MLS Toronto FC has "parted ways" with President & GM Kevin Payne just nine months "after he was brought in to revamp a moribund squad," according to Cathal Kelly of the TORONTO STAR. Payne will "remain on to assist with a transition but do so without title." This is part of a "larger sweep of the executive suites that will continue with announcements as early as" today. Payne said, "I’m going to help the team through a transition period. I don’t want to -- I won’t -- turn my back on this club.” Payne was "brought in" by MLSE COO and former interim CEO Tom Anselmi, and he "arrived with the blessing" of MLS' head office. His tenure was "punctuated by a great deal of talk about how to revive a DOA franchise." Payne "promised a renaissance," but instead "delivered more of the same." Payne by the end of his tenure had "lost the confidence of his bosses, most importantly" new MLSE President & CEO Tim Leiweke. The two "worked together at Leiweke’s former employer, AEG," but that friendship "was not enough to salvage the situation." Payne "fell into the same pattern that bedeviled previous regimes -- falling in love with a small group of unattainable targets, then refusing to consider anyone not on his own wish list" (TORONTO STAR, 9/5).
RED STORM: The GLOBE & MAIL's Jeff Blair writes it "appears an inability to spend [C] $25-million played a significant role in Payne losing his job." That was the "figure the MLSE board had approved for the purchase of 'designated players,' and Payne was unable to execute a significant transaction -- even though ... TFC had an agreement with Uruguayan striker Diego Forlan." But reports "soon surfaced Forlan wanted to play for another MLS team or he was merely using TFC as leverage in negotiations to remain in South America." The "crowning touch to another lost summer might have occurred last month," when Clint Dempsey -- who shares the same agent as Toronto FC coach Ryan Nelsen -- signed with the MLS Sounders. Payne said that the club "didn’t pursue" Dempsey for "what amounted to altruistic reasons." He said that it made "more sense from a marketing perspective ... for Dempsey to be with a U.S. team" (GLOBE & MAIL, 9/5). In Toronto, Kurtis Larson reports "whispers surrounding" Payne’s job security "began wafting beyond BMO Field’s walls late last month." The speculation "picked up steam last Thursday night" when Leiweke held a "semi-secret meeting ... for a small group of the club’s most ardent supporters." At the "top of the list," of reasons for Payne's dismissal "could be the discontent that was beginning to form throughout the Reds’ dressing room." However, Payne's "hard-line contract talks were a blessing and opened up a plethora of cap space for future signings whose impacts likely won’t be known until next season" (TORONTO SUN, 9/5).
Cubs Chair Tom Ricketts yesterday "promised no splashy, expensive moves to reverse four consecutive years of losing on the field and at the gate," and he made "no assurances that the third-highest ticket prices in the sport would get reduced for next season," according to Gordon Wittenmyer of the CHICAGO SUN-TIMES. While Ricketts "acknowledged the team’s lingering purchase debt is a factor in spending ability, he said it’s 'a lot less than you think.'" He added that baseball budgets set by ownership are not "holding back anything" President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein and Exec VP & GM Jed Hoyer "are trying to do with the club." Ricketts: "On the business side, we have to continue to develop more revenue lines so that we can have more financial flexibility in the future, and we’re doing that with stadium renovations and other media contracts that are coming up in the future.” He added that the clubhouse and training facilities planned for underneath the existing clubhouse and workout room are “'probably not going to' be ready for the 2014 opener as originally planned, 'but it’s a priority for us.'” Wittenmyer notes what remains "clear is that the baseball practices one sport economist described as 'mid-market' figure to continue until at least the Jumbotron revenues or Class A prospects starting coming in -- maybe both." Ricketts said, "In terms of attendance, the way I look at it is we have to win. We have to get a more exciting team. We’re not disappointed with this year’s attendance. We’ll be in the 2.7 (million) range. But obviously, it’s incumbent upon us to make sure we put a more compelling team on the field, and attendance will take care of itself" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 9/5).
RAISE THE ROOF: In Chicago, Fran Spielman notes Chicago alderman Tom Tunney yesterday "ruled out resolving the dispute between the Cubs and rooftop club owners standing in the way of renovating Wrigley Field by allowing a deck that would hover over and darken Sheffield Avenue." Tunney said that he "opposes the nearly block-long Sheffield deck for the same reason he nixed a proposed pedestrian bridge over Clark Street" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 9/5).
The Sabres yesterday unveiled their new third jersey featuring a gold front, blue back and silver numbers, and it "generated a massive response, with an overwhelming majority panning the sweater," according to John Vogl of the BUFFALO NEWS. The sweater is the Sabres' "first to be primarily gold." The front has the "traditional logo of a buffalo between two crossed swords, with the city’s name in small capital letters across the chest." The blue along the shoulders and neckline "travels all the way down the back." Silver numbers "are topped by the players' names in gold." The "bottom third of the arms are also silver." Unlike the Sabres' primary jerseys, there are "no horizontal lines along the waist." Another new feature is "not visible while the jersey is being worn." Written along the "inside back neckline are the words 'belief, commitment, character, discipline, trust, excellence.'" The slogan is "borrowed from the wall of the Sabres' dressing room." The Sabres have been "hyping the third jersey since mid-July, when they released a video showing snippets of the sweater" (BUFFALO NEWS, 9/5).
