SBG: Leeds United Set For Financial Boost SBJ: Wasserman in talks to buy Athletes First SBJ: MacDougall runs IMG sale SBJ: A pay-for-play model SBD: Sources: Fox Keeps UEFA Champions League SBD: Winston News Bumps Ferrell Off "SportsCenter" SBJ: An alarm for college football SBD: Luukko Resigns From Comcast-Spectacor SBD: Executive Transactions SBD: Fox Sells Out Of Super Bowl XLVIII Inventory
August 16, 2013 11:37 AM
My first visit earlier this week to a Mexican men’s national team “home” match on U.S. soil was an eye-opener.
On Wednesday at MetLife Stadium, the energy in the stands during Mexico’s 4-1 “friendly” match win over Ivory Coast wasn’t really a big surprise. Many people around the game of soccer have told me that the fans of Mexico are among the loudest and most invested in sports played anywhere. But what I saw at Futbol Fiesta, the sponsor activation space — known as Soccer Celebration at big MLS and U.S. Soccer Federation events — impressed me. It’s why companies make multimillion-dollar deals with Soccer United Marketing, MLS’s commercial arm, which represents the Federacion Mexicana de Futbol (FMF), to connect with the Mexican national team’s fans.
At Futbol Fiesta, in the parking lot of MetLife Stadium, there were big crowds and long lines at every sponsor’s station.
At Futbol Fiesta, the sponsor activation zone, Castrol personalized T-shirts with fans' "Brazilian" names. For example, Luke becomes "Lucao."
Photo by:CHRISTOPHER BOTTA / STAFF
Coca-Cola hosted what was essentially a house party, with one man and a trio of women leading a large, raucous gathering in dancing and cheers for the FMF. Coke soccer balls were thrown or kicked into the crowd. At the adjacent tent of Powerade, fans took penalty kicks on a goaltender on a video screen. The line to have your picture taken with a model representing Makita power tools also was long.
In contrast, when I attended the 2012 MLS Cup in Los Angeles in December and the 2013 MLS All-Star Game two weeks ago in Kansas City, the crowds at SUM’s Soccer Celebrations were plentiful, but the fans were not nearly as engaged in the sponsor activations. In New Jersey, the sponsors had little trouble enticing fans to hand over their email addresses in order to enter raffles or spin a wheel to win prizes.
Coke drew a large and loud crowd at Futbol Fiesta.
Photo by:CHRISTOPHER BOTTA / STAFF
“Everywhere we go to call these matches, the crowds are big,” said Moreno, a former Venezuelan national team player who also played more than 200 matches in MLS. “None of it is a surprise to me.”
Attendance for the Mexico-Ivory Coast match was announced as 35,671, which to my eyes was a generous calculation. MetLife Stadium has a capacity of 82,000 and the stands appeared to be, at most, one-third full. But on this night, that’s a minor quibble. It was easy to see on Wednesday that, for the FMF and Soccer United Marketing, business was good.
FS1 host Regis Philbin appeared on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart” last night to discuss the debut of the network and his new show “Crown Goes Wild.” Philbin said he grew up playing “baseball and a little football” in the Bronx and that he is a Yankees fan. Host John Oliver noted that he is a Mets fan because “as a British person I associate sport with misery” (“The Daily Show With Jon Stewart,” Comedy Central, 8/14).
TOO THE RACES: ESPN's Tony Reali said the PGA Tour has "officially banned" the caddie races at TPC Scottsdale because "according to a Tour executive, the caddies were at risk for injury and some felt like they were being turned into a carnival act." ESPN's Pablo Torre said as "far as being a carnival goes, the decorum train kind of left the station when it was called the Waste Management Open so let's stop and talk about that reputation there. Also, do we really need less athletic activity in golf?" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 8/14).
CUBBY HOLE: ESPN’s Colin Cowherd said of his impression of Wrigley Field, “The stadium does need upgrades because free agents aren’t going to go to places that don’t have the appropriate batting cages in the tunnel and you don’t want to play for a team where your stadium, which you play at 81 times a year minimum, is the worst stadium luxury-wise. Players are spoiled and pampered and the free agents are going to take that into consideration” (“The Herd,” ESPN Radio, 8/14).
