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Volume 24 No. 113


The Bills-in-Toronto series as of now "is scheduled to resume in 2015," as "four regular-season games and one preseason are still contracted to be played, per the five-year series extension signed in January 2013," according to a source cited by John Kryk of QMI AGENCY. But "further talks between the Bills and Rogers are planned to address the future of the series." The source said that the NFL "will be included in those discussions." Kryk noted it "is possible the series won't ever resume, if that's what the parties eventually decide." Neither side "can unilaterally pull out of the arrangement." A source said that no money "is exchanging hands in the mutually agreed-upon postponement" (QMI AGENCY, 3/5). In Rochester, Sal Maiorana notes the original five-year deal between the two sides covered '08-12, and the Bills "walked away with" $78M in revenue. A new five-year contract -- for "a lesser but unknown amount of money -- was signed" in '13. Playing in Toronto "has always been about money for the Bills" (ROCHESTER DEMOCRAT & CHRONICLE, 3/6).

THE FINAL STRAW: In Buffalo, Mark Gaughan notes the "tipping point in the six-year experiment" came last Dec. 1, when the Bills lost in OT to the Falcons "before an announced crowd of 38,969." The crowd was "at least 12,000 short of a sellout, the atmosphere in the Rogers Centre was dreary, and there were at least as many fans rooting for the Falcons as for the Bills." Bills President & CEO Russ Brandon "acknowledged that the atmosphere for the Falcons game prompted the team to re-evaluate the partnership." He said, "We’re trying to build a fan base north of the border, and this year I would say it was a neutral crowd." Gaughan writes it "would be a surprise if the Bills go back to Toronto for a regular-season game." Veteran Bills players "voiced their displeasure with the game to team officials late last season," and the Bills’ coaches also "don’t like it." The Bills yesterday announced they had "struck a separate sponsorship agreement with Rogers" for the '14 season in Orchard Park. It will "give Rogers ticketing, marketing and media exposure opportunities with the team." The Bills also will "create a Rogers-sponsored 'Canada House' at The Ralph, which will be a hospitality facility for Canadian fans." It will be "modeled after a venture the NFL uses at the Super Bowl for corporate sponsors and business partners" (BUFFALO NEWS, 3/6).

BEGINNING OF THE END? In Toronto, Cathal Kelly writes the "flacks can call it a postponement or a hiatus or whatever else they like," but what it really is "is a temporary stay of execution." In the "real world, you don't take a one-year pass on something that has any chance of being salvaged." This is the "measure of how badly the Bills in Toronto Series failed -- they can't even kill it in public" (TORONTO STAR, 3/6). In Rochester, Leo Roth writes under the header, "Bills Should Sack Toronto Series" (ROCHESTER DEMOCRAT & CHRONICLE, 3/6). ESPN's Michael Wilbon said of the postponement, "Play in Buffalo. These fans are loyal, they come out there in all kinds of conditions to root for bad teams. Stay in Buffalo and play your games" ("PTI," ESPN, 3/5).

ESTABLISHING A REGIONAL BRAND: In Buffalo, Dan Miner wrote the Bills are a franchise that needs to "continue to solidify its presence in both Southern Ontario and Rochester to ensure its future financial viability." The percentage of Southern Ontario fans at Bills games in Orchard Park "has grown" from about 10% to about 17% over the past six years. Brandon said that that increase is "a direct result" of the Bills-in-Toronto series. Brandon prior to the official postponement announcement said that the Bills have "established the basic equation: deep market saturation in Buffalo, Rochester and Southern Ontario and the franchise’s long-term financial picture will hinge on how much fan, sponsor and corporate support can be generated across the region." The franchise has experienced "similar growth in Rochester in recent years, having moved its training camp to St. John Fisher College." An average of approximately 15% of fans at Ralph Wilson Stadium "come from the Rochester region." Brandon said that Rochester has "also become a strong contributor in terms of sponsorships and corporate support" (, 3/5).

