Group Created with Sketch.
Volume 10 No. 24

Leagues and Governing Bodies

NFL San Francisco 49ers co-Chair John York said that trying to put a franchise in the U.K. right now would be "sort of a shot in the dark." York, who served as the chairman of the NFL’s int'l committee before becoming chairman of the owners’ health and safety committee, told SBD Global, "We don’t know that there’s enough support for a team playing eight regular season games and two preseason games in London. But we do know that we can play two and sell them out very quickly and have a lot of fan interest and growing interest." In addition, there is absolutely no push back from either London or any of the NFL owners to increase the number of games to three next year, York added. When the NFL played its first regular season game in London in ’07, the game was sold out in about 48 hours. However, York said that the game between the Giants and Dolphins had roughly 30% of the fans coming from the greater London area and 70% from the rest of the continent. York: “That probably is not a sustainable model over the long period.” During the last seven seasons in which the NFL has continuously increased its push into the U.K. market, this ratio has shifted. This year’s two regular season games had about 65-70% fans from the greater London area and the U.K. in attendance, while 40% of fans came to both games at Wembley Stadium. These numbers, York said, show that the fan base is becoming more concentrated in and around London, and that there is an appetite to come to more than one game.

AIRTIME: Another aspect that will help the NFL move forward with its plan of establishing a franchise in the British capital is increased media coverage. While the NFL has been on pay sports channels for a number of years, ’13 has been the first year that games are back on free-to-air TV. York: “Free-to-air TV will raise the awareness of the NFL and increase fan avidity probably more than anything else. This year for me, even though I’m over there every year, I’ve seen more interest in terms of sponsorship in the game and discussing how companies can be more involved in the NFL in London, and consumer products with jerseys and everything, the paraphernalia that people buy has increased tremendously." York said he has heard anecdotally from Nike that the company had two big spikes with the games over there selling NFL equipment. The combination of a change in fan demographic and increased media coverage is what increased fan awareness and fan avidity for the NFL in the U.K., York said, and that leads to the question about a future franchise. Asked about a timeline for establishing a London-based franchise, York said, “The way to look at this is not what the timeline for a franchise in London is. It is two components: what is the NFL’s investment, which continues to increase in the U.K. and other countries outside the U.S. And what is the fan interest in the NFL as we continue to grow? And I don’t think that there’s an answer for that right now.”

F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone "laughed off suggestions" that he "frightened a German banker into fleeing to the police to protect himself," according to Kevin Eason of the LONDON TIMES. The High Court in London was told that banker Gerhard Gribkowsky "went to the police in Munich claiming that he was being intimidated" by Ecclestone. Ecclestone joked that Gribkowsky "had even asked for a licence to carry a gun." It was a "light-hearted aside" in a second day of questioning of F1’s CEO over the sale of the F1 business in '06 to CVC Capital Partners. Ecclestone and three others "are facing a claim" for $140M in damages from Constantin Medien. The hearing centered around Ecclestone’s "determination to cling on to control and to prevent the banks from moving into the F1 business." Ecclestone said he “didn’t care” who was on the board or who the members were, but added, “I don’t work alongside anyone. I do the job exactly the way I like to do it. If the banks had tried to run the business, there would have been no business. That is not an arrogant position, that is a fact” (LONDON TIMES, 11/7).

FEELING THREATENED: In London, Tom Cary reported it emerged in court that Gribkowsky at one stage "felt so threatened" by Ecclestone that he "went to the police to register his concerns." Referring to a witness statement given to Munich police in Dec. '04, Philip Marshall QC, representing Constantin Medien, suggested to Ecclestone that Gribkowsky appeared to be "concerned by a physical threat from you" at the time (TELEGRAPH, 11/7). REUTERS' Keith Weir reported Ecclestone said that he "did not think" that Gribkowsky "had wanted to remove him from his role prior to the sale." Ecclestone said, "He gets rid of me and the company is worth nothing" (REUTERS, 11/7).

THE MAN, THE MYTH: The BBC's Andrew Benson reported with Ecclestone, the "myth is so much wrapped up in the man that it is often hard to separate fact from fiction." This son of a Suffolk trawlerman "has ruled Formula 1 for nearly 40 years with a combination of astuteness, cunning, sharp practice and sheer intellectual power arguably unmatched across business and sporting worlds." He "has turned what was essentially a minority activity for enthusiasts into the most-watched global sport outside the Olympics and football's World Cup." His appearance in the High Court this week "is one of a series of legal problems that present him with his biggest challenge yet." Can he "survive accusations he made corrupt payments to a German banker to facilitate the sale of F1?" In the normal business world, the answer would be "no." Any CEO who has referred to women as "domestic appliances" or praised Adolf Hitler for being "able to get things done" would have been "shown the door with a haste to match the indecency of the remarks." Not Ecclestone, who "survived those particular storms -- and many more." He has done it "because of his remarkable achievements, his all-pervading influence in F1 and, since the sport began trading as a commodity, his success in making money for his bosses." That last attribute "may yet keep him in a job, as long as he can survive the current case in London and the subsequent, arguably more serious, criminal bribery case in Munich" (BBC, 11/6).

