Senior employees at EPL club Manchester United "stand to benefit from a share scheme worth up to" US$320M with the club's upcoming IPO, according to James & Rushe of the GUARDIAN. Fans are questioning whether manager Alex Ferguson and CEO David Gill will “stand to personally profit” from Owners the Glazer family's decision to list the club on the NYSE. The Glazers “came in for severe criticism on Monday when it transpired they had reneged on their promise to use all the funds from a successful flotation” to reduce ManU's US$682.2M debt. ManU's exec committee members are “in line for a [US$1.96M] IPO bonus once the deal is done.” But the “richest rewards will go to those selected to take part in the Equity Incentive Award Plan” (GUARDIAN, 8/1). In London, James Ducker notes although there are “no guarantees that Ferguson or Gill would be included in that ‘selected’ group, it seems unthinkable that they would not be given their critical roles at the club.” Ferguson has "attracted criticism from some supporters for his repeated public defence of United’s controversial American owners. Ten days ago, while on the South Africa leg of the club’s pre-season tour, Ferguson "described the Glazers as ‘great’ and insisted that they had ‘always backed me whenever I have asked them.’” Revelations about the equity plan have “led some United supporters to question Ferguson’s motives for defending the Glazers” (LONDON TIMES, 8/1).
The Saints have added a "billboard-sized picture” of suspended coach Sean Payton to the team's indoor practice facility, which is hung "high along the eastern end of the facility," according to Larry Holder of the New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE. It is a picture of Payton's face “in an intense moment during Super Bowl XLIV and the slogan ‘Do Your Job’ is plastered in all white caps across the bottom of the photo.” Interim coach Joe Vitt said that it was “all Saints owner Tom Benson's idea” (NOLA.com, 7/27). ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported Benson “put up that big picture of Sean Payton inside the indoor facility." Mortensen: "We haven’t heard Tom Benson step up once and say, ‘Alright guys, that’s enough talking. That’s enough chatter.’ ... It also affects the organization’s reputation. Face it, we know how close he is to Sean Payton and he called that suspension ridiculous” ("NFL 32," ESPN2, 7/30). NFL Network’s Mark Kriegel said of the Payton banner, “Is he a political prisoner? When did he become [a] martyr?” (“NFL Total Access,” NFL Network, 7/30). ESPN.com’s Jackie MacMullan said the Saints “have been defiant throughout" the bounty investigation, and they "want to show solidarity within their team.” ESPN.com’s J.A. Adande said Payton's name "is on the official team roster, he’s in the media guide." Adande: "They’re violating the spirit of what the NFL tried to do in disassociating him from the team.” Meanwhile, SB Nation’s Bomani Jones said the Payton banner is “one of the spookiest things I’ve ever seen” (“Around The Horn,” ESPN, 7/30). ESPN’s Michael Wilbon said, “Why don’t they put a big banner up there with him saying, ‘Do My Job,’ because somebody’s going to have to do his job other than him” (“PTI,” ESPN, 7/30).
BOLD STATEMENT BY BREES: Saints QB Drew Brees told SI's Peter King that nobody trusts NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, and ESPN's Mortensen noted that comment “carries weight around the league because this is Drew Brees talking." Mortensen: "It’s got to sting the commissioner, he’s only human. ... They do believe had the Saints gone through the process, maybe he would have had some outs. Maybe he would have reduced some of the penalties.” ESPN’s Tim Hasselbeck noted Brees has been an active member of the NFLPA and said, "These words coming from a player as respected as Drew is, both on the field and off the field -- no doubt do they sting. But I think they ring true for a lot of players.” ESPN's Cris Carter: “I don’t think that we’ve had the history where ... we’ve had the best player speak out against the league like this” (“NFL 32,” ESPN2, 7/30).
FALCONS WANT NO PART OF STATUE: In New Orleans, James Varney cited sources as saying that the Falcons “refused to grant the Saints and sculptor Brian Hanlon permission to use the Falcons' symbol” or former P Michael Koenen's name in a statue outside the Superdome commemorating former Saints DB Steve Gleason's “famous blocked punt.” The blocked punt occurred against the Falcons in the "MNF" game in the Superdome after it re-opened in '06 following Hurricane Katrina. Sources said that the Saints “repeatedly sought permission from the Falcons, even urging officials in Atlanta to appeal directly to Falcons owner Arthur Blank” (NOLA.com, 7/27).
Browns GM Tom Heckert yesterday admitted that the “current regime has no idea what its future holds in light of the impending sale of the team to Tennessee businessman Jimmy Haslam III.” Heckert said, "Until we sit down with the new owner, no one's really sure what's going to happen. I've told the guys on my staff and some of the players to just keep doing what they're doing.” A league source said of former Eagles President Joe Banner’s involvement in Haslam’s group, "I think it's safe to assume that when a new owner or president comes in, they want to bring in their own people. Whether or not they keep any of those guys around remains to be seen" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 8/1).
A RELIEF: In St. Paul, Jeremy Fowler writes Vikings Owner Zygi Wilf, entering his eighth season with the franchise, now can “hold a news conference without the stadium issue being shrouded in legislative uncertainty.” The stadium's “scheduled opening in 2016 is a relief for Wilf, whose staff will spend the coming year hiring consultants for development, working with authorities and finalizing potential plans for a retractable roof.” Wilf said that he is “trying for the retractable roof but guaranteed the stadium will have 'certainly a retractable element.'" Wilf: "Looking back, it was a greater burden than I thought because I feel very much relieved that for generations to come our fans in Minnesota will enjoy Vikings football here" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 8/1).
CHANGE IS GOOD: In L.A., Sam Farmer wrote the Raiders “feel a little less like a maverick organization and a little more like the other 31 teams in the NFL.” That feeling “might not necessarily be embraced by the entire fan base, but a club that has missed the playoffs for nine consecutive seasons was due for a meaningful overhaul.” Even the team's ‘12 media guide, “finally printed in color, reflects the change,” bearing the slogan "A New Era of Excellence" on the cover. There is a feeling among Raiders players “that there's no longer an owner playing favorites, and there's more personal accountability among everyone on the roster” (L.A. TIMES, 7/31).
FEEDING FRENZY: In Jacksonville, Drew Dixon reported the Jaguars “will allow fans to bring their own food into EverBank Field for this year’s home games.” The new policy states food is allowed, “provided that it is unwrapped and placed inside a one-gallon clear plastic bag no larger than 11-inch-by-11-inch (standard freezer bag).” The policy also states that, "no outside liquids or beverages “will be permitted to enter.” This marks the “first time in the history of the NFL in Jacksonville that fans can bring their own food into the stadium” (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 7/28).
TRASH TALKING: In DC, Sarah Kogod noted Redskins players “all received iPads this season with the team playbook loaded on to them.” Redskins TE Chris Cooley said, “I don’t think anyone’s locked themselves out. They made an adamant point that if you mess your password up five times, you don’t just lock yourself out. You erase the entire iPad.” Cooley also revealed “an unexpected feature.” The playbook allows players “to send a message to the team anonymously.” The discussion forum was designed "to discuss plays, but comes with a fun side benefit.” The "'discussions' can also be anonymous trash talking." Cooley said, “I don’t know who figured it out or who started it. Like I said, they’re anonymous. As of today, there are maybe fifty postings. My opinion is that it will take off” (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 7/30).