WINTER CHILL: Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert discussed the controversy surrounding Russia’s anti-gay laws and the ’14 Winter Games. He said, “The International Olympic Committee has bravely stood up to (Russian President Vladimir Putin) and said, ‘Whatever you want Vlad.’” Colbert: “The IOC is just asking gay athletes to knock it off for a couple of weeks. … But to be safe, I think they should bring the Olympics back to its Greek roots when nothing gay ever happened" (“The Colbert Report,” Comedy Central, 8/14).
August 15, 2013 09:53 AM
SportsBusiness Journal this week unveiled our biennial ranking of the country’s Top Minor League Markets. In a project that considered more than 225 communities, more than 400 teams and close to 50 leagues, there are plenty of things that stood out. Following are some additional observations from research director David Broughton, who spearheaded the project, beyond what’s available in this week’s print issue.
■ Highway to highs
If a fan were to embark on a coast-to-coast minor league sports road trip along Interstate 90, traveling from Seattle to Boston, that fan would be able to hit a number of our top-ranked markets: Spokane, Wash. (No. 9); Sioux Falls, S.D. (10); Toledo, Ohio (1); Rochester, N.Y. (2); Syracuse, N.Y. (6); and Springfield, Mass. (5).
■ Upstate New York
The continued presence of No. 2 Rochester, No. 6 Syracuse and No. 23 Binghamton near the top of our rankings belies much of upstate New York’s minor league sports scene during the years that we have researched for this study.
Small-town baseball has been hit the hardest. Following the 2009 season, for example, Oneonta (No. 207) saw its New York-Penn League Oneonta Tigers move to Norwich, Conn., after nearly half a century in town. Two hours to the west, Elmira (No. 99) had fielded a pro team dating to 1923, serving as an affiliate for 14 different MLB clubs between 1923 and 1995. After averaging 1,200 fans per game in 2005, the Can-Am League Elmira Pioneers, who had spent a decade in independent leagues, folded. In Albany (No. 107), Heritage Park had a similar, albeit shorter, minor league baseball history. The state’s capital served as home for the Eastern League’s (AA) Oakland A’s affiliate from 1982-84 and for the New York Yankees’ farm club for 1985-94 before the Albany-Colonie Diamond Dogs folded after playing eight seasons in independent leagues.
Syracuse and Rochester have not been immune to challenges, as each has seen an indoor football team come and go. The struggles continue for the area, as well, as the ECHL Elmira Jackals have seen their attendance fall by one-third over the past three seasons, and the NYPL Jammers in Jamestown (No. 63) are expected to relocate to a new ballpark in Morgantown, W.Va., after the 2014 season.
■ Former af2 markets
Several markets were negatively affected when the af2 disbanded in 2009, including three former top-10 markets. The Quad City Steamwheelers (for Davenport, Iowa-Moline, Ill., ranked No. 48 this year) were a charter member of the af2 and played their home games at iWireless Center in Moline, Ill. The team averaged more than 6,000 fans per game throughout the first half of its existence and was still among the league’s top draws in its final years. The market ranked No. 6 in our 2007 survey.
Boise, Idaho (No. 116) was No. 7 in that 2007 study, and the Boise Burn added nearly 40,000 fans during its four-year tenure to the market’s annual attendance total.
Similarly, Peoria, Ill. (No. 55) was No. 6 in our 2009 study, having hosted an indoor football team for a decade prior to the Peoria Pirates’ 2009 demise.
■ Two developing markets
• On Mississippi’s Gulf Coast, plans were announced in May to build a $36 million, 7,000-seat minor league ballpark financed largely from BP oil spill settlement funds. The effort to bring baseball to the Biloxi, Miss., market (No. 164) is being led by baseball veteran Ken Young. The team would be located within a two-hour drive of the Southern League (A) Mobile Bay Bears and Pensacola Blue Wahoos. The market also has one of the smallest income bases in our study, and attendance for the SPHL Mississippi Surge, the area’s only team, has fallen in each of the past four seasons.