The Jaguars yesterday unveiled their '14 season-ticket campaign, "highlighted by a program to give fans year-round engagement with the team and five new seating areas they hope caters to families, corporate clients and diehard customers alike," according to Ryan O'Halloran of the FLORIDA TIMES-UNION. Coupled with the "ongoing construction project that will feature the world’s largest video scoreboards, the Jaguars’ intention is to improve the fan experience for their seven home games." The plan was a "result of studying four surveys conducted with season ticket holders" in late '13. The Jaguars with the plan wanted to "keep season ticket prices flat." The two "main components of the plan were the creation of Jags365 and the five new seating areas." Jags365 is a program that will "engage season ticket holders (at no additional cost) to year-round access to the Jaguars." A staff of eight, "including five new hires, will be in charge of relations with the season ticket base, which is currently 46,000." The opportunities for fans include a "chalk-talk with team officials, attending the postgame press conference, leading the Jaguars onto the field, a fantasy camp where fans can do the same drills as the players, watching movies on the field and networking events for season ticket holders to generate business contacts." Jaguars President Mark Lamping said that "selling these new areas will allow the Jaguars’ average ticket price to rise without the team raising existing prices." Lamping added that he "thought the new sections would be a 'mix' of existing fans who upgrade their tickets and new customers." Additionally, the Jaguars plan to "recognize long-time season ticket holders, including a permanent Wall of Fame-type structure in the south end zone with the names of each inaugural season ticket holder (about 11,000 names)" (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 3/6).

A rally to "protest" Knicks Owner James Dolan’s "handling of the sinking franchise" is scheduled for March 19 in front of MSG before the team hosts the Pacers, according to Marc Berman of the N.Y. POST. The organizers in a statement wrote the rally is being staged because of "Dolan’s failure to allow knowledgeable basketball people the autonomy/power to make basketball related decisions." The statement also takes issue with "the rehiring of Steve Mills who has never been in the GM role before and presided over one of the most embarrassing eras in Knick history." The statement in conclusion reads, "We want to remind Dolan and the NBA that our voices matter. We buy the tickets, the jerseys, the NBA League Pass subscriptions. We are frustrated. We are tired. We deserve better" (NY, 3/5). YAHOO SPORTS' Dan Devine wrote there "isn't an awful lot that Knicks fans can do to meaningfully change the fortunes of this year's team." But what they "can do is commiserate, kvetch and make a public stink about the rotten state of affairs at MSG under the leadership" of Dolan. The "public embarrassment of fans gathering to won't compel Dolan to change course on anything, obviously, but it might bum him out a little and maybe make his day a bit worse." Devine: "This, friends, is what Knicks fans have to hold onto right now." The only "truly effective way for disgruntled Knicks fans to display their dismay with Dolan is to hit him where it hurts, in the wallet, by refusing to patronize his cable company, pay for tickets to games at the Garden, purchase Knicks merchandise and generally spend any money on the product he's producing until he changes the way he produces it" (, 3/5).

DOOMED TO FAIL? FS1's Gary Payton said of the protest, "Knicks fans, be real! ... You always say, 'Well, we pay your salary.' No you don’t. That owner that you're trying to get out and do this to, he's the owner. He's going to make the decisions regardless of you being there or not. And you know what, You're still going to be there. You're still going to buy tickets! So stop it, you're not going to change anything. Just hope for the best" ("Fox Sports Live," FS1, 3/6). The N.Y. Daily News' Bob Raissman said, "You know what, don’t bother. This guy will not listen to anybody. If you protest his reign at the Garden, it's only going to make him get his back up and he's going to go against you. That's his style. He's had the media down his throat for years and it hasn't changed anything. I applaud you for the idea, but it won't work" ("Daily News Live," SNY, 3/5).

The MLS Red Bulls "still haven't managed" to become part of N.Y.'s "permanent media landscape in a meaningful way, with small slights and larger silences still the norm" since their inception in '96, according to Howard Megdal of CAPITAL NEW YORK. The Red Bulls in '15 "will be joined in the area by NYCFC, an expansion MLS franchise jointly owned" by EPL club Manchester City and the Yankees. That "not only guarantees the kind of initial media attention a new franchise receives, but the kind of financial and business backing that almost certainly will make it harder for the Red Bulls to be heard." Moreover, the new team "will be found somewhere within the city confines" as opposed to the Red Bulls, who play in Harrison, N.J. The "party line, of course, is that the rivalry will only help the Red Bulls," who now "have one final season to put a stamp on the city, with the stage all to themselves." Red Bulls GM Jerome de Bontin, who was "tasked with building the business side" of the team, "resigned unexpectedly on Monday, just five days before the team's opener" versus the Whitecaps. His departure "leaves the Red Bulls rudderless on the business end." The club landed the Supporters Shield title last season -- given out to the MLS team with the best regular-season record -- marking the "first major trophy in franchise history." But it is "hard to see how the Red Bulls capitalized on that success in a meaningful way on the business or media side." There is "something to be said for the argument" that a '15 focus on NYC FC "might allow for a fresh look at the Red Bulls, too." But "even that may be too late" because Red Bulls F Thierry Henry is "in the final season of the deal he signed" in '10 and will turn 37 in August. Exactly how long he "can go on being Thierry Henry, drawing card, is uncertain" (, 3/5).

