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Volume 24 No. 238

Leagues and Governing Bodies

Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones' fight against the NFL is "not yet complete, and his endgame is still very much in sight," according to Albert Breer of THE MMQB. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's contract was extended last week, and one owner described the feel in the room toward Jones at Wednesday's owners' meeting like this: “He got his ass spanked.” But while Jones "didn’t light the dynamite" at the owners' meeting, the "explosives are still very much in hand." Jones is "not alone in thinking" that the league office has "become bloated with staff with its hands in too many pots." There are a "good number of owners who are with Jones in believing that the NFL should get out of the investigation business." Accordingly, a shakeup in the "league office could be coming." COO Tod Leiweke, CMO Dawn Hudson, Special Counsel Lisa Friel and Exec VP/Health & Safety Jeff Miller are "among those whose roles could change significantly (if they’re not out)." Exec VP & General Counsel Jeff Pash is "another figure some owners are disillusioned with, but his value on the labor front will likely protect him." How the rest of the league works, and how much power NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell himself will wield "remains up for discussion, with much on the line in the coming years." One owner said, "We’ve got a lot of issues to deal with. There’s a lot of unity in the room, and we’ve got to deal with those now. We have a CBA coming up, we’ve got a lot of off-the-field issues. We need a vision. Where are we going in the next five to 10 years? Everything’s changed. There’s a lot of work to be done. I think Roger’s the right guy to do it, and I think most of the people in the room believe that" (SI.com, 12/14).

PROBLEM AT HAND: BLOOMBERG NEWS' Felix Gillette wrote the recent sexual harassment allegations against NFL Network staffers has "hit the league in one of its biggest vulnerabilities." Women "make up almost half of the NFL’s current customer base, and moms hold enormous sway over whether their children are allowed to play the sport." Goodell has been "scrambling for years to burnish the league’s appeal to female fans." The allegations "remind female fans of the league's problems with sexism." Gillette: "At a time when NFL sponsors are under fierce pressure from fans who are angry about players participating in national anthem protests, the NFL Network has managed to stay out of the crossfire -- until now" (BLOOMBERG NEWS, 12/14).

David Beckham’s plans to bring MLS to Miami is "expected to finally reach a happy conclusion with the official granting of the team expected as early as late January," according to Michelle Kaufman of the MIAMI HERALD. The MLS BOG met in N.Y. on Thursday and "approved Beckham’s newly structured ownership group," which includes Jorge and Jose Mas and SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son. Beckham’s longtime business partner, Simon Fuller, "remains in the group," as does Sprint President & CEO Marcelo Claure. The role of chief negotiator and partner Tim Leiweke is "expected to be reduced, as well." Sources said that the Mas brothers and Son were "well-received by the owners, several of whom were familiar with them from the tech world and the Mas family’s recent bid to buy the Marlins." The stakes in the new investment group are "expected to be more evenly divided than they would have been" with Dodgers co-Owner Todd Boehly, who left the group. MLS leadership was "looking for more of a local representation in the Beckham ownership group, and they get that with the Mas brothers" (MIAMI HERALD, 12/15). ESPN.com's Jeff Carlisle noted the next challenge for the ownership group is to "make further progress on nailing down the stadium plan, which appeared to be nearing completion" when Miami Beckham United "agreed to purchase three acres from Miami-Dade County back in June." Combined with an adjoining six-acre parcel, MBU has "secured the site it needed to build a stadium in Miami's Overtown neighborhood." However, local landowner Bruce Matheson "filed a lawsuit alleging that the county violated the law by not opening up the sale to competitive bidding." The ongoing litigation with Matheson is "not expected to be a deal-breaker" (ESPN.com, 12/14).

U.S. Soccer's BOD during a meeting in Toronto last Sunday "took some initial steps" toward revamping the "responsibilities of several positions," according to sources cited by Jeff Carlisle of ESPN.com. There was "consensus among the board members on some issues." Foremost among the changes is that the president is "going to be more of a chairman of the board and not an executive president." This is a "clear departure from the way the board operated" under outgoing President Sunil Gulati. Gulati's management style "was of someone who took a hands on role in just about every aspect of the USSF's business, often making decisions independent of the board." The board also agreed that a GM-type position "will be created with that person overseeing the men's national team, and that the head coach would report to the GM." The GM is "expected to be hired before the men's national team manager, and would be heavily involved in the managerial search that follows." One source who was at the meeting said, "We're going to run this like a sports organization. How's that for a change of pace?" The expectation is that the changes "will be formalized prior to the USSF's Annual General Meeting in early February" (ESPN.com, 12/14).

CAMPAIGNING BEGINS: The USSF this week revealed eight of the nine candidates for the president position, and SI.com's Grant Wahl noted once the required background checks have been completed, it "will release the final list of candidates who will vie for election." NBC Sports' Kyle Martino, a candidate, said of Gulati's time as president, "We’re coming out of an era with a president who I think deserves credit for growing the game in many ways. The area he can most talk about and brag about is on the business side. Sunil Gulati is a very smart man who took U.S. Soccer over in a time when there wasn’t a big surplus and they needed to grow the commercial side of the business and grow the budget, and he did that. He did that over his tenure." But Martino added, "Where he can’t brag, after missing out on the first World Cup for the men since 1986, is on the soccer side" Martino said of why he is qualified to be president, "I’m going to have to spend this entire campaign helping people see why I’m a good business answer" (SI.com, 12/14). YAHOO SPORTS' Henry Bushnell wrote Martino "doesn’t have all the answers scrawled out on a notepad." The key is "getting people into the game by reducing barriers to entry." Martino and his campaign team have "combed through the federation’s budget to see how money can be spent more efficiently, and earmarked for scholarships, subsidizing coaching licenses, building fields, and so on." He also "wants to dip into" U.S. Soccer’s roughly $150M surplus, and "into the private sector." The main problem with Martino’s ideas is that "many think these decisions shouldn’t be his to make." They "don’t think the president should be actively charting the course" of the USSF or of soccer as a whole in this country (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 12/14).

CARTER SPEAKS: In a Q&A with YAHOO SPORTS' Bushnell, Soccer United Marketing President Kathy Carter, also a candidate, said of U.S. Soccer, "We need a cultural shift in the way we operate with all our constituents. There’s a real belief that the federation has been focused on the elite development, and that there hasn’t been as much focus on the base." Carter said of reports she was urged to run for president by Gulati and MLS Commissioner Don Garber, "I’ve actually never sat on the U.S. Soccer board, so I can’t say that I’ve been in the middle of decisions." Carter said of the USWNT fighting for equal pay as the USMNT, "It’s a broader issue than what our athletes make. ... Those teams themselves collectively bargain. So what it is that’s most important to them must be determined by those negotiations." She added, "There should be zero differentiation between the quality of how we treat our teams. Whether that is playing surfaces, whether that is where they stay in hotels, or how they fly. That, to me, is table stakes, that has to be the same" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 12/13).