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Volume 20 No. 42
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No food, retail on Super Bowl Boulevard

Much has been made of the Super Bowl Boulevard that will stretch through the heart of Manhattan over four days before the 2014 Super Bowl. Plans are still coming together for the 10-block stretch, but the NFL is ready to disclose some details. First, there’ll be no retail, meaning no food nor merchandise sold — unlike the last two that kicked off the concept of a compact area where fans can congregate during the week. To get New York to shut down 10 blocks, the NFL had to agree to the no-retail provision, which will aid the businesses along the street, said Frank Supovitz, senior vice president of events for the NFL.
The Roman numerals at next year’s Super Bowl Boulevard will get a Broadway-style unveiling.
Another feature of the Boulevard from past years, the giant Roman numerals that mark the annual affair (XLVIII in this case), will get a Broadway-type unveiling for the New York/New Jersey game, Supovitz said, but he declined to say if that would involve a giant curtain. NFL Network, ESPN and Fox (which has the game broadcast next year) will broadcast from the Boulevard, Supovitz said. He also said there would be a “wow” element but was not ready to reveal it. Asked if a report that there’d be a toboggan run on the Boulevard is true, Supovitz said that’s undecided.

SETTLEMENT WORK FOR RETIREES ONGOING: The NFL is assisting retirees in creating a licensing agency as part of a proposed settlement of a lawsuit brought by former players against NFL Films for allegedly using their images without consent. That settlement is by no means a done deal, with the original plaintiffs objecting, but if the licensing agency does become a reality, there are several paths it could take.

First, beyond licensing out retirees’ publicity rights, the league’s hope is that retirees will choose to use the agency to market themselves for appearances and endorsements, said Dan Gustafson, the settlement counsel. Second, the court-approved board that would oversee the creation of the agency could choose to simply subcontract out the job to an existing marketing or licensing firm, Gustafson said.

Decisions like whether there will be a CEO of the agency and how much that person would get paid are all undecided, Gustafson said.

The proposed settlement stems from a case filed in 2009 by a group of retirees who contended NFL Films did not have the rights to use their images. The original seven plaintiffs in the case, led by Fred Dryer (the case is Dryer v NFL), oppose the settlement.

In addition to the agency element, the settlement calls for the league to pay $42 million over eight years into a retirees fund and another $8 million for legal fees and startup costs for the agency. However, the league can deduct up to $13.5 million from the $42 million if there are retirees who opt out of the settlement and refile litigation. In other words, the league can deduct up to $13.5 million in legal expenses in this case.

LOOKING SOUTH: The NFL would like to see a new stadium in Mexico before the league returns to play a game there, said Chris Parsons, senior vice president of international for the league. Mexico has the most avid fans — 4.5 million — of any non-U.S. market, including the United Kingdom, Parsons said, citing an internal league survey. While the main international focus of the NFL is on the U.K. and regular-season games there, the league does market in four other countries: Mexico, Canada, China and Japan.

In Mexico, however, the stadiums that could host the NFL are old and generally bereft of amenities such as suites, making games there uneconomic, Parsons said. The last NFL game played in Mexico was a regular-season contest in 2005.

HEATING UP IN BUFFALO: Owners here approved a new lease for the Buffalo Bills’ stadium and a proposed $130 million of renovations. Jeff Littman, the team’s chief financial officer, said he likes to call it a modernization, because nothing structurally is getting changed. Instead, there will be $25 million to $30 million of new technology in video boards, a new plaza area, improvements to the training center and — get this — for the first time, hot water in the bathrooms for fans. That last item will surely be welcome on those December home games at 40-year-old Ralph Wilson Stadium.

The Falcons’ Rich McKay had a true marathon session during the meetings.
SAFETY STATS: The NFL last year began requiring each of its stadiums to have fans either pass through metal detectors or be subjected to metal wands before entering the venue. According to a league survey of fans conducted recently, only 17 percent of fans prefer the old method of pat-downs to the new measures, said Jeffrey Miller, the league’s head of security. The league also polled fans who either had problems with other fans at games or were deemed the problem themselves whether they felt the team had resolved the matter to their satisfaction. The league average was 44 percent in favor, Miller said, with the best response being for the Carolina Panthers, at 69 percent.

EXTRA POINTS: The NFL in May will choose the locations for Super Bowls L and LI (the 50th and 51st games, to be played in 2016 and 2017, respectively). For Super Bowl LII, bids are due in October, and the winner will be chosen in May 2014, Supovitz said. … The Cleveland Browns have cleaned house in the first year of ownership under Jimmy Haslam. Team CEO Joe Banner said about 20 to 30 employees on the business side were let go and a new marketing and sales team brought in. … Rich McKay, the Atlanta Falcons’ president and CEO and co-chairman of the league’s competition committee, had a busy few days. On Sunday, the day before the meeting began, he ran the LA Marathon (time: 4 hours and 20 minutes). His plan was to fly to Phoenix after, but unexpectedly the Atlanta City Council scheduled a Monday hearing on the team’s proposed new stadium. Team owner Arthur Blank sent his personal jet to ferry McKay back east, where he attended the council meeting. The jet then took McKay to Phoenix, where he arrived in time to brief the media on Tuesday on the raft of competition committee rules change proposals.