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Volume 24 No. 158

Leagues and Governing Bodies

49ers co-Owner & Chair John York said that the NFL will play "at least two regular-season games in London" in '14 "on top of its two planned games there this year, and even more contests could be added," according to Daniel Kaplan of SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL. York said, “Two games this year, and as far as I know two games for next year." York, when asked whether there could be more than two games in '14 said, “Sure; that is a possibility.” Kaplan notes an NFL exec "hedged on York’s comments, saying that with both London games sold out for this season, there is a 'good chance' of two games" in '14. NFL Senior VP/Int'l Chris Parsons said that the league for the '13 games is "shifting its marketing focus to London and southeastern England rather than taking a full United Kingdom approach as it has in the past." Parsons "declined to say how much the NFL is budgeted to spend marketing the games." But he said that the figure is "increasing significantly this year." One designated home team for a '14 game, the Jaguars, has "already been set." The team last year "agreed to play home games in London" from '13-16. The Vikings also "could repeat as a home club" in '14. The team after this season will play at the Univ. of Minnesota’s TCF Bank Stadium for two seasons "while its new stadium is under construction" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 3/18 issue).

For the 27% of the NHL’s 740 players who still do not wear visors, the day they will be "forced to do so may be approaching faster than they think,” according to David Shoalts of the GLOBE & MAIL. And it will be “the insurance industry calling the shots, not the NHL, which has long wanted to make visors mandatory but cannot” because the NHLPA “prefers the matter to remain a personal choice.” Insurance firm Burns & Wilcox Canada has medical policies “with more than 24 minor-league and NHL players that cover them in the case of serious and career-ending injuries.” Burns & Wilcox Senior Personal Accident Underwriter Lalita Mohabir said that the firm “will not insure any amateur players who buy a policy unless they wear a mouthguard and a visor and any NHL player looking to supplement the coverage supplied by the league with a personal policy will soon be told he must do the same or be denied coverage.” Mohabir said, “Going through to the NHL, we have not requested this as yet but we will be doing that. When we look at a player fracturing a hand or bruising a knee it’s quite different than the loss of an eye. The loss of an eye is a career-ending injury.” Shoalts noted the question of making AHL, ECHL and amateur players “wear visors or forego any insurance payments is moot since using them is mandatory in those leagues.” But the NHL “remains the most notable holdout.” Mohabir said that she “has not talked to any of her competitors in the sports insurance field." Mohabir: "I do feel they will be taking this stand as well” (GLOBE & MAIL, 3/18).

: In N.Y., Larry Brooks wrote the “imperfect realignment plan the NHL and NHLPA have adopted for the next three years won’t be as injurious to the sport as the one the MLBPA pushed on baseball,” but it “sure isn’t the utopian landscape the folks running the show like to suggest, either.” The Stars, Red Wings, Blue Jackets, Jets, Avalanche and Wild “benefit from changes that create divisions defined, for the most part, by time zones.” But “nothing is more preposterous than pretending this structure benefits the Lightning and Panthers because of a few extra visits a year by the Canadiens, Maple Leafs and Red Wings.” Travel will be “murderous” (N.Y. POST, 3/17).

The NHL over the last 12 months has “spent time lobbying the Canadian government to kill a proposed change to the criminal code that would see single-game sports betting legalized across the country,” according to Scott Mitchell of the CALGARY SUN. A bill that was “once seen as a slam dunk, could now be on thin ice.” NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly last week wrote in an e-mail, “We are strongly opposed to the bill, and we have made that position clear to the Senate.” One former NHLer said that he has “never gambled on hockey -- even now -- but sees no reason why people shouldn’t be allowed to place a bet.” But technically, sports betting is “already legal” in Canada. Gamblers, depending on the province, “can head to the corner store and place a parlay bet on a minimum of two or three teams -- two on point spread, three on moneyline wagers -- and walk out with ticket in hand.” The former player said, “I played 15 years and never heard any guys talk about gambling on hockey games. I think hockey is too hard to gamble on, because a hot goalie can change a game.” Canadian Sen. Bob Runciman “pointed to the fact both the NHL and NFL have looked into expansion overseas, where single-game sports betting has been legal for years in many places” (CALGARY SUN, 3/17).

FANTASY POINTS: The AP’s Wayne Parry reported New Jersey is “allowing casinos in Atlantic City to offer fantasy sports betting in a pilot program that will be announced” today. The state Division of Gaming Enforcement has “told casinos it will allow them to accept entry fees from gamblers and pay out winnings from the casino cash cages.” The Interactive Media Entertainment & Gaming Association (IMEGA) said that it “expects that players will be allowed to draft a pool of athletes, follow their performances and compete against other fantasy teams.” Those with the “best statistical totals will win cash.” IMEGA President Joe Brennan “could not offer an opinion as to whether fantasy sports betting would decline in popularity if New Jersey prevails in its court battle with the federal government and the four major professional sports leagues over whether it can legally offer sports betting” (AP, 3/16).

Questions about the future of the N.Y. Road Runners “persist, including whether its dominance has started to erode because of rival race organizers and disaffected runners,” according to Belson & Lehren of the N.Y. TIMES. Some of the group’s local races have had “a striking decline in finishers compared with numbers from a year ago.” Critics of NYRR said that the decline “indicates that runners are heading elsewhere.” The group “abruptly canceled” last year's N.Y. Marathon, “angering many participants.” Since then, NYRR President & CEO Mary Wittenberg has “tried to repair its image and finances.” She “negotiated an insurance settlement that allowed Road Runners to take the extraordinary step of offering refunds to entrants in November’s race.” She also has “re-emphasized the group’s charitable efforts to try to rebuild its brand in the city and among runners.” Of the 30,000 who chose a guaranteed spot in a future race after the cancellation, 20,000 “opted to run in this year’s marathon, an influx that is certain to crowd out other runners in the already competitive lottery.” The impact of the guaranteed entries “will become clearer next month, when registration opens.” Runners have also “complained that the quality of the food, medals and T-shirts" at NYRR races has "diminished in recent years as the races have grown.” Races put on by the Competitor Group -- which runs the rival Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon Series -- and NYCRuns have “received high marks from runners, who have cited smaller crowds and better bagels, hot cocoa, T-shirts and other amenities.” ING also is “in the last year of its title sponsorship” of the N.Y. Marathon, and NYRR has been “exploring alternatives if ING does not renew.” It is unclear whether a new company “would pay as much as ING did” (N.Y. TIMES, 3/16).