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Volume 24 No. 112


Outgoing Manchester United CEO David Gill said that the EPL club, which yesterday secured its 20th English soccer championship, is expanding its “marketing activities in the United States to cash in on interest generated by a new deal for NBC” to air league games, according to Keith Weir of REUTERS. The club is “looking at adding a sales office on the east coast of the United States later this year to complement existing operations in London and Hong Kong.” Gill said, “NBC has the Premier League rights for next season. We should be able to feed off the back of that enhanced and wider coverage.” Weir notes ManU has “already attracted sponsorship from General Motors,” as its Chevy brand will take over the team’s shirt sponsorship in ’14. The club also is “negotiating a new agreement" with its kit supplier Nike. ManU was listed on the NYSE last August, and the team is “forecasting revenues” of US$534-549M for the year through the end of June, up from US$488M last season and “comfortably the highest in the Premier League.” Investors have “warmed to the club thanks to new sponsorship deals, a lucrative set of new TV rights agreements for the Premier League and new measures designed to curb costs in a notoriously spendthrift industry” (REUTERS, 4/23).

SILENCING THE CRITICS: The AP’s Rob Harris notes Gill believes critics of ManU Owner the Glazer family “have been mostly silenced by the team's ability to overhaul big-spending Manchester City and reclaim the English Premier League title." ManU games were “marred two years ago by protests,” but the club has seen off Man City's threat as the Glazer family "has slashed the debt that angered some fans." Gill said, “There are still a small number of dissenters and they will always be there.” However, he added, “The vast, vast majority of Manchester United fans are concerned about having a successful team playing great Manchester United attacking football" (AP, 4/23).

Ticket prices for the Maple Leafs' first round playoff series, the team's first postseason appearance since ’04, are "set to rise a whopping 75% against a regular-season ducat," according to the TORONTO SUN. Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment President & COO Tom Anselmi claimed that the increase was "in line with what major NHL markets charge at this time of year." A Maple Leafs spokesperson said that the Canadiens, a possible first-round opponent, have "increased their tickets between 55% and 59%, matching their previous playoff increases." NHL teams after the regular season "no longer pay player salaries, so post-season games are lucrative, especially if a team goes far." Most of the 18,819 available tickets for Maple Leafs postseason home games are "subscriber controlled with a corporate element that will absorb the extra costs" (TORONTO SUN, 4/23). Meanwhile, a CN Tower spokesperson said the iconic Toronto building "will light Leafs Blue each night the Toronto Maple Leafs play a playoffs game." In Toronto, Alex Consiglio notes the move comes after Scott Booth, a recent George Brown College marketing grad, "launched a petition on and started a campaign" to have the tower light up for every Maple Leafs goal in the postseason (TORONTO STAR, 4/23).

Suns GM Lance Blanks "was fired Monday with the Suns eating his seven-figure salary for the fourth contract year,” according to Paul Coro of the ARIZONA REPUBLIC. The Suns finished '12-13 with their "worst record in 44 years" at 27-55, and "amid the losing, Blanks did not inspire confidence or embrace the franchise." Blanks “alienated staff by emphasizing that the Suns’ past, as the NBA’s fourth-winningest franchise, was lacking because they never had won a championship.” He was “not a classic general manager because Suns Managing Partner Robert Sarver instituted a new format" with Suns President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby "in control." Blanks had “internal- and public-communication shortcomings.” Those were “exemplified" when he called assistants Elston Turner and Dan Majerle to tell them they had not been named head coach, “but would not reveal his choice.” Still, Babby "handled the conventional GM duties of negotiating trades and contracts and nearly all media duties and public appearances.” Now the “long-held internal hope that popular former Suns player" and current Clippers F Grant Hill, who "plans on retiring, will patch up a strained relationship with Babby, his former agent, and return as GM has been resuscitated.” Babby will “search for a new talent evaluator and he remains the head of the effort to revive the Suns after recently signing a two-year extension" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 4/23).

