Representatives of baseball's owners and players union meet this afternoon in Washington, DC, for the first time in 40 days, "this time, and for the first time, under the watchful eye of legendary mediator," William Usery. Usery met with a group of owner reps yesterday and, before this afternoon's talks, he will meet with a group of players. Those meetings have two purposes for Usery. One, "is to get both sides comfortable with him"; and the second, "was to distill in his mind the most fundamental issues in the dispute" (Michael Bamberger, PHILA. INQUIRER, 10/19). "No one expects any dramatic development to emerge from the initial stage of the resumption of talks." At the joint session, Usery is "expected to work out ground rules for future bargaining sessions." Two matters to be decided are the site for meetings and the "availability of the principals to the news media" (Murray Chass, N.Y. TIMES, 10/19). "There are rumblings these days -- especially among agents involved in the talks as intermediaries -- that the sides may be more receptive to a settlement now than they have been, and that a deal perhaps could be struck within the next month or so without the owners unilaterally imposing a salary-cap" (Mark Maske, WASHINGTON POST, 10/19). PLAYERS' LEAGUE: ESPN's Keith Olbermann reported that agent Dick Moss was to hold a news conference today about the new league he hopes to start. But it was postponed. Olbermann quipped: "This just in, the new league has just gone on strike" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 10/18).
Leagues Governing Bodies
In Washington, Josh Young profiles the Champions Tennis Tour: "Some tennis followers questioned the wisdom of a all-out, over-35 seniors tour when Jimmy Connors and Ray Benton, a former ProServ partner, started the Champions Tour last year." There are at least 10 tournaments scheduled for '95, up from three in '93, and the tour "has its name on some expensive items from fashion designer Nicole Miller." Miller created 200 ties and scarfs for the Champions Tour to sell for its charity of choice, the Pediatric AIDS Foundation. Miller has designed fashions for the U.S. Tennis Open, ABC's "Monday Night Football," Major League Baseball, Harley Davidson and Jose Cuervo. Young notes, "As for the Champions Tour, it's mostly about service to the sponsors. Almost as important as playing hard on the tennis court is chatting up a CEO at a cocktail party." In fact, Citibank sponsored a recent stop in Westchester, NY, "mainly to entertain corporate clients" (WASHINGTON TIMES, 10/19).
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, two NHL VPs and Devils Owner John McMullen held a luncheon interview with reporters from the NEW YORK TIMES. Bettman promised an announcement soon on potential game cancellation and addressed the current state of negotiations. Bettman said 40-50 games were necessary for a season to be considered legitimate, but that the warm weather's effect on some rinks would prevent games after June. On the stall in negotiations, Bettman said he thought the players "might be waiting to see 'if maybe the owners are going to blink.'" In defending the owners' proposal, McMullen compared teams owned by individuals to those owned by corporations (namely the Blues and Rangers): "If you have no money of your own invested in it, and your job depends on your ability to put a winning team out there, as long as your boss doesn't cut you off, you just keep spending" (Joe LaPointe, N.Y. TIMES, 10/19). TOUGH TIMES? In Toronto, Bob McKenzie reports that unhappiness with the Times' coverage was the reason for the meeting: "Seems the league hasn't been impressed by the tone of coverage by Times reporters and columnists during the owners' lockout" (TORONTO STAR, 10/19). REFUNDS: The NHL planned to announce its ticket-refund policy around November 1, but that has been pushed up -- "perhaps today" (Len Hochberg, WASHINGTON POST, 10/19). The NHL clubs have received the first draft of a proposed policy with an announcement expected after suggestions return from the teams. Single-game purchasers are likely to be offered the option of a refund or credit; season-ticket holders would receive refunds on a monthly basis on games that have been officially canceled. Clubs could also offer season-ticket holders credit toward the '95 playoffs or the '94-95 season (Tony Gallagher, Vancouver PROVINCE, 10/19). At an average of 10,000 season tickets per team (estimated at $30 each), and a going rate of 3.2%, Dave Luecking computes that NHL owners have earned $519,715 in interest to date on season-ticket revenue (ST. LOUIS POST- DISPATCH, 10/19). LOOK WHO'S NOT TALKING: Bettman and NHLPA Exec Dir Bob Goodenow "cannot even decide who will call whom" (WASHINGTON POST, 10/19). NHLPA spokesperson Steve McAllister: "There's nothing scheduled. Bob is here and we're waiting to hear something" (Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 10/19). ALL EARS: The Whalers held a fan forum with about 350 season-ticket holders and corporate backers. Whalers Owner Peter Karmanos: "I would be happy to return a quarter of the season ticket money, with interest, and maybe the players will start to believe we're really serious about it" (Viv Bernstein, HARTFORD