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Volume 25 No. 108

Leagues and Governing Bodies

Liga MX has discussed plans with MLS on playing an All-Star game between the two leagues
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Liga MX President Enrique Bonilla at the Leaders Sports Business Summit in London yesterday said that a combined North American soccer league with MLS "could be the main legacy" of the '26 FIFA World Cup, according to Christian Radnedge of REUTERS. Revenues for global TV rights and sponsorship across North America "pale in comparison to the top leagues of Europe." Bonilla said that may be "something that could be changed with a new combined continental top-flight division." Bonilla: "It's a possibility, a North American league. We have to determine how and see the pros and cons but I think that's a way to grow and to compete again." He added the "main idea" is that MLS and Liga MX have to "grow together to compete." Bonilla: "If not, there is only going to be the rich guys in Europe and the rest of the world." MLS and Liga MX earlier this year "launched a partnership which included the introduction of the Campeones Cup, a match between the winners of each respective league." Plans also have been "discussed to play an All-Star game between the two leagues" (REUTERS, 10/10). MLS Exec VP/Communications Dan Courtemanche in a statement said, "We have been discussing with Liga MX additional ways we can collaborate on and off the field, and we are excited about the future opportunities that exist between our two leagues" (THE DAILY).

TANTALIZING PROSPECT: NBCSPORTS.com's Nicholas Mendola wrote given the relationships between Mexico and the U.S., the "melding of the leagues" beyond a CONCACAF Champions League is "mouth-watering." Mendola: "But how would it work? Presumably more like a super league, though it would also give MLS another chance to implement what I've long-argued is already in their plans (promotion and relegation)." However, Mendola wrote this possibility is "far less attractive" if Liga MX clubs have simply been "swayed by the business model of capping player expenditures and being owned by a single entity" (NBCSPORTS.com, 10/10).

NFL player arrests and criminal citations "have dropped" from about 57 per year to about 38 per year since "new policies took hold" in '15, according to Brent Schrotenboer of USA TODAY. Arrest rates for drunken driving and domestic violence "both have fallen," and DUI arrests are "down to about nine per year" since January '15, compared to 15 per year between '05-14. Domestic abuse arrests dipped from about seven per year between '05-14 to "about five per year" since '15. NFL Senior VP/Social Responsibility Anna Isaacson said, "We're a much more enlightened population, and that makes us stronger and better and I think also has an impact on actions." Schrotenboer notes the NFL still "considers one arrest to be too many," even if that is "not realistic." The past four years have "marked a transformation in punishment and prevention" for drunk driving. In September '14, the NFL and NFLPA "agreed to two-game suspensions for first-time DUI offenses instead of fines." Meanwhile, ride-share services such as Uber and Lyft have "exploded in popularity, making it easier to get home safely after partying." Isaacson said that the league's "beefed-up educational programs are designed to help players and staff gain broader understanding of sexual assault and domestic violence beyond just 'how to stay out of trouble.'" Schrotenboer notes this has "helped the league also make progress with domestic abuse," part of which may be measured by the "dip in arrests for such cases" since '15 (USA TODAY, 10/11).

NBA Canada officials spent three days promoting basketball in Montreal ahead of Nets-Raptors
Photo: NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

Last night's Nets-Raptors game at Bell Centre in Montreal was "played against the backdrop" of a news conference "touting the possibility" of an NBA expansion franchise there, according to Pat Hickey of the MONTREAL GAZETTE. Former politician Michel Fortier and former Canadiens COO Kevin Gilmore "made their case in a presentation to the Montreal Board of Trade." There are a "few obstacles in the way, starting with Fortier’s admission that the NBA has no immediate plans for expansion." Their "lone commitment to date" comes from security firm GardaWorld CEO Stéphan Crétier, who is in for 10% of the team. The press conference was a "surprise to NBA Canada officials who had spent three days promoting basketball in the city." The word is they were "not pleased someone tried to hijack their party" (MONTREAL GAZETTE, 10/11). In Montreal, Ryan Wolstat notes the NBA "isn’t currently looking to add any expansion franchises," but the Montreal group intends to be "ready should the day come when new teams are on the table." Members of the group said that the NBA has been "made aware of the interest, which originated" in '14, but has been "ramped up" with the addition of Crétier as a main investor. They have also informed NBA Commissioner Adam Silver that "while they recognize 'Montreal isn’t on anybody’s short list,' they don’t mind being Plan B for now" (MONTREAL GAZETTE, 10/11).

MISSING PIECE: SPORTSNET.ca's Michael Grange wrote Montreal as a willing market for an expansion team has "one thing right: The NBA should seriously look at expansion." Yesterday’s presentation was "effective in communicating why an NBA franchise could conceivably succeed in Montreal." However, "nothing would happen" unless the Molson family, which owns the Canadiens and Bell Centre, "are primary investors." That they "weren't part" of the announcement "was telling." The "real question" that stakeholders in Montreal would have to answer is "what having a team in Montreal would do for the other 30 (or 31 or more) teams in the league" (SPORTSNET.ca, 10/10).

