SBD/October 25, 2013/FranchisesPrint All
The Lions were an "attractive draw" for next year's NFL Int'l Series "because of their current star power and the fact that they've never played a regular-season game overseas," according to Dave Birkett of the DETROIT FREE PRESS. Lions WR Calvin Johnson "is one of the league’s most identifiable superstars." NFL Senior VP/Int'l Chris Parsons said that Lions RB Reggie Bush was "popular when he went on a press tour with the Saints before they played in London" in '08. DT Ndamukong Suh also "traveled to London as part of the NFL's U.K. Super Bash two years ago." Lions President Tom Lewand on Thursday said that next year's game against the Falcons in the U.K. is "'a great opportunity,' especially since the Lions did not have to give up a 2014 home date to make it happen." Lewand: "I think our fans deserve every home game that we can have at Ford Field, but this gives us an opportunity to take some of our fans on the road and make some new fans and do so on an international stage." Parsons said the Lions' fanbase is "not insignificant" in the U.K. (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 10/25). ESPN.com's Michael Rothstein wrote as the NFL "tries to build its presence overseas," it makes sense to "put a team with a bunch of marketable players in one of those games." The Lions have the "best receiver in the game" in Johnson, a "former No. 1 overall draft pick" in QB Matthew Stafford, and one of the game's "most polarizing players" in Suh. Meanwhile, although the Falcons are "struggling this season, they have been a playoff team the past few years." So the NFL is "putting a matchup between two explosive offenses in England" (ESPN.com, 10/24).
FINS TO THE LEFT: In Miami, Adam Beasley writes the Dolphins have been "largely an afterthought domestically as of late because of a string of losing seasons." But they have "built a lasting global fan base thanks to six trips beyond U.S. borders in the past 25 years." Dolphins Senior VP/Media Relations Harvey Greene said, “To this day, we still have a huge international following. We are one of the most popular international teams that there are. Not only in the U.K., but elsewhere internationally." The Dolphins last played in the U.K. in '07, played the Bills in Toronto in '08, and have "participated in four exhibition games outside the country" including London in '88, Tokyo in '91, Berlin in '92 and Mexico City in '97 (MIAMI HERALD, 10/25). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Joshua Robinson wrote despite the "mediocrity" of the Raiders and Dolphins, next year's game between the two "has plenty of potential to excite a British fan base that first started paying attention the NFL in the 1980s and early 1990s -- when those teams were actually competitive" (WSJ.com, 10/24).
COWBOY UP: ESPN.com's Michael DiRocco wrote under the header, "Cowboys At EverBank Would've Helped Jags." The Jaguars' '14 home schedule "includes several pretty good draws, but it could have been even better had the NFL not moved the premier game" against the Cowboys to the U.K. Playing a home game in London is "good for the Jaguars from a financial standpoint." The revenue they receive from ticket sales there "is more than what they'd receive from a home game because Wembley Stadium seats about 20,000 more fans," but the Jaguars "would rather have played the Cowboys" at EverBank Field. They could "certainly use an attendance boost" (ESPN.com, 10/24). Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones said next year's U.K. game will be different than the team's '93 preseason game in London "because it's in the regular season and we're trying to get a feel for how it is to play over there, how it is to play a regular-season game, how it is relative to the fan base." He added, "It should be a real positive for our fans" (ESPN.com, 10/24).
NO PERMANENT MOVE COMING YET: The GUARDIAN’s Sean Ingle notes Jaguars Owner Shahid Khan “dismisses suggestions” that the team could move permanently to the U.K. Khan said, “It's very premature for any team to consider coming to London. Remember, this is the first year we have had two games at Wembley. But we have made a commitment. We are coming every year to 2016." Ingle notes playing a game in the U.K. the next four years gives the Jaguars “greater exposure than they would otherwise get back home,” and Khan believes he can “capture new fans in a growing UK market” (GUARDIAN, 10/25). ESPN.com's Vaughn McClure wrote a permanent NFL team in London "might not be an ideal move" because the travel would be "too grueling for an entire 16-game season, from both sides." A couple "showcase games per year should suffice." But the "more success the NFL has in London, the more commissioner Roger Goodell will mull the possibility of having an NFL team there to cater to the U.K. fan base" (ESPN.com, 10/24). The N.Y. Daily News' Ralph Vacchiano said, "I don't get the NFL's obsession with these overseas games, other than to make money, which is great. They enjoy making money, I understand that, but three games are far too many. If they're going to continue to do this they've got to do better than the Raiders and the Jaguars" ("Daily News Live," SNY, 10/24).
