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Volume 24 No. 112

Leagues and Governing Bodies

The NFLPA received $2.155M from video game maker Electronic Arts in the 12-month period ended Feb. 28, 2013, well below the more than $30M annually the union had previously taken in. The disclosure is contained in the NFLPA’s annual report, filed yesterday with the U.S. Department of Labor. Between '07-11, EA paid an average of $32.3M to the union, according to previously filed NFLPA annual reports, known as LM-2s. In the period around the '11 NFL lockout -- March 1-11, 2011, and July 26, 2011-Feb. 29, 2012 -- the NFLPA received $569,000 from EA. The NFLPA did not have to disclose figures for the period it was not a union. This year’s filing -- representing the first complete filing year since the lockout -- shows the money from EA compared to those earlier years also down dramatically. EA declined comment; the NFLPA could not immediately be reached for comment. EA long had been the union’s top commercial licensee. It is possible EA might have front-loaded some of its payments to the NFLPA during and before the lockout. The decline additionally appears to have had an effect on the overall commercial revenue flowing into the union. In the NFLPA’s LM-2, commercial income largely encompasses “other receipts,” which was $105M in the most recent 12-month period. Of that, $44M came from NFL Ventures. In the last full-year filing period (for the 12 months ended Feb. 28, 2011), “other receipts” was $129M. The year before it was $119M, and the year before that $137M. The LM-2 uses cash and not accrual accounting. That means it only reflects cash that came in. So if EA (or any company) made a large payment, for example, one day past the end of the LM-2 12-month period, it would get reflected next year.

Nebraska-based MMA promotion Resurrection Fighting Alliance is “quickly carving out a business niche as the developmental feeder league for fighters trying to make the transition to the UFC,” according to Alan Snel of the LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL. RFA is “like the Triple A of MMA, where the organization’s 20 signed fighters hone their fighting skills in hopes of making the big leagues of UFC,” or they are “former UFC combatants trying to ‘resurrect’ their fighting careers.” All RFA fighters are “free to be released from their contracts if the UFC agrees to cut a deal with them.” Since its start in ’11, RFA “has seen four of its fighters get signed by the UFC.” The promotion also has a “broadcast deal with AXS TV.” RFA President Ed Soares said, “We’ll give these guys national exposure. There aren’t too many organizations that have national TV deals in the United States and have a good working relationship with UFC.” Snel noted there is “no formal business tie between the UFC and RFA.” But former UFC Head of PR Jen Wenk “now does PR work for RFA and helps RFA build its brand by using her former UFC media techniques.” The top RFA fighters “can earn about $30,000 a year with fight purses hitting $7,000.” The fighters also can “get a cut of the ticket sales” (LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, 5/28).

In Salt Lake City, Aaron Falk writes MLS in its 18 seasons has taken "serious strides across the American sports landscape -- and it’s done so while featuring only a handful of household names." But as MLS "works toward commissioner Don Garber’s goal of becoming 'one of the top leagues in the world' by 2022, will it need more individual star power?" While local TV ratings are "solid in many of the league’s markets ... national television ratings continue to be miniscule, drawing only a quarter of what even the modestly viewed NHL brings in." Real Salt Lake Senior VP/Soccer Operations & GM Garth Lagerwey said, "I don’t dismiss the star-power element. But I do think it’s inefficient to constantly go out and try to find the next big thing" (SALT LAKE TRIBUNE, 5/30).

BOUNCING BACK: NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said any damage to the league caused by this season's lockout is being repaired now, as the league is "hearing from fans and business partners ... that the season has been terrific." Bettman: "Everybody's grateful that we can just look forward and put on the best sport there is in the world with the best athletes in the world." The salary cap is expected to decrease by about $6M prior to next season, and Bettman said a "number of teams are going to have to make adjustments." He added, "They've had plenty of time to prepare for it. But again, it's part of the system that gives us the great competitive balance that we have. It's what makes the game as strong as it is" ("Sports Talk Live," Comcast SportsNet Chicago, 5/29).

LESS IS MORE? In Philadelphia, Bill Fleischman writes with NASCAR trying to "appeal to younger fans, many of whom have the attention span of Twitter's 140 characters, asking them to follow" the Sprint Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 is like "requiring the reading of Chaucer during a weekend." Driver Jimmie Johnson said, "I'm not sure (going) from 600 to 500 changes things much. It wouldn't hurt, from the mindset of keeping your fans captive on television or at the venue for however long. ... I'm torn personally on how I'd want that to go." Fleischman writes if race broadcaster Fox "decides the distance is too long, we can expect it will request a meeting." TV nets "usually get what they want" (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 5/30).

PUPPET MASTERS: In L.A., Bill Dwyre wrote the NBA is becoming a league where the "inmates run the asylum," and there has "seldom been a bigger Exhibit A than the firing" of Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro. The "likelihood" is that Clippers G Chris Paul "didn't whisper, or speak, at all." Dwyre: "More likely, his agent, [CAA's] Leon Rose, took care of things with as little as one sentence, one shrug, one raised eyebrow." Somewhere "along the line, somebody up high in the NBA needs to take stock." Star players believe they are as "important as the CEO, even though the star salesman has invested no money, taken little risk and made zero strategic decisions." The NBA is "so busy pursuing its popularity, and the cash flow that it provides, that it hasn't taken time to create a culture, especially in situations such as the Del Negro firing, of doing the right thing" (L.A. TIMES, 5/28).