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SBD Global/October 1, 2013/Leagues and Governing BodiesPrint All
The men in charge of European rugby union's leading club competitions "have accused English clubs of plotting the demise of both tournaments in a row over broadcasting rights," according to the LONDON TIMES. European Rugby Cup CEO Derek McGrath insists that "the door remains open to clubs in the Premiership." Talks have been scheduled for Oct. 23-24 "to broker a solution to the crisis that threatens to tear the continental game apart." Premiership Rugby has signed a TV deal with BT Vision worth £152M ($246M), with £52M ($84M) of that "earmarked for European competitions." However, ERC insists that "it will stand by current broadcast partner Sky, with a contract agreed" until '18. McGrath said, "That [BT] deal is an important factor in what is happening. It is very clear to us that the one reason the clubs don't want ERC to continue is to frustrate the Sky contract. It's not about performance or the competitions, it's about winding down the company with the expectation that the Sky deal would fall away with it" (LONDON TIMES, 9/30).
BREAKING AWAY: The London TELEGRAPH reported Premiership Rugby and Ligue Nationale de Rugby are forging ahead with plans to launch their own breakaway competition -- the Rugby Champions Cup -- in '14, "and have extended an invitation to Celtic and Italian teams to join them." Celtic unions Wales, Scotland and Ireland announced that "they would not sanction their teams to play in any tournaments" not approved by the Int'l Rugby Board. McGrath is adamant that "he believes a solution can be found, despite the odds being overwhelmingly stacked against a resolution" (TELEGRAPH, 9/30). The BBC reported the "door is still open" for Europe's top clubs to help find a solution to the row over the Heineken Cup's future. English and French clubs "will quit the tournament next year" in favor of the proposed Rugby Champions Cup. ERC, which has run the Heineken Cup since it began in '95, "wants to reopen talks with clubs." McGrath: "The future is best served by doing what we have all been doing for 18 years" (BBC, 9/30).
JONES' CARDIFF FUTURE UNCERTAIN: The BBC also reported rugby player Sam Warburton's agent, Derwyn Jones, said that the player's future at Cardiff Blues "has been left in limbo by the row engulfing European rugby." The British and Irish Lions and Wales captain, 24, "is out of contract with the Blues at the end of the season." Jones said, "Sam Warburton has told Cardiff Blues that he wants to stay in Wales next season. But the region aren't able to offer him a contract at the moment because of the mess that exists in Europe. They don't know how much money they will have next year" (BBC, 9/30).
The NFL is "fully invested in the idea of placing a franchise in London," and while no timetable has been set, '20 "seems like a logical target date," according to Gary Myers of the N.Y. DAILY NEWS. The league has been "conducting periodic meetings to evaluate the logistics of having a team in London." Whether it is "an expansion team or a relocated team," the NFL is "highly motivated to have a franchise in London." Myers: "The way things are going, it’s quite possible the league will put a team in London before it puts a team back in Los Angeles" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 9/29). SKY SPORTS reported NFL U.K. Managing Dir Alistair Kirkwood said that London is “still not a credible host city for an NFL franchise despite the success of the International Series.” He said, “We should still continue to take it one step at a time. We’ve substantially grown our fanbase in the U.K., but I still think we’re a little bit away before we can credibly talk about having a London franchise” (SKY SPORTS, 9/30).
COULD LONDON SUPPORT A TEAM? SPORTS ON EARTH's Ravi Ubha notes the average attendance of the seven regular-season games held in London thus far "sits at more than 82,000, which would have placed it second last season behind" the Cowboys. NFL fans from other parts of Europe "could hop to London and return home the same day, as part of a relatively cheap experience." Whether a London-based team "would face a competitive disadvantage is a consideration that shouldn't be overlooked, and surely won't be by the NFL owners." But perhaps the "question is edging towards, 'Does the league want a team in London?' as opposed to 'Can London support one?'" (SPORTS ON EARTH, 9/30). In London, Oliver Brown wrote following Sunday's Steelers-Vikings game at Wembley Stadium, observers were "left in no doubt from the raptures of these 85,000 disciples that a London NFL team, ostensibly the craziest piece of sporting expansionism ever ventured, might just happen sooner than we think" (TELEGRAPH, 9/30). Also in London, Ben Saunders wrote, "The debate as to whether an NFL franchise will eventually come to London has almost reached saturation point, but last night's action will have given the fans a thirst for more" (LONDON TIMES, 9/30). Sky Sports NFL analyst Neil Reynolds prior to Sunday's game said, "I'm pretty sure there will be three games next year and I think we'll get at least 70,000 people at each match. That would make London one of the best-supported teams in the NFL. I think it's going to happen, I really do" (GUARDIAN, 9/29).