The NHL Kings released a "creative, artistic narrative sort of mini-series that tries to show what sets Kings’ fans in L.A. apart from those otherwise caught up in the glitz of the Lakers, Dodgers or Clippers," according to Tom Hoffarth of the L.A. DAILY NEWS. The "gritty black-and-white video" series is part of a "new new multi-layered media and marketing campaign that the NHL team rolled out this season under the heading 'We Are All Kings.'" The videos "might look a bit like the former Sundance Channel documentary series 'Iconoclasts,' where two diverse celebrities are put into a place to discover what thread of commonality they actually have." Producer Jerry Bruckheimer appears with Kings C Jarret Stoll, discussing "how he bought tickets in the Forum rafters when Wayne Gretzky came to town." Actor Colin Hanks is "paired with goalie Jonathan Quick, laughing about their shared superstitions that come into play." But the series will be "more about spotlighting people" such as Army vet Michael LaVere, architect Frank Gehry or Children's Hospital of L.A. Dr. Maurice O’Gorman. The Kings can "approach a season campaign" in this fashion because "they're not having to twist people’s arms any more just to come to games." The team has "capped season-seat sales at 15,000 in the 18,000-plus Staples Center." Kings VP/Marketing Jonathan Lowe said that Dir of Marketing Heather Bardocz "came up with this player-fan concept" two years ago. Lowe: "Different teams in this market can focus on what they’re known for -- ‘Showtime’ or the iconic Dodger Stadium -- but now we're known beyond the Stanley Cup, for having the most dedicated and passionate fans in L.A., so we wanted to celebrate that with something that’s real, unscripted, highlighting influencers and making connections" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 10/25).
MLSE President & CEO Tim Leiweke "may have one of the hardest jobs in corporate Canada" as he tries to turn the company's "sad-sack franchises into legitimate contenders," according to a Q&A by Grant Robertson of the GLOBE & MAIL. MLSE, though "rolling in profit ... has failed to win where it matters: on the ice, on the pitch and on the court." Leiweke "doesn't lack self-confidence." He said that he "regrets being so bold" with some of his decisions since taking over the job. But he "understands just how big this job is: a complete rebuild of a long-neglected corporate structure." The future of some of MLSE’s key assets "may depend on it." Below are excerpts from the Q&A.
Q: What sort of window do you give yourself [to start winning]?
Leiweke: We've been afraid of winning, and it has destroyed us. Great organizations don’t back down from the challenge. I learned that with the Lakers. The Lakers are not afraid to admit that they are expected to win. We need to have that kind of culture here.
Q: The Raptors have the knock of being the team nobody wants to play for. How do you turn that around?
Leiweke: People who say players won’t come here because they don’t like the cold weather or they don’t want to play in Canada or we don’t have ESPN -- those are excuses. We’re not using those any more. ... This is one of the top three or four cities in all of North America, with one of the best, if not the best, economy in North America. We will have no trouble convincing people to come here -- if we win.
Q: Have you thought about rebranding the Raptors specifically?
Leiweke: We are going to submit to the league, in the near future, an application to change our logo, our look, our colour scheme -- everything but the name.
Q: Why everything but the name?
Leiweke: Honestly, I’d change the name. But there are others here who felt strongly that we shouldn't change the name, and so I’m going with them on this one.
Q: You use the word fear a lot. What do you mean when you say fear?
