased with the settlement. We think it's in the public interest and our client's interest." StubHub declined to comment. The two entities were due to appear in court yesterday on the club's intention to gain an injunction against the pickup spot, arguing it violated New York state law prohibiting ticket resale near permanent venues with at least 5,000 seats. But Judge Lizbeth Gonzalez, having already granted a temporary restraining order against the pickup spot, pressed them to seek a resolution, and the club and StubHub stayed in chambers all day before appearing to confirm the existence of the settlement. The Yankees opted out of the five-year contract renewal between StubHub and MLBAM and have established a rival secondary ticketing offering in partnership with Ticketmaster. The Yankees and StubHub are due back in court May 7 for a formal ratification of the settlement deal.
EPL club Queens Park Rangers secured a $22.87M (all figures U.S.) "loan from Barclays Bank in Hong Kong last month, charged against all the club's assets," including its stadium, while "significantly borrowing for the first time during Tony Fernandes's regime as majority owner," according to James Riach of the GUARDIAN. Fernandes and his partners finalized the loan on March 18 "in agreement with QPR's remaining shareholders -- the family of the Indian steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal." However, with QPR approximately $137.2M in debt, club supporters may be "concerned at the shift in approach." Fears have "grown that the club will face serious financial difficulty if they are relegated" at the end of the season. Fernandes "denied that QPR would be crippled by relegation." A new stadium "holding 40,000, more than double the capacity of Loftus Road, has been in the offing but any move is likely to be a distant possibility with more pressing concerns regarding QPR's immediate future." However, "more progress has been made in recent months" (GUARDIAN, 4/17). In London, Gary Jacob notes QPR's "wage bill rose" from $42.0M to $89.2M in its first year back in the EPL in '11, and it is "thought to be closer to" $129.6M this season. The club claims that it "took out the loan to test the water ahead of a proposed new 40,000-seat stadium, which is likely to have a roof in order that it can be used for pop concerts" (LONDON TIMES, 4/17).
INCENTIVE PLAY: The TIMES' Jacob notes QPR execs plans to "introduce incentivised contracts for new players in the summer to overhaul their finances." The club will offer "relatively low basic salaries boosted by extra payments for appearances, possibly linked to" where QPR finishes in the league. The team believes that the contracts will be "easier to introduce" outside the EPL -- "accepting that they will be relegated this season -- and hope that it would avoid a situation where they are paying players fixed sums for not even sitting on the substitutes' bench." The difficulty will be to "persuade players to accept the contracts and to avoid a division with those squad members on existing deals" (LONDON TIMES, 4/17).