• Residents of El Paso, Texas (No. 148), voted this spring in favor of a hotel tax increase to help pay for a $50 million ballpark to host the San Diego Padres’ Pacific Coast League (AAA) affiliate. Plans call for the now-Tucson (Ariz.) Padres to move to El Paso for the 2014 season. Groundbreaking happened this spring, and construction is scheduled to be completed in time for Opening Day next season. The American Association (Ind.) El Paso Diablos began playing in the market in 1962.
August 14, 2013 06:34 PM
DirecTV, Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks are likely to carry Fox Sports 1 at its launch on Saturday, according to sources with direct knowledge of the deals. The three distributors still have not signed deals to carry the channel, but the sources expect all three providers to have it available on Saturday.
Dish Network did not respond to email requests for comment. But sources said they expected Dish to carry the channel, as well. The Los Angeles Times is reporting that Dish Network has agreed to carry FS1 at launch.
Fox Sports executives have said that they expect FS1 to launch in 90 million homes. These deals are certain to get the channel to that number.
KGW-NBC’s Pat Dooris said of the Rose Garden name change, “A lot of people do not like it. In fact there’s even a Facebook page and an online petition to try and change it back” (KGW-NBC, 8/13). KPTV-Fox's Ben Senger said this "change will take some time to get used to and some people, no matter how long this goes on with the new name, will still be calling the building the Rose Garden" (KPTV-Fox, 8/13).
FORE! PGA of America President Ted Bishop was asked whether there was an unspoken rule among golf’s governing bodies making announcements during events such as the USGA’S controversial announcement of its TV deal with Fox. The USGA was largely criritized last week for its timing on the eve of the PGA’s major. He said, “There's not, at least within the circle of one of golf's governing bodies. But I don't think anybody would have made that announcement during The Masters. I don't think that the USGA would have that announcement during the Open Championship, and I can unequivocally tell you that the PGA of America would not make any kind of major announcement that would upstage any one of our major championship partners nor the PGA Tour.” Back9Networks host Matt Adams asked, “Is there some bad blood still festering?" Bishop said, "There's none on our end" ("Fairways of Life," Back9Network, 8/13).
FEELING DUCKY: The Univ. of Oregon opened its new football facility, and CNBC's Jane Wells said, "If recruiting in the big-money game of college football is an arms race, this could be a nuclear weapon" ("The Kudlow Report," CNBC, 8/13). Wells: “I call it the 'Duck Star,' this $68 million facility that Phil Knight has built for the university." OU coach Mark Helfrich said, “We've never had a space like this from an educational standpoint to actually teach and coach our guys” ("Street Signs," CNBC, 8/13). Wells said of the facility, OU AD Rob Mullens said, “We're so fortunate. We have some recruiting disadvantages in other areas and fortunately, the generosity of Phil Knight … has allowed us to make up some of those in the facilities and this is a very special place” ("Squawk on the Street," CNBC, 8/13).
ORANGE YOU GLAD? Syracuse AD Dr. Daryl Gross discussed having the ACC basketball tournament at Madison Square Garden. He said, “To be in the Garden Saturday night is like being at a Joe Frazier-Muhammad Ali fight. The atmosphere there is just unbelievable and you just cannot match it anywhere. I've always enjoyed the ACC Tournament (but) it gets a little bit anticlimactic in that on Sunday when you play in the afternoon everyone's waiting for the 'Selection Show'" ("David Glenn Show," ACCSports.com, 8/13).
KINGDOM COME: The L.A. Times’ Bill Plaschke said Heat F LeBron James “doesn't want that job" as NBPA President because "look at what happened to (Thunder G) Derek Fisher taking that job. This cuddly, warm persona became this evil monster when he became" NBPA President. LeBron is “smart to stay away, (Jerry Stackhouse) is smart to keep him away" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 8/13).