COURANT, 10/19). The Sharks plan a similar session today (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 10/19). THE BOB & BURKE SHOW: NHL Senior VP & Dir of Hockey Operations Brian Burke took his tour of NHL cities to Southern California, while NHLPA Exec Dir Bob Goodenow "returned fire" from Burke's Monday Vancouver stop. Goodenow refutes the claim that the NHL wants to help small-market teams: "They want to control expenses and they want the players to take the brunt of it" (Jack Keating, Vancouver PROVINCE, 10/19). Burke, on the lull: "If this goes on to a serious length it will start to look silly. Our phone numbers work too, you know. Nobody on their side has a broken finger" (Helene Elliott, L.A. TIMES, 10/19). SOMETHING BRUIN' IN BOSTON? Bruins President & GM Harry Sinden sent a letter to his players this week explaining the league's position. Bruins center Adam Oates: "I'm not a lawyer, but it (owners' proposal) sounds good on paper" (Dave Fuller, TORONTO SUN, 10/19). But Bruins defenseman Don Sweeney takes issue with the owners' promise of guaranteed salaries, arguing that while team levels may remain stable, players on the lower end of the salary scale will be hurt (Stephen Harris, BOSTON HERALD, 10/19). YAWN? CNBC's Sue Herera: "The hockey season is still delayed but Americans don't seem to care." A CNBC/Opinion Research Corporation poll of 1,000 adult fans found: 78% do not care that the NHL season has not started; 83% do not care if NHL season is cancelled completely; 81% believe pro athletes are overpaid; 61% say there should be a salary cap in the NHL ("Market Wrap," CNBC, 10/18). NEXT BEST THING? Attendance is up for the Ontario Hockey League -- one of Canada's three major junior hockey leagues -- at a rate of 557 more fans per game. The boost is attributed to the NHL lockout and the absence of post-season Blue Jays "hoopla" for the first time in three years. The OHL averaged 2,767/game in '93-94 (TORONTO SUN, 10/19).
In Washington, David Aldridge reports on Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones' efforts to change the NFL's marketing rules. Jones wants teams to be able to keep more of the profits generated from the marketing of their individual team logos. Last year, the Cowboys generated 28% of all revenues from NFL Properties. Jones "wants what he says is an incentive-based structure." For example, if the Cowboys logo pulls in 30% of all licensing money, Jones think the Cowboys should be allowed to keep money above the 1/28th cut they currently get. But Jones "says he's not looking to take someone else's 1/28th for himself, only to be allowed to make bigger deals outside the current agreements that increase the size of the licensing pie." Aldridge reports opposition to Jones' plan is "strong. Real strong." Browns owner Art Modell thinks Jones' ultimate goal is for a Cowboys TV Network "much like the deal Notre Dame has with NBC," but Aldridge notes that that "won't fly in the share-and-share alike NFL." Modell: "We are 28 fat-cat Republicans that sit around the league meetings and vote socialist" (WASHINGTON POST, 10/19).
In an interview with USA TODAY, NBPA President Buck Williams discussed lockout rumors: "We're waiting on a ruling on our appeal of the court decision that upheld the draft, salary cap and free agency. (Then) we'll have an insight into what direction we're headed. Hopefully, when we do sit down we'll work out an agreement quickly." On playing the season without a new CBA: "Historically, these things have taken more than a year, and we're only three or four months into this scenario, so there's no reason to be alarmed" (USA TODAY, 10/19). But Pistons guard Joe Dumars is not so optimistic. Dumars: "I got a letter a few days ago laying out what hasn't been happening. It made me think a strike might be a possibility. Before, I thought we would get this worked out. But the letter made me think it might get ridiculous" (Dave Fuller, TORONTO SUN, 10/19).
Already an "enormous success" in terms of attendance and U.S. TV ratings, the '94 World Cup "formalized its financial success yesterday, when the U.S. organizers announced that the event will generate a surplus of more than $60 million." The figure is "well above" what organizers had predicted. The surplus funds will go to the U.S. Soccer Federation Foundation, a non-profit corporation set up to promote soccer in the U.S. However, the foundation will not give any money to the MLS, the proposed outdoor pro soccer league being led by World Cup Organizing Committee chief Alan Rothenberg. In fact, the MLS owes the World Cup committee for a $5M loan (Steve Berkowitz, WASHINGTON POST, 10/19). "In an era of declining sports marketing dollars and increasing costs of mounting international sporting events, the surplus is considered by some to be remarkable" (Julie Cart, L.A. TIMES, 10/19). BONUSES: Peter Ueberroth, who chaired the World Cup's Compensation Committee, announced that all the full-time employees of World Cup would receive salary bonuses. Rothenberg reportedly will receive a $3M bonus as well as another $4M as part of a deferred-compensation package for 'back pay due.'" The board was not in complete agreement on the issue of Rothenberg's compensation (L.A. TIMES, 10/19).