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Volume 24 No. 116

Leagues Governing Bodies

          The ABL opens its second season on Sunday with its
     first game on Fox Sports Net (FSN) between the Glory and the
     Blizzard.  The league has expanded to nine franchises, with
     the Long Beach StingRays joining over the offseason. Today,
     THE DAILY previews the upcoming season.  
          OPERATIONS: ABL CEO Gary Cavalli told THE DAILY the
     league plans to double its marketing budget this year to
     more than $3M and has increased its player budget from
     $5.75M to $8M.  The league will boost its TV advertising 
     with spots on ESPN, BET, FSN and on broadcast networks that
     feature a new campaign from NY-based Action Sports Adventure
     with the tagline "Real Basketball."  A print campaign will
     run nationally throughout the year in USA Today, Conde Nast
     Sports For Women, SI Women/Sport and Women's Sports &
     Fitness.  On the investment front, Cavalli said the ABL is
     in "serious talks" with four potential investment groups and
     that an announcement is "close" on a S.F. business exec
     interested in investing $3M in the league and an option in
     team operating rights, most likely for the Portland Power. 
     Also, a deposit has been retained for operating rights to
     the Philadelphia Rage, and a Seattle group is close to a
     deal for operating rights to the Reign.  Cavalli said the
     league will expand by either one or three teams in '98 and
     is eyeing Chicago; St. Louis; K.C.; Nashville; Dallas or
     Austin, TX; and Long Island, NY, as possible markets. 
     Cavalli acknowledged that the league still has "some obvious
     holes" in its national sponsorship inventory and while he
     would like to fill the soft drink, beer and fast food
     categories, the soft drink inventory has been released to
     the teams for this season.  Cavalli said that the ABL will
     lose $1.5M this season, but added, "Next year, we're
     projecting a little bit more than break-even" (THE DAILY).
          ADDED EXPOSURE: The ABL's broadcast partners will air
     up to 36 games this season.  BET will air 12 games, up from
     eight last year, on Saturdays at 7:00pm ET.  In a new deal,
     FSN will telecast 16 regular-season games Sunday nights at
     7:00pm ET, the All-Star Game and seven playoff contests. 
     Cavalli: "This year we're going to have consistent airtime
     and full distribution."  Cavalli said the league also talked
     to ABC and CBS prior to reaching a deal with FSN, and he
     believes the ABL possibly can gain one or two games on Fox
     this year and have an over-the-air broadcast partner next
     season.  Sally Jenkins, Senior Contributing Writer for Conde
     Nast Sports For Women, said the FSN package helps the ABL.
     Jenkins:  "Their single biggest problem is media perception
     and their profile in the media. ... This is a question of
     getting in people's heads and living rooms" (THE DAILY).
          OUTLOOK: Cavalli acknowledged that the WNBA's success
     in its first season makes year two "crucial" for the ABL:
     "We have to have a good season at the gate.  We have to do
     well on television.  We have to have good ratings."  Conde
     Nast's Jenkins sees coexistence between the two leagues for
     the next three to four years, aided by the emerging market
     for women's sports: "The female sports audience has been
     really a hidden one.  The trick for the ABL is to make sure
     the WNBA doesn't get the lion's share [of sponsorships]." 
     Fordham Univ. sports law professor Mark Conrad said the ABL
     needs to be more entrepreneurial than the WNBA: "Mr. Cavalli
     has to be a little more clever, a little more daring and,
     yes, a little more aggressive."  To increase its exposure,
     Jenkins said the ABL should aim to build in mass markets:
     "The grassroots thing is great and very fan friendly, but
     it's not necessarily as media friendly" (THE DAILY).

          The ABL will offer a stock option program that will
     allow its players to own around 10% of the league.  ABL CEO
     Gary Cavalli said that all current players will be granted
     options that will vest over a three-year period.  Options
     will be granted based on contributions to the team and
     league, on and off the court.  New players entering the ABL
     will also receive options.  At the end of each season, about
     half of the players will receive additional performance-
     based grants (ABL).  Cavalli said that the ABL has 10
     million shares of stock, which have risen as high as $2.35
     per share (Dwain Price, FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 10/10).
          MORE ABL NEWS: Cavalli said season-ticket sales for the
     league have increased from 8-9,000 last year to more than
     13,000 (THE DAILY)....USA TODAY's Valerie Lister reported
     that ten of the 13 "top collegiate players" signed with the
     ABL over the offseason.  League sponsor Reebok, which will
     outfit all nine teams, will promote the ABL in print and TV
     ads (USA TODAY, 10/10)....Saudia Roundtree, the '96 college
     player of the year, has signed a three-year contract to
     remain with the Atlanta Glory (WASHINGTON POST, 10/10).
          NATIONAL AD: An ABL ad supplement appears in USA TODAY
     with the "Real Basketball" slogan on the cover.  League
     sponsors Reebok and Hartford-based Phoenix Home Life Mutual
     Insurance Co. took out ads (USA TODAY, 10/10).