CIRCUIT TRAINING: Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert said, of the TSA’s Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR) program, “It is part of a nationwide security program that serves all modes of transportation. That means cars, including NASCAR’s. So before each lap, they're going to have to get stopped for a screening. It’s the only way to make sure everyone is safe before they crash for our amusement” (“The Colbert Report,” Comedy Central, 8/13).
KOSAR UNFILTERED: ESPN’s Rick Reilly said that Browns color commentator Bernie Kosar’s criticism of the Rams “went too far and I loved it.” Reilly wondered if “concussions are getting to Bernie because he was saying stuff no radio color guy has said in the last five years.” Reilly said that he hopes Kosar “keeps it up” but speculated that the Browns are “going to bolt him down now to the table and keep him under wraps” (“The Herd,” ESPN Radio, 8/13).
August 14, 2013 04:01 PM
MLB Commissioner Bud Selig is still a favorite of autograph seekers in Cooperstown.
Photo by:GETTY IMAGES
The 79-year-old Selig routinely gets a throng of autograph seekers each year at his FanFest Town Hall at the All-Star Game, one of a select number of appearances annually where he meets directly with the public. And attending quarterly owners meetings this week in Cooperstown, N.Y., it was no different. Selig was frequently approached while eating dinner Tuesday night at The Hawkeye Grill and asked to pose for photos and sign autographs. Diners could be seen showing off their cellphone photos after meeting Selig.
MLB owners are conducting their meetings in Cooperstown at the Otesaga Resort Hotel, the most prominent luxury hotel in town and a popular spot among tourists during the town’s busy summer season.
August 14, 2013 09:40 AM
SportsBusiness Journal this week unveiled our 2013 ranking of the country’s Top Minor League Markets, with Toledo, Ohio, taking this year’s top slot.
As SportsBusiness Journal research director David Broughton writes in this week’s issue, No. 1-ranked Toledo has designated a No. 1 fan for his longtime (and very visible) support of the team: actor Jamie Farr, better known as Cpl. Maxwell Klinger on the 1970s TV hit “M*A*S*H.” Klinger was a fictional Toledo native, but Farr was, in fact, born in the city.
Jamie Farr (left) shows his Mud Hens pride on the license plate of a Jeep made in Toledo specifically for Farr. But his "M*A*S*H" co-star, Harry Morgan, is the only one wearing a a Mud Hens hat in this photo.
Photo:COURESTY OF THE TOLEDO MUD HENS
The Jeep was made in Toledo specifically for Farr and delivered to him in California, where the show was filmed. It had to have a catalytic converter installed for the emissions laws in California.
The picture features Farr with Harry Morgan (Col. Sherman T. Potter on the show). Look closely, and you’ll see that of the two, it’s Morgan who actually is wearing a Toledo Mud Hens hat in this picture; Farr is not. Farr told Broughton that before his character started wearing official Mud Hens apparel on set, he wore the hat the props people said was the closest thing they could find to Toledo’s official hat.
Ken Levine, one of the original “M*A*S*H” writers and later a radio announcer for several MLB clubs, said the same.
“Jamie always wore the wrong hat,” Levine told Broughton. “He swore it was a Mud Hens hat, but it was a Texas Rangers hat.”
No question about the name on that license plate, though.
MLB’s season is approaching its home stretch, and no team has been under the spotlight more than the Dodgers. Of the money the team spent on player payroll, GM Ned Colletti said, “We really needed to do what we did in the last 12 months.” Colletti said the mindset of the Dodgers ownership was to “get as good as we can as fast as we can” in order to “bring this fan base back, give ourselves credibility and give the fans something to hang on to while we continue to develop our own” (“The Herd,” ESPN Radio, 8/12).
