The NBA is partnering with the Disney Institute to "create a leaguewide customer service program to improve the fan experience at NBA arenas," according to John Lombardo of SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL. A steering committee of "about nine NBA teams and key concessionaires" Levy Restaurants and Aramark recently met in Orlando with Disney Institute execs. Participation in the program "will be voluntary, with a near six-figure annual cost to be paid by each participating team." The program "will include strategies for teams to improve customer service during game nights along with employee training, and the development of specific customer service standards that will be put into place over time." Sources said that the Pacers, Heat, Nets, Magic and Spurs are "part of the league’s steering committee, but league officials would not disclose the teams." The Nets and the Magic "have used Disney training in the past." The Disney Institute in recent years has "worked with a variety of sports clients, including the NFL and major college sports programs" such as Michigan State, Tennessee and Arizona State. While other leagues have "used outside services," this "marks a deeper alignment where a league has partnered with a group to formulate a specific set of industry standards on the fan experience" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 11/4 issue).
Leagues and Governing Bodies
Whether David Beckham can help Miami "become a big-time MLS market" is his $25M question, as Beckham will be faced with questions as to whether his star power is "enough to turn the fickle South Florida sports market into a passionate MLS audience," according to a front-page piece by Michelle Kaufman of the MIAMI HERALD. Questions also remain as to whether the city's "sophisticated soccer-savvy fans" will ever care "as much about Real Salt Lake as they do Real Madrid." It is a "complicated set of questions, which is why Beckham has spent the past six months vetting potential investors and consulting with business advisors." The project "will likely cost a couple of hundred million dollars when you include a stadium and player salaries." But domestic soccer is a "much harder sell in South Florida than international soccer." The melting pot "makes it a natural soccer hotbed, but those immigrants’ hearts remain with their favorite teams abroad," so their "perception of American soccer must be changed." NASL club Ft. Lauderdale Strikers President Tom Mulroy said that Beckham "needs to put together an ownership group with vision and commitment ... and find a perfectly situated stadium that offers a first-class experience." Mulroy said that Beckham will then "need to lure a 'handful of sexy big-name players' to attract South Florida's knowledgeable and demanding soccer fans, many of whom would rather stay home ... than drive to a local stadium and watch what they consider an inferior brand of soccer." Still, the stadium issue "seems to be the biggest hurdle." League sources have "told potential investors they prefer a privately-funded soccer-specific stadium of 20,000 to 30,000 seats, if possible in an urban area with restaurants and shopping nearby." Sources said that Beckham's reps have "explored the option of using Marlins Park as a temporary home" (MIAMI HERALD, 11/3).
ESPN’s Jeff Van Gundy discussed Nets coach Jason Kidd’s two-game suspension stemming from a July DWI conviction during Friday’s broadcast of Heat-Nets, and said incoming commissioner Adam Silver "really should take a look at how we fine and suspend players and coaches." Van Gundy: "Either get out of the personal behavior suspensions and just focus on what happens on the floor and let the law take care of the things that are off the floor, or stop wrist-slapping these guys.” Van Gundy said the “deterrent is not working” and the suspension system in the NBA is “ludicrous.” Van Gundy: “Drunk driving, domestic violence -- that we suspend guys for two games and then they get suspended for five games if they're in the drug program.” Van Gundy said the NBA should “start putting the hammer down” with suspensions of “ten games, 20 games, whole season if you need to.” ESPN's Mike Breen said, "The Players' Association should encourage that kind of discussion to figure it out, because they want to have the right reflection of their players because the majority of the players are terrific and do the right thing." Van Gundy said of the NBPA, "You can talk to them but I would rather ask for forgiveness than for permission." He added the NBA should "just do the right thing," and tell players and coaches "there's a couple things we are not going to tolerate ... make up your four or five things and then just let everyone know it's not tolerated" ("Heat-Nets," ESPN, 11/1).
