12 Dec

Growing Pains Aside, Indoor Lacrosse Heads To Gotham

by Tanner Simkins

We know what Frank Sinatra said about New York; “If you can make it here you can make it anywhere.”

It’s something that the growing sport of lacrosse has tried, and not succeeded at be it indoor or outdoor. Despite being one of the hotbeds of the sport (along with the Baltimore/D.C. area, which also does not yet have a professional franchise in the indoor game), lacrosse on the professional level has struggled to gain a foothold above the grassroots and high school level in the New York area.

The indoor teams have played everywhere from the Meadowlands to Madison Square Garden, outdoor teams from Long Island to New Jersey and even Randall’s Island, but none have been able to sustain and grow.

Maybe this time, the business model will make sense.

On Tuesday at Bleacher Report’s offices, the fast growing National Lacrosse League (having just settled a telltale offspring of sports business success, a labor dispute with its players union), announced that new deep pocketed investors would join the other bold face names of sports owners in the indoor circuit and put a team directly into the most fertile of the tristate area’s lacrosse breeding grounds; Nassau County on Long Island. They would play at the former and current temporary home of the New York Islanders, Nassau Coliseum, the former home of the loyal but ill funded New York Saints of the NLL as well.

The difference many believe this time around, will be in the dollars. NLL Commissioner Nick Sakiewicz has fought long and hard to identify key areas of expansion in addition to fertile lacrosse markets; owners with deep financial pockets,  buildings who are welcoming with favorable terms and marketing partnerships, and business plans that make sense before the first ball goes into the net.

The new New York owners, who  Sakiewicz said beat out more than a half dozen other groups to get the team, are led by private equity investor Gary Fuhrman, who runs GF Capital Management & Advisors, and a building a sports-related investment fund called GF Sports. They have interests in global equestrian events and professional tennis tournaments, including the Atlanta Open and New York Open, which is also played at the Coliseum, and the team has the support of BSE Global, the management business that runs the Coliseum and all aspects of the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, led by Brett Yormark.

The new owners join an impressive who’s who of sports owners in NLL, including Comcast Spectacor in Philadelphia, Alibaba co-founder Joe Tsai in San Diego, Kroenke Sports & Entertainment in Denver, the Vancouver Canucks ownership group in Western Canada and Pegula Sports in both Buffalo and Rochester, New York among others. Shared building costs, smart marketing plans and a passion to see a sport geared toward both families and millennials (hence the involvement of Bleacher Rprt’s BR Live platform as a broadcast partner) have continued to set up the NLL as a league to watch again for 2018 and beyond (whispers that the new arena in San Francisco, owned by the Golden State Warriors may be next in as well).

Will it work this time…finally…in New York? “We have set up a model for success that Gary and his team support, and we know that the time is right, with a remodeled arena and a market hungry for success, to make this work,”  Sakiewicz said Tuesday afternoon.

Lacrosse is always on the hot sport list, but it takes investment, marketing and probably a little luck. The NLL hopes to have found all three as their next stage of growth emerges, and a new season, number 33, arriving this weekend.

Even a jersey guy like Old Blue Eyes would like the chances of this new team on Long island. After all, it is still “New York, New York.”

05 Dec

10 to watch 11518

The United States Supreme Court may have legalized sports betting across the country, but the debate over daily fantasy sports continues across the country on the state level. According to the Westchester Journal News, the viability of DFS in New York is up in question after acting state Supreme Court Justice Gerald Connolly recent ruled that such companies “violate the state constitution.” Connolly “ruled in favor of anti-gambling organizations that had challenged the state’s 2016 law allowing and regulating DFS, deciding the games directly violate the gambling ban in the state constitution.“ The state is expected to appeal the ruling, which would allow companies such as FanDuel and DraftKings to remain operating in New York while the court proceedings are worked out. A DraftKings lawyer noted that the expected worst-case scenario for the DFS operator would “involve a referendum so that the state can regulate it.” While none of Tuesday’s elections directly impact the sports betting legislation, it’s a safe bet that in some states, newly-elected officials will play a vital role in implementing legal sports wagering in the next few years.