          The Rams "kept secret" from the other 29 NFL teams an
     agreement with the St. Louis Convention and Visitors
     Commission (CVC) that the CVC "would pay up to" $7.5M of
     fees to relocate from CA, according to William Lhotka of the
     ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH.  Former U.S. Senator Thomas
     Eagleton, who lead the civic group FANS, Inc., said that the
     deal was "contained in a document separate" from documents
     that the Rams turned over to the NFL in its application to
     move in '95.  Lhotka reports the "admissions cast a cloud
     over the" CVC's $130M antitrust suit, which "contends that
     the NFL acted arbitrarily, and perhaps unethically, in
     forcing the city to pay" $20M of a $29M Rams relocation fee. 
     Eagleton confirmed that the fee was withheld from the NFL,
     since offering information "about the fee agreement would
     have been an invitation to the league to extract as much as
     it could."  In further questioning from NFL attorney Frank
     Rothman, Eagleton said the league never discouraged FANS,
     Inc. from talking to any NFL team or interfered with its
     talks with the Rams.  CVC attorney Alan Popkin has "alleged
     that the NFL, through its guidelines, rules and antitrust
     practices, had discouraged" teams from bidding on St. Louis
     and its new stadium which "forced" the city to give the Rams
     a "deal far superior than the team would have gotten in an
     open-market atmosphere" (POST-DISPATCH, 10/10).

          The NFL's "high-tech blitz" is examined by USA TODAY's
     Bill Meyers in a page one cover story.  Meyers: "[N]o sport
     utilizes as much state-of-the-art technology as pro football
     -- from expensive, nonlinear video editing equipment to
     encrypted coach-to-quarterback radio transmitters to
     pulsating pain relief appliances run by microprocessors." 
     But the "high-tech blitz has unleashed a heated debate among
     team executives over pro football's future.  At stake:
     whether men or machines will control each game's outcome in
     the 21st century."  Giants GM George Young said that he has
     "no problems with teams using computers to prepare for
     games, but he won't allow PCs after kick-off."  Other
     technological advances featured include the Avid Sports
     statistical system; LED large-screen video display; Sport
     Grass playing surfaces and Vyvx interactive PC system which
     fans can use from their seats (USA TODAY, 10/10).
          JERSEY BOY: The NFL's tailgating experience, through
     the eyes of "Jersey John" Tobias, a Steelers fans who
     travels a total of 750 miles from New Jersey to Pittsburgh
     for home games, is profiled by Roger Thurow in a WALL STREET
     JOURNAL cover story.  Thurow: "[I]f you want to know what
     makes the league the business and cultural colossus that it
     is, don't study the fields of play ... linger in the parking
     lots surrounding those fields of play" (WSJ, 10/10).
          LEAGUE NOTES: Through 82 games, the NFL's average paid
     attendance is 62,222, which is up 1,052 per game from last
     year's average of 61,170 through 81 games (NFL)....Of the 82
     NFL games through the first six weeks of the season, 41% of
     them, 34 games, have been blacked out in their local market. 
     Nine teams have not had a home game televised locally:
     Cardinals, Falcons, Vikings, Bengals, Bills, Colts,
     Dolphins, Chargers and Seahawks (THE DAILY).

          The NHL's participation in the Olympics, which will
     shut the league down for 17 days in midseason, is "risky"
     because "marquee players could get hurt, and local fans
     could feel alienated," according to Stefan Fatsis of the
     WALL STREET JOURNAL.  But league officials say the Olympic
     exposure "will speed the goal of attracting new fans both in
     the U.S. and internationally."  NHL Commissioner Gary
     Bettman: "When people think of the Olympics, for two weeks
     they are going to have reasons to think of the NHL."  But
     Fatsis adds that the NHL's "biggest problem" during its
     regular season "will be closing down at about the time fan
     interest usually picks up."  For example, the Blues will
     play 25 home games through December but "only" 16 home games
     in the "peak" January to April months.  So the team has
     scheduled six promotional giveaways this month and has
     reduced ticket prices in two-thirds of the 19,260-seat Kiel
     Center.  Blues Marketing Exec Jim Woodcock: "We understand
     that any scheduling hardships are for the good of the game
     and the league.  But no question it does pose an early
     challenge for us."  Fatsis adds that "to ensure attendance
     doesn't slip after the Olympics, teams are planning
     promotions during the shutdown," including the Panthers
     hosting a black-tie dinner with players waiting tables, and
     the Blues offering 200 tickets for a Caribbean cruise with
     players (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 10/10).