GOING PRO: Red Bulls Sporting Dir Andy Roxburgh on Tuesday said that the club is "well on its way to fielding a second team" in the USL Pro league, but that it "likely will not happen until the beginning of next season."'s Franco Panizo noted, "The Red Bulls had initially attempted to get a team off the ground for this season, but could not pull it off in time and are now confident of doing so" ahead of the '15 campaign. The Red Bulls as part of the move to add a USL Pro team "are currently in the process of renovating the brand new training facility that they opened last year." The club is "adding locker rooms and bleachers in preparation for the arrival of the third division side, which Roxburgh said will play its home games at the facility" (, 3/5).

In Boston, Jill Radsken noted the Revolution are "finally putting the white back in red, white, and blue" with their new uniforms. The "debut of white shorts" was the news Tuesday as the Revolution unveiled its new kit. The Revolution's white shorts "are meant to balance the navy jersey and socks." Revolution Dir of Marketing Cathal Conlon said that the "overarching theme is 'Made in New England,' and there are numerous nods to the team’s roots." The six stripes on the socks "represent the New England states, and inside the neck of the jersey reads 'New England EST 1996.'" Finally, the flag of New England, which fans "often wave at games, gets prime real estate on the back of the jersey above the player’s name and number" (BOSTON GLOBE, 3/5).

UNITED WE TRAIN: In DC, Steven Goff reports the "terrible winter" in the Northeast has forced DC United to "secure alternate locations" to train at ahead of Saturday’s opener against the Crew. United "is not yet able to practice on its regular grass field" outside of RFK Stadium's gates "because of snow and unstable ground." An adjacent synthetic field "is in such poor condition that United will not train on it." Club officials "don’t expect to step onto the stadium field -- which has been covered by tarps during the storms and needs care -- until pregame activities" (WASHINGTON POST, 3/6).

SALVOS IN SACTO: In Sacramento, Tom Couzens reported USL Pro club Sacramento Republic FC Founder & Owner Warren Smith on Tuesday "issued a bold statement" in response to MLS Commissioner Don Garber's comments about the city's chances of landing an MLS team. Smith: "When we host over 20,000 fans at Hughes Stadium on April 26, around the world will know it too." Even if the club "doesn’t pack Hughes, Smith knows a strong showing that night -- and crowds of 6,000 to 8,000 throughout the team’s 14 home matches -- will send a strong signal that the city eventually could support an MLS team." Smith’s ownership group "needs to generate excitement in the community, create a strong fan base and attract area businesses (and their dollars)." A "big opening-night crowd would be a step in the right direction" (, 3/5).

Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson yesterday said that it is up to the Indians to "determine how to handle" the issue of whether to retire their Chief Wahoo mascot, but added that he "generally supports Native Americans who feel that the grinning logo is a racist caricature of their culture." Jackson said, "If there are Native Americans who believe it's offensive to them, then who am I to tell them it's not? And I support whatever they want to say about that. It’s up to the Indians how they work that kind of stuff out" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 3/6).

EARLY BIRD GETS THE WORM: In DC, Dan Steinberg reported for the '14 season, Nationals primary-account holders or their partners "will receive a rewards bonus for arriving early" to games. They will "get 20 bonus points per card for using their Ultimate Ballpark Access card 60 minutes or more before the first pitch, and 10 points per card for scans that happen with less than 60 minutes to go." Similarly, plan holders "will receive 10 points per card for print-at-home scans that come 60 minutes or more before the first pitch, and 5 points per card for print-at-home scans that happen with less than an hour to go." Thus, getting to the park "early five times can now earn plan holders a free ticket" (, 3/5).

GAME, SET, MATCH: In Las Vegas, Steve Carp reports the World TeamTennis Las Vegas Neons franchise, which was "scheduled to play at the Darling Tennis Center in July and had signed Sam Querrey as its marquee player, was folded Wednesday by the league after owner Deepal Wannakuwatte had the assets of his Sacramento-based medical supply company, International Manufacturing Group Inc., frozen by a federal judge" (LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, 3/6).