The Golden State Warriors are planning to move into their new home in downtown San Francisco but are still being ordered to pay $40 million for renovations to Oakland’s Oracle Arena. According to the Associated Press, authorities from Alameda County are in a battle with the Warriors over debt payments stemming from a $150 million bond that the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Authority took out in 1996 for basketball-centric renovations. The team “agreed to help finance” the bond with annual payments, contributing $7.5 million per year to date, but said that its debt obligations “end when they terminate their lease and leave Oakland for San Francisco and the new Chase Center at the end of the season.” The city and county still have to repay about $80 million in renovation costs at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum for the Oakland Raiders, who are not obligated to help repay the money, even when they move to Las Vegas. Next up on the Oakland pro sports agenda: the seemingly never-ending search for a new home for the MLB Oakland A’s.

Heading into the MLS Playoffs, let’s take a look back at the regular season. According to SportsBusiness Journal, the 2018 regular season finished with an average attendance of 21,873, coming as a 1.1% drop from last year’s number. This comes as the first year-over-year drop for the league in the last five years, though many teams had extremely strong years. Atlanta United FC dominated attendance figures for the second consecutive year, packing Mercedes-Benz Stadium with over 53,000 fans per home match, a 10% increase from last year’s recording-breaking season. The Columbus Crew finished at the bottom of the league in terms of overall attendance and year-over-year drop-off, bringing in only 12,447 fans per match, a nearly 20% slide from last season. Despite being “saved” from relocation to Austin, Texas, the club will need to make some significant changes if it wants to remain in the ever-expanding league; while MLS has no official relegation like European leagues, if it did, the Crew would be the first club in line for demotion.

ISM Raceway in Avondale, Arizona prepares to show off its $178 million facelift. ISM will publicly debut its renovations for its fall NASCAR race, the Can-AM 500, on November 11. According to raceway officials and tech leader ISM, the enhancements were focused on improving the fan experience, including updated areas around the garages and pit row to allow fans to get up close and personal with their favorite drivers and cars. ISM Raceway and longtime sponsor O’Reilly Auto Parts have also announced an expanded partnership that will give O’Reilly sponsorship of the track’s crescent near the new start/finish line. O’Reilly will debut its sponsored branding of the area as part of the track’s Opening Weekend, and host the O’Reilly Auto Parts Pre-Race Party in the crescent on Sunday, November 11 ahead of the Can-Am 500 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series semifinal playoff race. As the raceway says goodbye to longtime president Bryan Sperber, who spearheaded the renovations, naming rights holder ISM and the track’s other partners should know they are in good hands with new president Julie Giese, tabbed by International Speedway Corp. for the role.

The New York Islanders have announced a partnership with leading education technology company EVERFI that will bring a new digital course to Long Island schools. The Islanders are the first pro sports team to support the Honor Code leadership and anti-bullying initiative. This course takes a practical approach to bullying prevention, empowering students, and teaching leadership skills and ways to help create a positive school environment. "This partnership with EVERFI continues our effort to support innovative ways to educate children, not only on the sport of hockey, but on the essentials of education in the classroom,” Islanders President and GM Lou Lamoriello said. “We have never tolerated any type of bullying so to have a program like Honor Code geared towards eliminating the issue directly, made the decision to partner with them an easy one.” Honor Code is a digital course that teaches all students to create change, whether they’re engaging in bullying, on the receiving end of it or witnessing it in their school. The program, which targets students in grades 8-10, will be available to schools at no cost in Nassau County and Queens. Nearly one in four students between age 12-18 report being bullied according to the National Center for Education Statistics – programs like Honor Code take an important step towards reducing these troubling numbers.

If it wasn’t confirmed before, it is now: London loves American football. According to SportsBusiness Journal, the NFL recently announced its plan to host four games in London next season after successfully hosting three sold-out games at iconic Wembley Stadium in the English capital. All of the 2019 teams have yet to be announced, but it has been confirmed that the Jacksonville Jaguars will be featured in one of those contests. The Jaguars, led by owner Shahid Khan, have made a London their second home, having played a game there in each of the past six seasons. “We’ve staged some mouth-watering matches here and hope to host even more in the years to come as we demonstrate that London is open,” said London Mayor Sadiq Khan. The three games played this season at Wembley averaged 85,031 fans, a very positive sign for the NFL and its International Series. Next year, two games will be held at Wembley and another two at Tottenham’s new White Hart Lane. To date, the Green Bay Packers and Carolina Panthers are the only teams to not cross the pond to play; we’ll see if that changes in 2019.