HOW NOW BROWNS….: ESPN's Herm Edwards said the lack of "professionalism" by Browns TV analyst Bernie Kosar when criticizing Rams players was a "little bit surprising." Edwards: "Words are powerful and I think you have to be careful … It was a little bit surprising coming out of Bernie's mouth to hear what he was saying" ("NFL Live," ESPN, 8/12). Columnist Kevin Blackistone said this is a "bad hire if in fact this is what Bernie Kosar is going to bring you as an analyst, and if he's bringing you this as an analyst, he's really not doing anything more than anybody would do at a sports bar” ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 8/12).
MIAMI VICE: Heat F LeBron James discussed MLB’s PED scandal in MLB involving Yankees 3B Alex Rodriguez, noting it "sends a bad message." James: "It’s unfortunate that we have a story like Alex Rodriguez. You never want to have a controversy because it's a direct effect to the kids that are coming after us" ("GMA," ABC, 8/12).
BUTT OUT: ’13 PGA Championship winner Jason Dufner on his embrace with his wife after he won the PGA Championship: “She thought it was pretty funny. She’ll find other things to hold against me other than a pat on the butt” (“Mike & Mike, ESPN Radio, 8/13).
August 13, 2013 09:30 AM
SportsBusiness Journal in this week’s issue spotlights Toledo, Ohio, which ranks No. 1 in our 2013 study of the country’s Top Minor League Markets.
Armory Park was among the first permanent minor league ballparks.
All photos:COURTESY OF THE TOLEDO MUD HENS
That’s when the Northwestern League Blue Stockings were formed, the first of about a dozen baseball clubs that would play in the market over the next several years. Fans flocked to the games despite unstable finances by a string of team owners and the lack of a permanent venue for the local team. But in 1897, team owner Charles J. Strobel, an oil magnate and Sandusky, Ohio, native, made a move to reflect what he saw as the market’s potential: He financed the construction of Armory Park, one of the first permanent minor league ballparks in the country.
Community support for the downtown project was visible even in the weeks before the stadium’s opening. The Toledo Blade newspaper, in an opinion piece, lauded Strobel’s efforts, stating “Strobel is going to an enormous expense in fitting up the grounds, and deserves liberal patronage for his pluck and determination.”
Once open, Strobel’s 4,000-seat ballpark was frequently bursting at its fortress-like seams. The success gave rise, in 1909, to a new ballpark for the city — one that opened on old fairgrounds property in west Toledo, a 16-minute streetcar ride from the center of the city. Detroit native William Armour had purchased the Toledo team in 1907, and it was Armour and Noah Swayne, chairman of the group that owned the club, who proceeded to privately finance construction of the new facility. The ballpark was built in a mere four months, with construction running 24 hours a day.
Swayne Field's center-field wall was 505 feet from home plate.
According to John R. Husman’s book “Baseball In Toledo,” the 1,000 upper-deck grandstand seats at the new ballpark cost $1 per ticket, there were 1,600 lower grandstand seats at 75 cents and another 3,300 at 50 cents, and 6,000 bleacher spaces at a quarter each.
Political satirist, journalist and author P.J. O’Rourke grew up about three blocks from the ballpark and attended games with his father.
“One of my very earliest memories of any kind is that I remember climbing out of my crib to go to my bedroom window to watch the searchlights swaying across the sky at Swayne Field,” O’Rourke said. “It was right after World War II, and I don’t know who they thought was going to bomb the Midwest, but the ballpark had searchlights.”
O’Rourke said despite the fact that the ballpark had begun to age less than gracefully by the time he attended games — the upper deck and parts of the concourse had been closed due to structural problems — the building was always a source of pride for the city.
In 1884, Walker joined the Mud Hens and became the first black player in professional baseball.
It would take a decade before professional baseball returned to town. Local politician Ned Skeldon successfully persuaded local businesses to help fund a conversion of the former Fort Miami racetrack at the county fairgrounds in suburban Maumee, Ohio, to a ballpark. Lucas County Stadium (later known as Ned Skeldon Stadium) opened in 1965, a Mud Hens baseball team returned, and that franchise is now the longest-tenured team in the market’s history — albeit with its move to the modern-day,
Stengel managed the Mud Hens from 1926-31.
