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Volume 21 No. 2


The NFL sparked the surprise decision last week that the St. Louis Rams would not play “home” games in London in 2013 and 2014, with the league worried about the team’s standoff with local authorities over terms of its lease, sources said.

While the team made the ultimate decision, the sources said, the league made it clear to the Rams that the long-running lease dispute could threaten the league’s long-term London initiative.

Uncertainty over their stadium lease will keep the Rams from playing “home” games in London.
London is a key league priority, with plans perhaps as soon as 2013 to have two games annually in the British capital. There have been discussions within league circles about having even more games there each season, though such talk was described as hypothetical versus the more immediate possibility of dual games in 2013 or at the latest the following season.

The NFL did not want the Rams’ increasing stadium standoff with St. Louis authorities to interfere with the league’s larger overseas plans.
The Rams disputed that they did not fully drive the decision.

“We initiated conversations with the NFL in recent months about withdrawing from future games in London in order to focus our attention on the [lease],” said Kevin Demoff, the Rams’ chief operating officer. “We believe in the NFL International Series and its objectives and worked closely with the NFL on this decision.”

The league is now looking for another of its teams to take the two games, with speculation falling on the Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings will be in their last campaigns in the Metrodome in the coming years, with plans for a new stadium proceeding. Team President Mark Wilf did not respond for comment. Other clubs are under consideration, as well.

The NFL has played a single game in London since 2007 but wants to add more. As importantly, it wants one team returning regularly, to become akin to London’s team. The Rams were to be that team, with the announcement earlier this year that the club would play games in each of those 2012-14 seasons in the city.

The Rams will still play this October in London, with a source saying the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission ceded this year’s game. The Rams’ lease with the commission requires all home games to be in the Edward Jones Dome. The lease expires in 2014 if the facility is not considered in the top quarter of all NFL stadiums, which it is not currently.
It’s unclear why the Rams announced plans for three London games if the lease provision was a sticking point. The two sides have exchanged proposals for upgrading the stadium, and the issue is now in arbitration. The commission has 60 days from the arbitration decision to accept or reject that result.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell wants to more than double league revenue over the next decade, and international is a big part of that. More overseas games mean more sponsorships, licensing and TV fees. Whether that means an actual home team in London is much less certain.

The Dallas Stars have signed the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center as the team’s official medical provider.

The five-year deal marks the first time one entity will be managing the medical care of the Stars — a consolidation of services already in place at other NHL clubs. Until now, the Stars have employed a range of doctors from several North Texas hospitals, with UT Southwestern among the providers.

According to an industry source, the partnership calls for a cash investment by UT Southwestern of mid-six figures annually.

For UT Southwestern, the agreement is the medical center’s first such deal with a sports franchise, though many of its doctors have individual affiliations with teams throughout North Texas. Those deals are unaffected by the organizational partnership with the Stars.

With more than 3,000 employees, UT Southwestern is the flagship medical school of the University of Texas system. Its 231-acre campus is in Dallas.

The deal calls for UT Southwestern at each home game to provide to the Stars and their opponents a primary care sports medicine physician, orthopaedic sports surgeon, emergency medicine specialist, dentist and plastic surgeon. UT Southwestern will receive dasherboard and LED signage, a website banner, and advertising via the team’s yearbook, game program and Stars Insider email.

In addition, the Stars’ Hockey Pulse microsite will feature wellness and sports medicine tips from UT Southwestern staff. The hospital will have its logo on the Stars’ practice jerseys and become the presenting sponsor of the Stars’ efforts for Hockey Fights Cancer, a leaguewide initiative.

The team believes the most important aspect of the deal is having all its doctors under one roof.

“We’ve been in Dallas for 20 years and have always provided exceptional medical care to our players and staff,” said Frank Provenzano, Stars assistant general manager. “UT Southwestern brings a depth of expertise under one system.”