Kenny Gersh defended the idea of integrity fees as a case of fairness and partnership with casino operators
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

MLB execs and casino industry reps during a panel talk both "vigorously defended what they believe is their right over the money wagered" through legal sports betting, according to Regina Garcia Cano of the AP. MLB Exec VP/Gaming & New Business Ventures Kenny Gersh yesterday told the crowd at the Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas that a proposed integrity fee (0.25%) is "essentially a royalty that casino companies should pay if they are going to make money off of the sport." He "defended it as a case of 'fairness' and partnership with casino operators." Gersh: "If you are going to designate someone to be able to make money off of what at the end of the day is our sport and our events because if the Yankees weren't playing the Red Sox last night, you are not betting on the Yankees and the Red Sox ... We think we should be involved in that." But American Gaming Association Senior VP/Public Affairs Sara Slane said that MLB wants a "cut of the revenue without any of the risk that's associated with it." Slane: "That's why we have to go through the regulatory process. We invest billions of dollars in buildings, in our licenses that costs us millions of dollars to go through. You want us to take that risk, pay you and then you are going to benefit on the back end as well. ... What you guys are proposing is not financially viable" (AP, 10/10).

NEW FRONTIER? In Las Vegas, Alan Snel noted one of the "big takeaways" from Gersh is that in-game betting is the "way of the future." It is going to be the "sweet spot for younger fans." Slane also cited sources as saying that 70% of sports betting "will be coming from in-game wagers." Slane said, "This is the future. This is where we want to head." Nielsen Sports Global Head of Federations Stephen Master said that it will be casual fans who "drive the traffic to in-game sports betting." Master: "All the growth will be from the casual fan." Gersh noted that MLB has "spent millions of dollars on installing cameras and radar devices to track everything at games, from velocity of the baseball off the bat to the speed of pitcher's fastballs to create a pool of reliable data for potential gamblers" (LVSPORTSBIZ.com, 10/10).

Dover Downs GM & Senior Dir of Horse Racing & Sports Betting John Hensley said that the wagering option for last weekend's NASCAR races there "seemed to increase the engagement and involvement of many fans," according to Mark Fowser of Delaware-based WDEL-AM. Hensley said, "It was an incredibly smooth experience for them. We're very impressed with the knowledge and the patience of the NASCAR fan and the motor sports fan in that environment." Delaware State Lottery Dir Vernon Kirk yesterday released numbers which "show that the total amount bet on NASCAR during what's [considered] 'race week' nearly matched the amount wagered on the sport all summer long in Delaware." The races at Dover "generated about $52,600 in bets." However, Kirk said that auto racing accounts for a "very small portion of the overall amount placed since sports betting became legal at Delaware's three casinos June 5th" -- just 0.2% out of about $40.1M. Kirk also "expected auto racing to return to the weekly average of less than $5,000 for future NASCAR weekends" (WDEL.com, 10/10). Dover Motorsports President & CEO Denis McGlynn said that bets on car racing from June 5-Sept. 30 "totaled $60,000." Bets on car racing from Oct. 1-7 totaled $49,000. McGlynn said that for Sunday's Cup race, of the $130,000 "bet on all sports, $26,000 was plunked down on racing, $15,000 in the tent near the stands, the rest in the casino." In Richmond, Randy Hallman wrote sports betting at the speedway and the adjacent Dover Downs Casino was "certainly an intriguing variation of what a NASCAR track can offer its fans" (RICHMOND TIMES-DISPATCH, 10/11).

SMI has expressed interest in bringing the Xfinity Series and Camping World Truck Series to Nashville
Photo: FAIRGROUNDS SPEEDWAY

SMI reportedly has been interested in bringing NASCAR races back to Nashville's Fairgrounds Speedway, but the two sides "appear no closer to a deal," according to Joey Garrison of the Nashville TENNESSEAN. Fairgrounds Speedway Promoter Tony Formosa said that SMI has "expressed interest" in holding an Xfinity Series and Camping World Truck Series race at the fairgrounds. He added that the two NASCAR races floated by SMI "would be held over one weekend, but dates are unclear." Formosa: "Everything is still very premature. We haven't even come close to reaching an (agreement)." The deal would "require an agreement with Formosa, who holds operational rights to the speedway" (Nashville TENNESSEAN, 10/11).

YOUNG & THE RESTLESS: The AP's Jenna Fryer wrote NASCAR got a "true gift" when young drivers Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney recently "put together back-to-back playoff victories." NASCAR must now "go to work on making America care about these fresh faces." The first step is to "get the drivers in front of the public." NASCAR "hasn’t done a great job the last few years of forcing its drivers in front of the media on a weekly basis, which is the only way to build familiarity." The drivers also "need to relate, somehow, to both existing fans and potential fans." The drivers "start working a little bit harder to sell themselves as the future of the sport" (AP, 10/8).