Caesars Entertainment is making a serious push into the sports sponsorship world, as seen by its decision to sign a multiyear agreement with Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment. According to SportsBusiness Journal, working with HBSE, the ownership entity of the Philadelphia 76ers and New Jersey Devils, was a strategic choice for Caesars due to its visibility in the New Jersey marketplace. Caesars Entertainment Senior Vice President of Marketing and Chief Experience Officer Michael Marino noted that New Jersey is “clearly the focus” at this point; the company has plans to use the Devils deal “to drive users to its mobile sportsbook app and guests to its Atlantic City casinos.” Caesars will put its name on a 5,000-square-foot premium lounge in Prudential Center’s main concourse and will receive digital signage around the arena, including on its 4,800-square-foot outdoor LED board. Pennsylvania also presents an interesting opportunity for the casino operator. “Both buildings, both teams and both fan bases make a lot of sense to feed the assets we already have existing and the ones we’re building moving forward,” said Marino. “It just felt like the ideal partner for us.“ Especially if Pennsylvania legalizes sports betting in the near future.

The WNBA Players Association has notified league owners that it intends to exercise its right to opt-out of its current collective bargaining agreement at the completion of the 2019 season, two years early. According to JohnWallStreet, WNBA players are looking for “full” fiscal transparency, a larger share of league revenues (currently 20%, NBA players receive 50%), better working conditions including travel accommodations, and more marketing and promotion from the NBA (which owns 70% of the league). While the 2019 season won’t be affected, failure to come to terms could put the beginning of the 2020 season at risk. While the WNBPA seeks basic comparable treatment to their male counterparts, according to the WNBA negotiations are going to be “rooted in the financial realities of our business” (i.e. comparable treatment is unrealistic unless you generate comparable profits) and according to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, the reality is that the WNBA has "lost over $10 million every year we’ve operated.” In comparison, the NBA generated $7.4 billion last year. If the players choose to walk out, it seems highly unlikely league owners are going to be motivated by an unprofitable business going dark.

FIFA will double the prize money available at the 2019 Women’s World Cup, with $30 million to be split between the 24 teams taking part in next year’s tournament in France. FIFA president Gianni Infantino described the move as “a very important message for women’s football.” However, the implementations have been criticized by FIFPro, the global players’ union, as well as by individual players and national governing bodies, with the additional funding viewed as insufficient. Despite the $15 million increase from 2015, the disparity between the available prize money in FIFA’s flagship men’s and women’s tournaments has also seen a significant increase: the men’s edition has seen a 12% rise, taking the overall prize money to $400 million – a gender gap of $370 million. For example, France, the 2018 men’s winner, received $38 million from FIFA, while the winning nation of next year’s women’s competition will take home just $4 million. Despite these changes, it’s clear that on a global basis, soccer is far removed from the goal of equality for all World Cup players, men and women alike.

Tiger Woods’ $9 million clash with Phil Mickelson – labeled "The Match” – has secured Capital One as its title sponsor. The event, the first televised pay-per-view golf product in U.S. history, has a retail price tag of $19.99 as announced by producer Turner Sports. The head-to-head competition takes place November 23 at Las Vegas’ Shadow Creek course, and will be hosted by MGM Resorts International. “Capital One’s The Match,” as the exhibition has been christened, will be available through Turner’s B/R Live OTT live-streaming service, and via California-based sister network DirecTV. HBO Sport’s “24/7” will also air shoulder content. Audi has been named the official automotive partner, while AT&T is the official wireless and data services partner. The winner of the event between the two iconic golfers, who hold 19 major titles between them, will receive $9 million, with an additional set of in-game challenges – such as a longest drive competition – raising money for charity. However, early polls indicate a low level of interest among golf fans – unless Woods and Mickelson reach for their own wallets during the round.

05 Dec

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As the U.S. honors those who have served on Veteran’s Day, Navy Federal Credit Union and the NHL have struck a multi-year U.S. partnership designed to “recognize and support veterans, active duty service members and their families at NHL tent pole events.” According to Cynopsis Sports, Navy Federal served as the presenting sponsor of the inaugural NHL Veterans Appreciation Night broadcast on November 7 on NBCSN, in which the partners honored retired service members during the Wednesday Night Hockey doubleheader. As part of this agreement, the NHL and Navy Federal have launched “Stick Tap for Service,” a digital destination for veterans, active duty service members, and their families to share personal stories of how hockey has impacted their lives. Navy Federal will also be an official partner and the presenting sponsor for military-themed ceremonial elements at the NHL Winter Classic, the NHL All-Star Weekend, and the NHL Stadium Series. The NHL was not alone this weekend, of course, as the NFL, NBA, college football teams, and others in sports paid tribute to our military veterans and acknowledged active duty servicemen and women.