DO THE DINOSAUR: The GLOBE & MAIL’s Robert MacLeod notes Raptors President & GM Bryan Colangelo is “entering into the team-option phase of his contract” with Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, but so far there has been “no indication from the MLSE board if it is planning on welcoming him back.” Colangelo said, “There has been a lot of speculation about whether or not I’m coming back. I’m anticipating that that will be resolved over the next two to three weeks.” MacLeod notes there were “rumblings during the course of the season that a rift had developed” between Colangelo and Raptors coach Dwane Casey, that they “were not seeing eye-to-eye on how the on-court product was being utilized.” But Colangelo said that other than the "normal strains that invariably crop up between the coach and the GM during the course of a long season, there is no problem between the two men” (GLOBE & MAIL, 4/23). Colangelo yesterday said of the team potentially reaching the playoffs next season after a five-year postseason absence, “I will take that squarely on my shoulders and say that is the new expectation going into next year” (TORONTO STAR, 4/23).

The CFL Blue Bombers today will release their annual report and announce "a loss in the neighbourhood of " C$780,000 for FY '12, according to Lawless & Wiecek of the WINNIPEG FREE PRESS. Construction delays at the club’s new stadium, Investors Group Field, "forced the Bombers to play an unexpected extra season" in '12 at Canad Inns Stadium. That "forced the club to spend money on operations at two facilities while only taking in revenue from one." The product on the field in '12 also was "inferior -- the club went 6-12 during the regular season and missed the playoffs for the third time in four years -- and that also hurt the bottom line." Blue Bombers VP & COO Jim Bell late last year said that football "actually turned a profit" in '12. While the FY '12 losses are "significant," they are "almost negligible in the bigger picture of a team moving into a new stadium this season worth just under" C$200M. The revenue-generating capabilities of the new stadium "were on display Monday as the club announced a Paul McCartney concert for Investors Group Field on Aug. 12, the second major concert for the stadium this summer" (WINNIPEG FREE PRESS, 4/23).

In Nashville, Josh Cooper notes the Predators "continued to increase attendance" this season, despite the shortened season and a record "among the worst in franchise history." The Predators' 20th sellout of the season is "expected tonight" when the team hosts the Flames in the home finale. Predators CEO Jeff Cogen said, "We had this pot of boiling water, and we threw this big chunk of ice on it. Well eventually the ice dissolved, and the water has started to boil again." Team President & COO Sean Henry said that the Predators are "behind last season’s season-ticket renewal" by about 5%, but are "confident that difference can be made up." He added that there will be a 2% "price increase for season tickets next year," but current season-ticket holders "who renew their plans face no increase" (Nashville TENNESSEAN, 4/23).

IN A SNOW DAZE: In Denver, Terry Frei wrote for the Avalanche to improve, it "has to start with a blunt self-assessment from a Kroenke ownership that you'd hope would be determined to combat its image as operating on the cheap ... in all sports endeavors but the NBA." Frei: "If the Kroenkes, especially Josh, can honestly conclude that: a) ownership has not hamstrung the hockey operation, from president Pierre Lacroix and general manager Greg Sherman on down; and, b) that the Avalanche's ineptitude is because of bad management and worse judgments, then, absolutely, the grace period has lapsed." If ownership has been "tying the hands of the hockey operation, cleaning house wouldn't be fair -- not yet -- and it wouldn't help unless that approach changes" (DENVER POST, 4/22).

ON THE SHORES OF LAKE ERIE: In Buffalo, Bucky Gleason wrote of the Sabres under Terry Pegula's ownership, "The real joke is on people, like me, who thought a new regime would be intelligent enough to make obvious changes." Instead, they "kept the wrong person in charge, made weak decisions, threw big money at a problem when it wasn’t necessary and compromised the salary cap." Their reputation is "now worse than it was when Pegula arrived." If a player "signs a big contract in Buffalo now, you have to wonder if it’s little more than a money grab" (BUFFALO NEWS, 4/21).