EPL club Manchester United will "pay out a record" US$7.85M in bonuses to more than 500 of the team's staff members, according to Neil Ashton of the London DAILY MAIL. ManU Owners the Glazer family wrote to employees last Monday "to tell them they are all in line for a 7.9 per cent bonus on their annual salary in recognition of the club's success." Some members of staff, such as CEO David Gill, who makes US$3.14M annually, "will net just under" US$251,109. The Glazers were "determined to reward staff across the board after another hugely successful season at Old Trafford." ManU won a record 19th EPL title and reached its third Champions League final in four years. Meanwhile, performance "off the field has also been reflected in the Glazers decision to give staff record bonuses." Staff members have been on "performance-related pay since the Glazers took over in 2003, but the bonuses announced to staff are a record." ManU employs "620 people at Old Trafford, Carrington and at their commercial offices in London." Around "520 are non-playing staff and they have all been told the extra money will appear in next month's salary." The Glazers are "delighted with the team's progress and commercial revenue is also at an all-time high" (London DAILY MAIL, 9/20).
The Dolphins made their "best public relations move in a long time by taking measures to ensure Sunday's game" against the Texans at Sun Life Stadium was broadcast in the local market, but TV blackouts are likely "to become an issue again with a large volume of tickets unsold for four of the remaining home games," according to Craig Davis of the South Florida SUN-SENTINEL. The Dolphins have three away games and a bye week before returning to Sun Life Stadium for a matchup against the Broncos. Dolphins CEO Mike Dee said having Sunday's game "available on television was an important decision to make, we thought." He added, "We have a lot of new faces on this team, and we want to make sure that fans get acclimated with those new faces" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 9/17). In West Palm Beach, Dave George wrote customers "have a choice, and increasingly customers of the Dolphins are feeling pretty stupid about fighting the traffic and emptying their wallets to watch the visiting team vandalize the scoreboard and run away laughing." All the Dolphins "have been recreating here for the last couple of seasons, despite an alternate universe of celebrity sightings and stadium special effects served up by team owner Stephen Ross, is disappointment" (PALM BEACH POST, 9/19). In Miami, Greg Cote wrote the Dolphins have "become a franchise once the mightiest in the NFL and now gradually dissolved to irrelevance." The team has lost 11 of its last 12 home games "in an endless pratfall dating back to late 2009." Cote: "Close to humiliating is what this has become. ... I begin to sincerely wonder about the direction of this franchise" (MIAMI HERALD, 9/19).
BLACKOUT WATCH: The Bengals announced Sunday's game against the 49ers at Paul Brown Stadium will not be televised locally. The team's ticket office confirmed that too many tickets remain available for the game to sell out (Bengals). The game was "supposed to be televised by Fox," and it marks the fifth straight "regular season home game that will be blacked out after a string of 57 straight sellouts in the regular season and postseason" (CINCINNATI.com, 9/17).
Lightning officials said that the team is “closing in on selling 11,000 full season tickets, more than double last season's 5,000,” according to Damian Cristodero of the ST. PETERSBURG TIMES. Lightning Owner Jeff Vinik is “feeling pretty good about the direction of the organization.” Vinik: "We have upward movement on the business side. Obviously, I'm thrilled by that." Vinik also is “becoming more comfortable in his role.” The second-year owner “used to answer questions with talking points.” Now he is “more casual,” and is “interacting more with fans and answers their e-mails.” Vinik said, "I have confidence in this area as a sports market and a hockey market." He added, "I'm very pleased with how the fans are responding. … We just have to have a world-class organization and the plan will be fully realized" (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 9/18).
MUSIC TO MY EARS: In St. Petersburg, John Fleming notes the Lightning this season at St. Pete Times Forum will “take the ice to 'Be the Thunder,' the team’s new theme music played” on a recording by the Florida Orchestra. "Be the Thunder" is “tied into the Lightning's $40 million renovation of the Forum." Lightning CEO & Minority Owner Tod Leiweke said, “The crescendo of this piece of music is going to be these lightning bolts that we're going to shoot in the building, if it all works. There will be coils that shoot bolts of electricity 25 feet each way. How can you be named the Lightning and not have some effect?" Composer Gregory Smith “was commissioned by the Lightning to write the piece, which runs about 21/2 minutes.” Smith said, "When you take a hockey team and have them dance with an orchestra, which this project does, I think it takes it to a real accessible place. I hope to God I see a cellist with a goalie mask somewhere" (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 9/19).
In Ohio, Sheldon Ocker noted it is "too early to know whether the Indians will expand their payroll from this year's $49 million, but the Tribe will finish the year with an increase in attendance of more than 400,000." Indians GM Chris Antonetti said Saturday, "Having more fan support puts us in a better position. I don't have a sense of it (next year's budget) yet. I'll have a much better sense in a few weeks." But he added, "If we were to bring the same team back -- we have eight or nine arbitration-eligible players plus others getting raises -- it would be significantly more expensive than this year" (AKRON BEACON JOURNAL, 9/18).
APPROVAL PENDING: In Houston, Richard Justice writes there is "still a chance" Astros outgoing Owner Drayton McLane will "wear down the commissioner and convince him to allow" prospective Owner Jim Crane's deal to go through. But those chances "diminish by the day, and if it doesn't happen this week, it probably will be [on] hold until after the World Series." By that time, Crane's "contract with McLane will be closing in on its November 30th expiration date." MLB sources have said that the deal "could still be approved, and everyone will ride happily into the sunset." Justice: "But there's a good chance it won't. ... McLane's problem is that if he has to go find another buyer, he may not be able to snag one willing to pay $680 million. That realization may be why he's lobbying hard for [Commissioner Bud] Selig to okay the deal" (CHRON.com, 9/20).
CROSSTOWN BUYER: In N.Y., David Waldstein reports Glencore Int'l Managing Dir Ray Bartoszek, who in the spring engaged in talks to buy a minority share of the Mets, has "emerged as the newest limited partner with the Yankees, buying a share of the team from another limited partner." Bartoszek and the Yankees "would not say how much his share represents, but he becomes one of about 30 partners with the team." Negotiations between the team and Bartoszek "began in June and were completed Friday" (N.Y. TIMES, 9/20). On Long Island, Steven Marcus notes Bartoszek "identified himself as the second-place finisher to hedge fund manager David Einhorn in the proposed partial sale of the Mets." Negotiations with Einhorn "on a proposed $200-million transaction fell through this month" (NEWSDAY, 9/20).
NEED SOME SUNSHINE: In Boston, Nick Cafardo wrote the "bottom line appears to be all that is stopping the Rays," and by now, it "should be apparent that baseball and Florida do not go well together." Cafardo: "There's a reason the two Florida teams have the two worst attendances in baseball. ... How much more can Rays Owner Stuart Sternberg stretch that payroll? Sure, attendance is low, but the money from revenue-sharing and TV is pretty decent. Could their $45 million budget be stretched to $55 million to get a big-time hitter, even if it means less of a profit? Only their accountants know for sure" (BOSTON GLOBE, 9/19).