SHOULD HAVE STAYED IN STORAGE: YAHOO SPORTS' Greg Wyshynski wrote under the header, "Sabres Reveal Perhaps The NHL's Worst Jersey." Wyshynski: "Somewhere, the Buffaslug sneers with glee. The Islanders Fisherman laughs." These "look like warm-up jerseys for an indoor lacrosse team" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 9/4). CBSSPORTS.com's Brian Stubits wrote under the header, "Steve Ott Unveils Sabres' New Third Jersey And It's Awful." That sweater "might surpass the Islanders' third for the worst not only in hockey but in sports" (CBSSPORTS.com, 9/4). SI.com's Allan Muir wrote under the header, "The Buffalo Sabres' New Third Jersey Is Hideous!" The sweater is "flat out awful." That "two-tone yellow body with the tiny Buffalo wordmark over the logo is so inconceivably bad, I'm thinking this has to be a bit aimed at working the internet into a lather ahead of revealing the classically beautiful real new third" (SI.com, 9/4).
The job ahead for Coyotes co-Owner & Exec Chair George Gosbee and his staff "isn't an easy one, but they see opportunities to create real revenue in the desert," according to Craig Custance of ESPN.com. While the NHL owned the Coyotes, there "wasn't a lot of motivation for businesses to invest in a relationship with a local hockey team that might be on its way out of town." However, co-Owner Anthony LeBlanc is "a natural salesman and is already coaching up his team to ramp up sales of advertising in the building, advertising on television and the selling of suites." There are 89 suites at Jobing.com Arena, and "only a quarter of them have been sold the past couple of years." In the "first three weeks under new ownership, 10 more were sold." Going through bankruptcy "wiped out" all of the Coyotes' existing contracts, giving the new owners a "clean slate." A food and beverage deal "is typically a revenue-sharing model with a large company like Aramark." It is "fair to say that the new deal will be more favorable for Coyotes ownership than the last one." Bankruptcy also gives the Coyotes "an opportunity to reopen the discussion on naming rights, although that's currently not a priority with other deals in need of a conclusion with the season looming." Meanwhile, LeBlanc said that he expects a 10% "growth rate in season-ticket sales in the first season under new ownership, and he called walk-up sales massively important to the Coyotes." Custance noted while the location of the arena "doesn't make walk-up sales easy," there is "momentum in the market with new ownership, and the group is counting on the Coyotes returning to their playoff level after a down year last season to drive ticket sales" (ESPN.com, 9/4).
The move by Nets coach Jason Kidd to buy the stake in the team that had belonged to Jay Z generated a lot of discussion on sports-talk TV shows yesterday. CBSSN’s Doug Gottlieb asked, “Isn’t it weird ... for the head coach to also be a part owner? What if Jason Kidd stinks as coach. Can they fire a part owner?” CBSSN’s Allie LaForce said, “Even if he gets fired, he has a stake in a team that’s at least growing and getting better. If I was a player I’d be excited that my head coach is so dedicated that he bought a part of the team” (“Lead Off,” CBS Sports Network, 9/4). ESPN's Tony Kornheiser asked, "Why do they want him to own a piece of the team? In some strange way, does it make it easier to fire him because they can say, 'You can go be the president or something like that.'" ESPN's Michael Wilbon replied, "This is the way they're compensated now." However, Wilbon acknowledged, "There's a lot of pressure, it seems to me, on Jason Kidd" ("PTI," ESPN, 9/4). ESPN's Pablo Torre said this is a Jay Z story, because if Kidd "bought his shares from a random millionaire, it's be a footnote in SportsBusiness Journal and no one would care." Torre: "But because Jay Z could do anything, he could sell his old microwave and it would get headlines, that's why we care about it" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 9/4). SportsNet N.Y.'s Marc Malusis called it a "smart investment" for Kidd, because the Nets are "going to be the best basketball team in this city" ("Daily News Live," SNY, 9/4). ESPN's Keith Olbermann noted the "value of the share that Kidd is buying is $500,000, which represents one-sixth of one percent of ownership of the team." Olbermann: "He's all in!" ("Olbermann," ESPN2, 9/4).
SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT: Dallas Morning News columnist Tim Cowlishaw said while it is the "tiniest of percentages" that Kidd is acquiring, there could be an issue with the team "if players see any perception that their coach is part of ownership." Cowlishaw: "You've always got a couple of players haggling with management over their contracts. Jason Kidd does not want to be part of that" ("Around The Horn," ESPN,9/4).