Leiweke: There is a fear of success here, which is amazing. ... We have to say, "Look, occasionally we’re going to try things and they’re not going to work. That’s okay." ... We cannot accept where we are at with TFC. I know how we’re going to fix it. That’s not cockiness. It’s confidence. Because I’ve been through this before (GLOBE & MAIL, 10/25).
Sabres fans "have come to accept failure," leaving team Owner Terry Pegula under "no pressure to listen to a fan base desperate for change," according to Bucky Gleason of the BUFFALO NEWS. Sabres fans "continue whining" about GM Darcy Regier, along with "suffering, a lack of entertainment, a lack of leadership." But it "starts in Buffalo where it started in Boston, with the owner." Bruins Owner Jeremy Jacobs for years was "viewed as a villain in Boston." Fans who "called him a tightwad thought he was the primary obstacle between the Bruins and the Stanley Cup." While the Bruins "never released actual figures," estimates had their season-ticket base "dipping to 5,000 or less" in the years following the '04-05 lockout. Only when "an unhealthy blend of disdain and indifference showed up in gate receipts did Jacobs understand the depth of the fans' disgust," which "forced major changes, starting with the front office." Similarly, Pegula can "run the Sabres how he chooses, but fans can spend their money how they choose, too." Gleason: "Consumers wouldn't continue buying rotten vegetables from the same market, so why do Sabres fans continue coming back no matter how nauseating the product?" NHL owners "equate success to attendance," and they "equate attendance to acceptance" (BUFFALO NEWS, 10/24). In Toronto, Damien Cox writes the Sabres have become "yet another case study on how money doesn't always cure all in pro sports." Pegula "inherited a team that had record back-to-back seasons of 100- and 96-points and has taken it straight downward." Instead of "responding positively to the infusion of cash, the Sabres haven’t made the playoffs since." Fans' anger right now "seems largely directed at Reiger," but also seems to be "increasingly targeted at Pegula" (THESTAR.com, 10/25).
GOING TO BE A BUMPY RIDE: The AP's John Wawrow wrote as if the "worst start in franchise history isn't bad enough," Sabres President Ted Black during his weekly show on WGR-AM "braced his team's win-starved fans for potentially more tough times." Black emphasized the team's "intention to stay the course in developing their prospects this season." He said, ''When we're in a transition year like this, it is going to be difficult. It's going to be difficult to stomach the short run. The fans that follow this team, they signed up for this team, they signed up for a rough road.'' Black "isn't shying from the frustration and criticism directed at management." He said, "I'm not going to go anywhere and hide under a bed and wish I didn't have to do this or that. I'm going to do my damnedest to turn this thing around." Wawrow noted the Sabres have "been routinely booed off the ice by a once-loyal fan-base that's grown increasingly frustrated." Chants of "Fire Darcy!'' have "become familiar during home games." The Sabres "could very well end up" with the NHL's worst record, "and that, according to Black, might not be a bad thing in the long run" (AP, 10/24).
USL Pro Orlando City SC Owner & President Phil Rawlins said it is the team's "goal to join" MLS by '15 after Orange County commissioners voted Tuesday to put $20M in tourist taxes toward the building of a new stadium. Rawlins, appearing on the North American Soccer Network's "Soccer Morning," said the earliest the team could break ground on its new stadium is next spring and would play in the Citrus Bowl the first season. Rawlins said the decision to move the team from Austin to Orlando in '10 when it was a USL franchise was a "decision of the ownership of the club -- not just myself but all of the owners -- that we really needed to be here if we were to achieve our dreams of being a marketplace that had the possibility and the opportunity" to join MLS. Rawlins added if the team had not "made the move the club likely would have closed down ... (it) was really a case of adapt or die." Rawlins said the club will look to "sign a very high-profile, high-quality" designated player that "will more than likely be a Brazilian player" as Orlando City FC Investor Flavio Augusto da Silva is Brazilian ("Soccer Morning," NASN.tv, 10/24). Soccer blogger Ives Galarcep said Orlando City deserves a "lot of credit because they really pushed and pushed their way into the conversation at a time when a year ago, two years ago, definitely three years ago, Orlando City wasn't even on the radar." Fellow blogger Garrett Cleverly said Orlando City getting the financing "goes to show what fan support can do for a club." Galarcep: "Now it's up to the owners to show that all the things they promised and all the things they said that they could do if they got a team, now it's time to show them proof" ("Soccer By Ives," SOUNDCLOUD.com, 10/23).
