UFC yesterday announced it will hold five shows in Canada in '14, including "a return to Vancouver and new stops in Halifax and Quebec City," according to Neil Davidson of the CP. The schedule also "calls for fights cards in Toronto and Montreal." The five shows are "up from three in recent years when Toronto and Montreal were constants on the schedule with another city rotating in." Quebec City will host a show "for the first time in the form of a televised UFC Fight Night for the live finale to 'The Ultimate Fighter Nations: Canada vs. Australia' on April 16 at Le Colisee Pepsi." UFC returns to Vancouver on June 14 "for UFC 174 at the Rogers Arena." The promotion previously "opted to stay away" from Vancouver "because of what it saw as onerous insurance and other requirements that have since been modified." Toronto "gets its fifth show in the form of UFC 178 on Sept. 27 at the Air Canada Centre." UFC "debuts in Halifax on Oct. 4 with a televised Fight Night card at the Metro Centre." The Canadian schedule then "concludes Dec. 6 with UFC 181 at the Bell Centre, marking Montreal's seventh show." UFC "has held 14 pay-per-view shows to date in Canada" (CP, 1/29). In Vancouver, Ian Austin notes UFC officials "credit a change in jurisdiction" to British Columbia "for allowing the Vancouver bout to go ahead." Vancouver officials previously required fighters to take out C$10M in insurance, "threatening to end the mixed martial arts matches after back-to-back fights" in '10 and '11. UFC Canada Operations Dir Tom Wright said, "No other organization could meet the insurance or indemnification issues the city demanded." Wright said that a "change to provincial oversight enabled the UFC to return" (Vancouver PROVINCE, 1/30).
THE LAST HOLDOUT: In N.Y., Kenneth Lovett reported a contingent of UFC officials and fighters on Tuesday traveled to Albany, N.Y., "in hopes that 2014 will be the year New York joins every other state in authorizing the sport." The state Senate has "passed the measure the last several years" and Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been "more open to it if it can be proven it would be an economic driver." UFC estimates legalization in New York would generate $135M "in economic activity." While support in the state Assembly "has been growing in recent years," the measure failed last year "largely because of opposition of many of female members who believe the sport is barbaric and glorifies violence against women" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 1/29).
Saints QB Drew Brees yesterday said of the NFL's concussion settlement, "I think that settlement number needs to be a lot more. I think that there's so many guys out there that need to qualify for disability and certainly need the help and the amount of money they're talking about, $750 million sounds like a lot, but really is just a drop in the bucket for the amount of help that these guys need. Certainly, that number could be more." Brees added the league "can certainly do more" to protect players ("Couric," 1/29). NFL Senior VP/Player Engagement Troy Vincent said the NFL and the NFLPA both “share and own a responsibility of taking care of our own, taking care of those that represent the NFL family.” He added the NFL could “potentially” face more lawsuits in the future because “that’s part of the business.” Vincent said NFL players “have the right to take that action.” He added, “We do more today for the players. ... We have more resources, between the players’ association, the individual clubs and the league office for players to succeed off the field. I can’t emphasize enough the shared responsibility, the personal accountability and making sure that you are making an investment in yourself" (“That Other Pregame Show,” CBS Sports Network, 1/29).
TIP OF THE CAP? The NATIONAL FOOTBALL POST's Jason Cole reported the NFLPA is debating whether to use a $2M per-team option to "help increase the salary cap" to more than $128M in '14. The move would "end a string of four consecutive years in which the cap has been below its high-water mark" in '09 under the previous CBA. The union also is "hoping to reverse two years of uncomfortable negotiations aimed at boosting the cap and avoiding player unrest." The salary cap is "preliminarily expected to increase" to $126.3M for the '14 season, which would "mark the fifth straight year that the cap was below" the '09 level. If the cap comes in at the current projection, the union could use the $2M option to "boost the cap" to at least $128.3M (NATIONALFOOTBALLPOST.com, 1/27).
TAX SEASON: ADWEEK's Katy Bachman noted two bills that are currently going through Congress "would take away" the NFL and NHL's non-profit, tax-exempt statuses. NFL and NHL franchises currently "are taxable, but the leagues themselves are not." Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), who introduced the Properly Reducing Overexemptions Sports Act, said, "In reality, the NFL and the NHL are for-profit businesses, and they should be taxed as such. They are not charities nor are they traditional trade organizations like local chambers of commerce." Bachman noted Chaffetz' bill "is identical to the legislation introduced last fall" by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) (ADWEEK.com, 1/29).
Despite MLB's financial success, there is "a concern for the game's standing as both an American cultural institution and an entertainment option, particularly for a younger generation of fans bombarded with choice and marching to a louder, faster drumbeat than did their parents," according to Tom Verducci of SI.com. The challenge facing the successor to MLB Commissioner Bud Selig is "obvious if not delicate: How much do you change a sport that prides itself on timelessness?" Red Sox President & CEO Larry Lucchino said, "I think we're at an obvious crossroads, especially with the change in the leadership in the commissioner's office pending. The next five to seven years will be an important time that offers both challenges and opportunities. The aging and graying of baseball's demographics is obviously a concern and has been for several years." Verducci wrote the "aging of the baseball audience is obvious," as the median viewer age for the final game of the '13 World Series was 53. MLB's lack of younger viewers "may be more about how culture changed," as many qualities associated with baseball are "less valued in today's society." The NFL "radically has changed how pro football is played," using "pencil and paper, not stone tablets, to write its rules." But MLB, because there is "a kind of tyranny in its statistics, does not enjoy a similar freedom." While Selig "has modernized the game in many ways," none of the changes have "addressed the conundrum of how the game is taking longer to produce less action while the pace of popular culture has quickened." MLB "must consider changes to the way it looks, the way it is marketed, even the way it is played." Verducci offers some "starting points for healthy discussions" about rule changes in MLB (SI.com, 1/28).