The PGA Tour will be "partners in a new tour in China that starts next year with 12 tournaments," according to Doug Ferguson of the AP. The China Tour-PGA Tour China Series will "begin in March with 12 events that have purses of about $200,000." Still to be determined are "qualifying procedures, and how many of the top finishers will have access to the Web.com Tour." It is a "similar model to what the PGA Tour has done in Canada and Latin America," as the Tour "owns those two circuits." The new series is a "partnership with the China Golf Association and the China Olympic Sports Industry." The CGA is the "key to every golf deal in China, so it was important for the PGA Tour to have a partnership." While it was "once thought the PGA Tour would try to get a piece of the action in China, instead it is a partner in a tour that gives Chinese players a circuit of their own." Ferguson wrote the future of golf in China "was helped by the sport being added to the Olympic program" in '16 (AP, 11/3). REUTERS' Andrew Both reported the new tour will feature fields "not restricted to Chinese players" and "expected to be between 120 and 156 players." PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem "dismissed concerns that the new tour would pose a threat to the European and OneAsia Tours, which have had a presence in China for several years." Both wrote PGA Tour China "won't be an immediate threat to the European or OneAsia Tours because of the small purses but that might change should it prove successful and grow" (REUTERS, 11/3).
FOCUSED IN ON CHINA: GolfChannel.com's Rex Hoggard said the move "speaks a lot to how the PGA Tour has focused in on the Asian market, just not globally but specifically China." Hoggard: "You can just imagine the impact this would have just not competitively, but consider the TV options and everything else that goes into this” ("Morning Drive," Golf Channel, 11/3). He added the news "appears to be part of a systematic expansion by the Tour into China and the Asian market." For the "first time this year the WGC-HSBC Champions and last week’s CIMB Classic were official, full-FedEx Cup points events on the Tour schedule and in August the Tour hired Greg Gilligan to run PGA Tour (Beijing) Management Consulting." Gilligan was hired to “increase (the Tour’s) efforts in China.” The PGA Tour "did not announce" who would be commissioner of the new tour (GOLFCHANNEL.com, 11/3).
HEADING EAST: GOLF.com's weekly roundtable discussed the PGA Tour's move into China. Golf Magazine's Josh Sens said, "They're going there because that's where the money is." Golf Magazine's Joe Passov said, "Except where it concerns money -- and nothing else -- I'm mystified by these globalization ambitions from the PGA of America and the PGA Tour. Is this like the NFL games in London? Expand the brand? Unless Tiger Woods is in the field, I don't understand why Asian fans or sponsors would have any interest." SI's Gary Van Sickle: "The Tour is following the money. There are anxious sponsors, apparently, in Asia, and the Tour wants to get into their wallets since the American market is largely tapped." Golf Magazine's Cameron Morfit: "Like so much else that the Tour or any other business does, this is a calculated bet on the future." SI's Mark Godich: "Growing the game means exploring untapped markets" (GOLF.com, 11/3).
In San Diego, Chris Jenkins noted an expanded format for instant replay that is being considered for MLB next season "will be utilized in five Arizona Fall League games" this week. Braves President John Schuerholz, who serves on a committee studying the use of replay, suggested that the new process "will take less time than umpire huddles," and insisted that the new system "will speed up the game." Jenkins wrote the manager challenges "sound like a possible six more opportunities for commercial breaks, not to mention another reason why young people are being distanced from baseball by the pace of games" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 11/2).
WILL IT GO ROUND IN CIRCLES: In Charlotte, Jim Utter wrote of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, "How many times have we heard from drivers, media and even fans that some of the best racing they see on any particular race weekend comes in the Truck series?" Utter: "Why doesn't NASCAR take what it learns from Truck and apply it to the Cup side? Is it because the two are not compatible or is it because Trucks run considerably slower than Cup cars and NASCAR is unwilling to go down the slower-could-be-better-racing road?" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 11/3).
'CAUSE I'M THE TAXMAN: TSN's Aaron Ward reported the NHLPA is "seeking permission to sue the state of Tennessee on behalf of its membership and get reimbursed for a special tax that players must pay each time they play a game in Nashville." The state since the '09-10 season "has taxed NHL players $2,500 -- with an annual cap of $7,500 -- under a 'Professional Privilege Tax' each time they were on their club's playing roster for a game in Nashville." The reimbursement "would only apply to those who paid the tax prior" to the NHL's new CBA (TSN.ca, 11/1).