The Triple-A Int’l League Charlotte Knights on Thursday unveiled four new logos and new colors ahead of their move to BB&T Ballpark next season, and the team's "familiar green and blue color scheme disappears, replaced by a combination of silver and gold with black and white highlights," according to Seth Lakso of the CHARLOTTE OBSERVER. The new designs also have a gold letter "C" draped around a silver helmet as part of the primary logo "in honor of the city of Charlotte." Concerns about a "slight similarity to the University of Central Florida’s Knights logo, which shares the silver and gold color scheme, were raised internally, but those involved decided there weren’t any competitive issues." Knights GM of Baseball Operations Scott Brown said that the team also "gave a nod to Charlotte’s history in creating the new look." Klein said that no team in pro baseball -- majors or minors -- "uses a silver and gold color scheme." Lakso notes the Knights "enlisted" San Diego-based Brandiose for the redesign (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 10/25).
SEND YOU BACK TO ARKANSAS: MILB.com's Benjamin Hill noted the Double-A Texas League Arkansas Travelers "have a new set of logos," as the A's affiliate on Wednesday "unveiled their rebranding effort," also designed by Brandiose. The team's primary logo "features the side profile of a stately horse, with a bold red 'A' emblazoned upon it." The current trend in MiLB is to "embrace cartoonish and overtly kid-friendly imagery," but the Travelers have "opted for a more conservative approach." Accompanying the primary mark is a logo "featuring a red 'A' atop the word 'Travs,' as well as one featuring the horse atop a red diamond with nine stars surrounding it," representing baseball's nine positions (MILB.com, 10/23).
Details have not been fully worked out, but MLB Rangers co-Chair Ray Davis is poised to become the club’s designated control partner, replacing departing CEO Nolan Ryan. MLB Commissioner Bud Selig on Thursday said, “I have profound respect for Nolan, as you know. Things happen in life. Clubs have to make the right decisions for them.” Davis’ designation is likely to occur at MLB owners’ meetings scheduled for Nov. 13-14 in Orlando (Eric Fisher, Staff Writer).
RAISING ARIZONA: In Phoenix, Mike Sunnucks reported the Coyotes are "exploring ways to make games more friendly for Canadian fans." Coyotes President Anthony LeBlanc on Tuesday "talked about ideas to boost team attendance." LeBlanc, a native of Canada, said that there are as many as 500,000 "part-time Arizona residents who are from Alberta and British Columbia." He wants them to "go to more Coyotes games and not just when their hometown teams are playing." LeBlanc also wants to "promote more sports tourism to the Valley from Canada and northern U.S. markets" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 10/22).
NO SLEEP 'TIL...: Nets and Barclays Center Chief Revenue Officer & CMO Fred Mangione said of maintaining the team's New Jersey fan base, "When we transformed the brand and relocated the team, we took the approach that we were an expansion team. We started from scratch. We started the foundation to obtain new fans, while engaging with our current fans. However, the data shows that only a small percentage of our New Jersey fans have followed us to Brooklyn. Our goal is to own Brooklyn and in year two expand to engage the other boroughs" (ADAGE.com, 10/23).
SEE YOU IN COURT: FAIRWARNING.org's Levin & Silverstein reported the MLB Giants and Marlins "are under investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor for possible federal wage law violations." The "possible improper use of unpaid interns is a focus of the Giants probe." It is the Labor Department’s "second recent investigation of the Giants over pay practices involving lower level employees" (FAIRWARNING.org, 10/24).