Also from the history files: Future Hall of Fame managers Joe McCarthy and Casey Stengel both had stints in Toledo (McCarthy from 1908-11; Stengel from 1926-31). And Moses Fleetwood Walker donned a uniform for the Toledo ball club in 1884 to become the first black player in professional baseball, more than 60 years before Jackie Robinson’s MLB debut.
The role of PEDs in baseball has remained fresh in the media cycle, thanks in part to former MLBer Jack Clark accusing Angels 1B Albert Pujols of using banned substances. ESPN's Tony Kornheiser said, “Baseball players have lost the presumption of innocence.” TBS' John Smoltz said there's "going to be a strong push" by the players, "as there should be, to make the risk/reward not so great" and penalize the players who use PEDs more ("PTI," ESPN, 8/9). ESPN's Pablo Torre, on MLB suspending Yankees 3B Alex Rodriguez 211 games: "(MLB Commissioner Bud Selig) is the guy who is trying to single-handedly change his legacy from the guy who is very soft on steroids to the guy who is very hard on steroids and Alex Rodriguez, for better and for worse, has been the poster boy for that effort" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 8/9).
SIGN OF THE TIMES: N.Y. Daily News’ Mike Lupica, on the Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel autograph controversy: “Is this Biogenesis or is this a college boy signing some stuff? … I want to see the NCAA take the most exciting player in the sport out of play this season because of rules that just do not fit the modern culture of sports." Lupica added, "If I’m going to keep one guy in college sports, Johnny Manziel or Mark Emmert, the president of the NCAA, I'll go with Manziel.” The Boston Globe’s Bob Ryan said, “I love college sports, I’ve been around college sports as a fan my whole life but it’s like defending your relationship with a hooker. … It’s a business” (“The Sports Reporters,” ESPN, 8/11).
HOMECOMING: ESPN President John Skipper on the status of the Keith Olbermann program: “So far it’s going great. There’s always some scary moments as you sort of think about getting a show up and launched this quickly but we’ve done this a lot. We‘ve got some excellent producers on this show. Keith is up for it. It’s been astonishing to sort of watch the rehearsals and see what he can do in a room with a pen and piece of paper in an hour” (“Reliable Sources,” CNN, 8/11).
FAMILY TIES: Denver Post’s Woody Paige, on Lakers Exec VP/Business Operations Jeanie Buss saying that the "Laker way" isn't the same since the passing of her father, Owner Jerry Buss: "It seemed to me … her statements were a putdown of her brother (Lakers Exec VP/Player Personnel Jim Buss) who's running the franchise. She probably should be running it. But I do think if Dr. Buss were still alive and healthy that he would have probably prevented what occurred from occurring." ESPN's J.A. Adande said, "It's healthy that Jeanie Buss acknowledges that things are different" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 8/9). ESPN’s Colin Cowherd said that Dr. Jerry Buss “had vision and you can’t will vision to your kids. It’s not hereditary.” When Buss passed away the Lakers lost “his vision” and that he was the guy that “understood branding and image” (ESPN.com, 8/9).
TEX THAT TO THE BANK: Yankees 1B Mark Teixeira, who rang the opening bell at the NYSE this morning, discussed managing his money and portfolio. Teixeira said, "It's very important for players to take responsibility for their careers. I think a lot of us sign a contract at 18 or 21 years old, we let our agents run everything, we let other people just kind of tell us what to do and I've just taken it upon myself to follow smart people." Teixeira noted he is friends with 76ers co-Owner David Blitzer and they "love talking sports and getting together," along with The Goldman Sachs Group President COO Gary Cohn and Marquis Jet Founder Kenny Dichter ("Squawk on the Street," CNBC, 8/12).
EXTRA POINT ATTEMPT: The St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Bryan Burwell, on the Manning brothers new DirecTV commercial in which they rap: "How about that Manning family? Already the first family of NFL quarterbacks. P&E Diddy – that's Peyton and Eli to you squares – are now on the cutting edge of the New Orleans rap movement too" (“The Sports Reporters, ESPN, 8/11).