In Brazil, "American football has been enjoying a surge in popularity, from amateur beach games to the creation of a semi-professional national league," according to Powell & Sherman of the RIO TIMES. Since the late '90s, new "men and women’s teams have been appearing all over the country, and the passion for the game is growing." American football is "one of Brazil’s fastest growing sports with a huge number of armchair fans and players adopting the sport." On Rio’s beaches, players getting together "twice a week to play 'flag' football in Botafogo and Copacabana is now almost as common a sight as beach soccer." The sport’s governing body in Brazil is the Associação de Futebol Americanos do Brasil (AFAB), and was formed in '00 to "meet the growing demand for the game." The AFAB is responsible for "overseeing the development and growth of the sport across three national divisions and two age groups." The organization has grown from a "few hundred members to well over 5000 in little over a decade, and the numbers continue to grow, with 18 men’s teams now taking part in the annual Carioca Bowl." A key reason behind the "growth in popularity of football in Brazil is the increase in televised NFL games, with channels like ESPN Brazil regularly showing matches, complete with Portuguese commentary and analysis." Another factor is the "easy accessibility of the non-contact version of the sport, which has helped attract a huge female following in a traditionally male-dominated sport" (RIO TIMES, 11/5).

National Rugby League CEO Dave Smith "has outlined his plan to double club membership numbers" by '17 as part of what he has called a ''massive cultural shift'' across the code, according to Glenn Jackson of the SYDNEY MORNING HERALD. Smith: ''It's the biggest single thing the game's done, in terms of members, ever. And it won't just be a one-off.'' The plan, which has the backing of the 16 clubs, "comes in two parts;" a short-term push for a membership spike in '14, before the longer-term effort; doubling the current number of roughly 220,000 members across the clubs would create, he estimated, about A$50M ($47M). Smith: ''I'm more ambitious than that, but I think that doubling the membership base in three or four years is a big enough task, so that's where we'll start'' (SMH, 11/8). In Brisbane, Peter Badel reported NRL Gold Coast Titans CEO Graham Annesley "has expressed concerns about a transfer window" as momentum gathers for the Australian Rugby League Commission to "introduce a mid-season trading period." NRL Operations Chief Jim Doyle is "presiding over a sweeping salary cap probe, with some NRL stakeholders throwing their support behind a transfer window next season." Under the proposal, clubs "would be able to trade players for a nominated period after round six." The Rugby League PA sees merit in a transfer window. Annesley: "I would have to be convinced. Based on what used to happen around the June 30 rule and the claims of tampering, the biggest problem with that mid-season stuff is it distracts from what we are doing on a week-to-week basis on the field" (COURIER-MAIL, 11/8).

Thai Premier League club Buriram United "filed a lawsuit" against acting FA of Thailand President Worawi Makudi and his acting Secretary General Ong-arj Kosinkha for allegedly "using forged documents and providing false information to a government official in the run-up to last month's election for FAT chief" (BANGKOK POST, 11/7). ... The Seoul City Amazones, the team that employs striker Park Eun-sun, "demanded that six of the football coaches in the women’s K-League apologize to Park for requesting that she take a gender examination as part of their attempt to have the 26-year-old kicked out of the league." The Amazones said that the request "is a serious human rights abuse and warned that they will consider taking legal action if the coaches don’t withdraw their demand" (KOREA JOONGANG DAILY, 11/8). ... Cricketer Tim Paine was one of a handful of Australia A players who learned of their selection to play against England on Twitter, leading Cricket Australia to "promise to get better at communicating with its players" (THE AGE, 11/8). ... The Korea Baseball Organization’s '14 free agent market "is shaping up to be the largest in its history" as many "big-name players," such as Lotte Giants catcher Kang Min-ho and Kia Tigers center fielder Lee Yong-kyu, are now free agents. Also, teams such as the Hanwha Eagles, which have been at the bottom of the league for a few years, are "predicted to open their wallets in a bid to improve their rosters" (KOREA JOONGANG DAILY, 11/8).