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Volume 24 No. 113


Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait last night said the city is "closer" to landing an NBA team, the first time an Anaheim city official has spoken publicly about the Kings' potential move to Honda Center, according to Eric Carpenter of the ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER. Speaking during an Anaheim City Council meeting last night, Tait confirmed that "negotiations are ongoing." He said, "The good news is that we are continuing to move closer to bringing a professional basketball team to Anaheim. Because there are ongoing discussions and negotiations, I have just a few details to share tonight. More information will be forthcoming in the next week or so." Earlier in the meeting, the council "postponed discussion of bond funding for improvements at Honda Center, which many believe indicates the arena is being prepared for the Kings to move there next season." The council will take up that issue March 29. Tait affirmed last night that "no taxpayer money would be used to lure the Kings" (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 3/23).

THE KINGS AND I: Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson in a blog entry posted last night wrote the Kings' possible relocation to Anaheim "feels like a slow death," adding this "will likely be the Kings' final weeks in Sacramento after 26 years." Johnson: "The strange part is, our true destiny as a professional sports town continues to rest with us -- not the Kings or Royals or whatever they want to call themselves. ... The slow death is almost over. It's painful. But a new beginning is right around the corner" (AP, 3/22). More Johnson: "The decision to move a business -- let’s not forget, the Kings are a business -- rests with the owners. We can talk and do our best to persuade, but in the end, the choice to relocate belongs to the people who own the team." He added, "First things first, we’ll fight to protect taxpayers and the city. That means making sure the Kings fully pay off their loan" (, 3/22).

If the NFL lockout "pushes the start of training camp into late summer, the Ravens likely would move their public practices from McDaniel College to M&T Bank Stadium this year," according to Jamison Hensley of the Baltimore SUN. The Ravens have held camp in Westminster, Md., since moving from Cleveland in '96, "but their contract with McDaniel College expired last year." Ravens and McDaniel officials "have agreed to wait on a new deal" until a CBA is signed. Hensley notes a "delayed start to training camp probably would conflict with the return of students and the beginning of the school's football season, which would force the Ravens to make alternative plans." Because the team's HQs in Owings Mills, Md., "wasn't built to accommodate thousands of fans, the Ravens' public practices most likely would be held at M&T Bank Stadium." Last year, a "team-record 112,051 fans attended public practices," including a crowd of 17,851 that attended the Ravens' first training camp practice at M&T Bank Stadium since '96. That success "led owner Steve Bisciotti to declare it a new tradition." Ravens coach John Harbaugh: "I think we're planning on doing more at the stadium anyway. That was so good last year. We'll probably do it two or three times this year even if we're at McDaniel" (Baltimore SUN, 3/23).

The NFL "may be at a standstill because of the labor dispute, but there is no work stoppage" on the Bills coaching staff, according to Allen Wilson of the BUFFALO NEWS. They are "still doing the same job as if there wasn't a lockout." The Bills are among "at least a dozen teams that are cutting coaches' pay," though that money "will be reimbursed if no regular-season games are lost." With a "smaller paycheck and no idea if they'll have anything to do this season, it would be understandable if coaches weren't in the best mood," but Bills coach Chan Gailey said that there are "no morale problems with his assistants because they have known what was coming for some time." Gailey: "I'm going to give our organization a great deal of credit for not keeping anyone in the dark about what's happening" (BUFFALO NEWS, 3/23).

KEEP PLUGGING AWAY: Buccaneers coach Raheem Morris yesterday discussed the impact of the lockout on his team's preparations, saying, "The obvious downfall, when you're talking about the state of the league right now, is that you're not able to see your players as much as you did last year. It really hasn't affected us so far. Right now, we're just missing the guys being in there to lift. So we'll see. We're just concentrating on the draft and bringing in more people who can help us win" (, 3/22).

BUSINESS AS USUAL: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell yesterday "seemed surprised that anyone would find it strange that 31 of 32 teams ... are demanding payment from season ticket-holders even though the league is currently in a lockout that may stretch for months." Goodell: "Very simple -- we're getting prepared to play for the 2011 season. We've identified policies for refunds if that is necessary" (BOSTON GLOBE, 3/23). In Denver, Mike Klis reports the Broncos have asked season-ticket holders "for half payment on 2011 seats," and the "other half will come due later in the spring" (DENVER POST, 3/23).

READ AND REACT: Rams RB Steven Jackson yesterday honored St. Louis-area students as part of the Reading with the Rams contest. His appearance "on behalf of a team-sponsored program seems to rub against the grain of the labor strife between the NFL and its players," but Jackson said that he "wanted to appear because he had committed to the program months ago." Rams Dir of Community Outreach Michael Yarbrough said that the team "received special permission from the NFL to go through with the event" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 3/23).

NOTES: The Texans have launched a "Your Story, Your Glory" contest. Fans can visit the team's website to "submit your 'favorite game day rituals, routines or memories' from Texans games for a chance to be shown on the 2011 season tickets" (, 3/22)....Bears Chair Michael McCaskey "addressed owners, coaches and executives" yesterday at the NFL annual meetings with a "powerful four-minute speech." McCaskey "recounted how his grandfather George Halas founded pro football and shaped what has become the most popular sport in the United States." Redskins Owner Daniel Snyder described the speech as "beautiful" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 3/23).