COMMENTS FROM THE PEANUT GALLERY: CBS' Phil Simms said the idea of having a successful NFL team in London "has a chance." Simms: "It's like an event; it's like a party to everybody over here" ("The NFL Today," CBS, 9/29). WFAN-AM's Joe Benigno asked, "Is there a bigger joke than the NFL playing games in London?" He said, "If I'm in Minnesota, I'm going delirious. You took one of my games away" ("Daily News Live," SportsNet N.Y., 9/27). ESPN's Tom Waddle: "You're never going to be able to build a passionate, sizeable fanbase overseas that will support an NFL franchise. If ultimately the goal is to have an NFL franchise play eight home games overseas, that’s never going to work" ("Colin's New Football Show," ESPN2, 9/29). ABC's Brent Musburger said, "A lot of chatter this week about putting an expansion team in London. I got a better idea; let’s put one in Los Angeles” (“Wisconsin-Ohio State,” ABC, 9/28).
According to the Straits Times' online EPL fan survey, the Great Eastern-YEO'S S-League "surprisingly ranks ahead of the Malaysian Super League in terms of popularity among local football fans," according to Fabius Chen of the STRAITS TIMES. Of the 3,046 respondents, 66.1% ranked the MSL "as their least favourite of a list of nine leagues." The result "is surprising given that the MSL has consistently attracted crowds of about 6,000 a game, while the S-League average gate for last season is about 900." Fans said that "they chose the S-League over the MSL because of familiarity, with the local league into its 18th season this year" (STRAITS TIMES, 9/30).
India's supreme court on Monday delayed N. Srinivasan's return as the country's cricket chief, saying there was "something seriously wrong" with the Board of Control for Cricket in India, according to the AFP. The 68-year-old cement tycoon "had been elected unopposed" as the head of the BCCI for a third year on Sunday. But the court "barred Srinivasan from taking charge until it had ruled on a petition against him over a spot-fixing scandal in the Indian Premier League." During Monday's hearing, the court said, "The fact that so many things are coming out of the IPL and BCCI, something is seriously wrong with the apex body controlling cricket. Why has the BCCI lost its credibility? The only thing to be seen is how Srinivasan being the president will affect the IPL probe." The court also fixed Oct. 7 "as the next date of the hearing" (AFP, 9/30). The PTI reported the court asked Srinivasan not to be in a "hurry" and allow the Cricket Association of Bihar to mull over his suggestion that "a committee under the chairmanship of either Arun Jaitley or Vinay Dutta, both of whom are lawyers, be constitued to probe the IPL spot-fixing scandal, also involving his son-in-lay Gurunath Meiyappan." Senior Advocate C.A. Sundaram, appearing for the BCCI, said that certain actions, as per the constitution of the cricketing body, are required to be done by the president and it was willing to assure the bench that "so far as IPL is considered, he (Srinivasan) will have no role." He then suggested constitution of a committee for probing the IPL spot-fixing by a panel to be headed either by Jaitley or Dutta" (PTI, 9/30).
HITTING BACK: In New Delhi, Sanjjeev K. Samyal wrote former IPL Chair Lalit Modi "vowed to hit back and expose the powers-that-be in the richest and most powerful Board in world cricket." Modi alleged that Srinivasan "was solely responsible for the alleged financial violations that took place in the conduct of the IPL in South Africa four years ago." Modi said, "As I have maintained, this was all a huge conspiracy spearheaded by N. Srinivasan and his buddies. They needed a fall guy, and as I was the outsider in their club, I was made the same" (HINDUSTAN TIMES, 9/30).