Manchester United parent company Red Football Joint Venture Ltd. announced a "record pre-tax loss" of about $177.5M (all figures U.S.) for the FY ending June '10, according to Jackson & Conn of the GUARDIAN. The loss represents an additional $47.2M from the $130.3M "pre-tax deficit posted for the same period by Red Football Limited, the football club's immediate holding company, in October." Most of the $47.2M is the "interest accrued on the club's payment-in-kind loans," which stood at about $379M in June and "has since been cleared." Jackson & Conn noted ManU's commercial revenue increased to $82.1M, up 35.5% from $60.6M "due to the new deal with Aon" to sponsor the club's jersey. This trend "should allow United to become the first club to draw" a profit exceeding £100M (about $163M) from commercial revenue. ManU's overall revenue increased from about $236M to $255M, "which indicates the club's earnings are increasing even while it services the huge debt" (, 3/22). In Manchester, Stuart Mathieson notes ManU Joint Chair Joel Glazer yesterday "tried to reassure fans by saying the club has 'sufficient cash reserves ... for investment in the playing squad'" (, 3/23). ESPN SOCCERNET's Harry Harris cited a source as saying there have been "suggestions that the club are financially handicapped in some way," but "they are exceptional circumstances." The source noted the club has about $269M in cash "in the bank, and even as we stand the club would pass UEFA's fair financial play rules" (, 3/22).

UPPING STAKE: The PA reported Arsenal investor Alisher Usmanov has "upped his stake" in the EPL club to "over 27%." Red & White Holdings Limited, which is jointly owned by Usmanov and partner Farhad Moshiri, "made the brief announcement on Tuesday but did not give any details as to the additional stock acquired." Rams Owner Stan Kroenke "remains the largest individual shareholder" in the club with a 29.9% stake (PA, 3/22).

While FC Barcelona has enjoyed “sustained success” on the field, the La Liga club’s financial performance “has been less glittering,” according to Miles Johnson of the FINANCIAL TIMES. Barcelona President Sandro Rosell has “pledged to slash the club’s debt and to build on its success to increase revenues through international marketing.” The club last year reported an annual loss of $112.8M (all figures U.S.) and net debt of about $568.5M. The club during the credit boom “burnt through its cash by paying huge transfer fees.” As a result, Barcelona last year sought a $213.2M loan to “help pay player and staff wages and ushered in a new period of austerity.” The club in December “signed a five-and-a-half-year,” $234.5M contract with the Qatari government -- the “most lucrative shirt sponsorship deal” in soccer history. The club previously had filled the space with Unicef's logo “free of charge.” The Qatar deal is “likely to see the 121-year-old club’s revenues stay above” $568.6M this year, and “give it the chance to dethrone arch-rivals Real Madrid as the highest grossing team in the world.” Rosell, a former Nike exec, was “instrumental” in the Qatar deal and has “rebuilt the club’s board around figures with both managerial and international marketing skills.” Johnson noted the club’s earning capacity will be “helped by the increasingly tight grip Spain’s two richest teams hold over domestic and international broadcasting revenues.” Barcelona last year generated $253M from broadcasting, 44% of the club’s “total revenues and an annual rise” of 12% (FINANCIAL TIMES, 3/22).

On Long Island, Anthony Destefano reports former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo's “effort to settle the $1-billion battle between the New York Mets' owners and the trustee for Bernard Madoff's victims has made little headway, making it likely the team will stay under a financial cloud well into the baseball season, if not beyond." Legal experts do not expect any “meaningful developments until after a bankruptcy court hearing on June 29 on a motion” by Mets Owners Fred Wilpon, Jeff Wilpon and Saul Katz to dismiss a lawsuit by Madoff trustee Irving Picard. Destefano notes until that court date, the Wilpons and Katz will “continue to struggle with the financial uncertainty that led them to put up to 25 percent of the Mets for sale” (NEWSDAY, 3/23).

WHOLE NEW WORLD: In S.F., David White reports the Giants are “on the brink of setting a spring training attendance record.” Through 14 home games, the team is averaging 9,870 fans at Scottsdale Stadium. With two home games left, “they are sure to shatter the record average of 8,162” set in '09. The Giants have “sold out six straight games and broke the previous single-game record” of 11,995 twice. Giants 1B Aubrey Huff said, “It’s pretty cool this year. Every time we go out there and stretch, there’s a thousand fans right there, screaming and cheering for you. The only time I’ve seen that is when you’re in Boston or New York.” Giants Managing General Partner Bill Neukom: “We’ve always had a good following, but it’s a little more enthusiastic this year” (S.F. CHRONICLE, 3/23).

ALL THE WORLD'S A STAGE: In Cincinnati, John Kiesewetter notes Reds coaches, players and execs on April 3 will participate in “Reds Un-Cut: Live at the Aronoff Center,” a stage show benefiting the Reds Community Fund. Some players will compete in “Family Feud” and “Name That Tune,” while others “perform comedy bits in a 90-minute Sunday night show, four hours after" the team's game against the Brewers. Prices for the show range from “a $25 balcony seat to a $200 orchestra-level seat,” and everyone who buys a ticket to the event also will receive a free ticket to the April 2 Brewers-Reds game. Reds Community Fund Exec Dir Charley Frank said that if the event is successful, it “could be produced on alternating years” (CINCINNATI ENQUIRER, 3/23).

CAPITOL CONSTRUCTION: The Nationals' Mark Lerner said that neither he nor any of the franchise’s owners “have become more involved with the team’s baseball operations” since former President Stan Kasten left last fall. Lerner said that GM Mike Rizzo “has been granted authority to make baseball decisions himself.” In DC, Adam Kilgore noted Rizzo and Kasten for significant moves in the past “presented their reasoning” to the Nationals’ BOD. Rizzo and COO Andy Feffer are on the BOD, and Rizzo deals “with baseball matters” and Feffer handles “business and marketing.” Lerner: “The only thing I can compare it to is, Stan’s not in the middle now. On the major things, (Rizzo) comes in front of the board” (, 3/21).