The Oakland Raiders have signed on Caesars Entertainment as the first founding partner for their new stadium in Las Vegas. According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the Raiders inked Caesars Entertainment to a 15-year deal, though financial terms have not yet been disclosed. The $1.8 billion stadium is expected to open in time for the 2020 season and Caesars will “host a branded stadium entrance and drop-off zone, digital signage, media, radio and print assets in addition to alumni, player and cheerleader appearances” as part of the deal. This marks the soon-to-be Vegas franchise’s first deal with a gaming and hospitality company, a seemingly perfect fit for a team located in the nation’s gambling capital. The Raiders-Caesars deal also becomes the fifth alliance between casino companies and NFL teams. Expect the Raiders to continue to develop sponsorships in the gaming space when they make the official move to Nevada from the Bay Area – “What Happens in Vegas” can often be quite lucrative.

Qatar’s 2022 World Cup bid has been plagued with controversy and drama since its inception — and rest assured, it will only intensify. According to the London Times, due to the scorching Middle Eastern heat in the summer, the tournament is set to be staged with a shortened timeframe from November 21-December 18, 2022, yet FIFA President Gianni Infantino wants to expand the field from 32 to 48 teams. In order to pull this off, Infantino is hoping that some of the games will be staged in neighboring countries while having multiple group stage games played at the same time — something that the World Cup currently does not do. The peninsula nation of Qatar only shares a land border with Saudi Arabia, though the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain are not far. The timing of the next World Cup is not ideal for domestic leagues around the world, as they will have to forfeit a crucial part of their season to allow players to leave for international duty. But at least it likely won’t be 105 degrees on the pitch.

As the NFL continues with business as usual, two other North American football leagues are making big changes. According to the Winnipeg Sun, Mexico’s Liga de Futbol Americano Profesional (LFA) and the Canadian Football League (CFL) are pushing forward with their multi-phase partnership that “could include an exchange of players.” The LFA’s upcoming fourth season is set to run from February through April, ending less than two months before CFL preseason camps kick off in June. The coordination of the schedules could allow for an easy swap of players from Mexico to Canada and vice-versa. CEO Oscar Perez said that it is his "preference to place at least nine and hopefully 18 Mexican players with the nine CFL teams for the 2019 season.” Another possibility being explored in this partnership is hosting regular season games in the opposite country. Both leagues want to expand their brands on a global level — this is a great first step for them. More to come on this alliance after I interview CFLPA Executive Director Brian Ramsay at the annual PrimeTime Sports conference in Toronto November 12-13.

The Center for Sports Analytics at Samford University has released a study based on 7 million U.S. sports fans’ social media data that shows that the NFL brand recovery is “in full swing.” According to the study, the league’s overall relevance is up by 9.38% since the midpoint of last season, and 29 or the 32 NFL teams have experienced a significant increase. Fans who switched off the NFL over the last few are returning in mass. While TV ratings are showing slight increases, social data is a better measure of cultural trends, according to the Samford University numbers. The NFL also benefitted from political ad spending. On the heels of a record turnout for a midterm election, there was a record turnout in midterm ad spending – $2.9 billion, according to Advertising Analytics. The amount is nearly double what was spent in the 2014 midterm election. The biggest beneficiary was broadcast TV, raking in almost $2.4 billion. And while NBC got heat from running the controversial Trump “Caravan” ad during its November 4 “Sunday Night Football” broadcast, the NFL and all its broadcast partners undoubtedly received a hefty slice of that midterm ad revenue pie.

The media’s stake in North America’s sports market is growing at a faster rate than expected and will see the industry worth $80.3 billion by 2022, according to new industry research. Media rights holders became the region’s largest commodity last year, according to findings from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) – and is predicted to grow to almost $24 billion over that period. In comparison, though gate revenues across North America are also expected to increase, ticket sales will grow at a significantly slower rate (2.2% annually) – the report projects a $21 billion stake in four years. While sponsorship is also demonstrating promising growth (3.8%), PwC’s 2018 Sport Outlook claims licensing deals within the media will gain the greatest momentum (4.5%) and suggests a shift towards digital platforms. A digital revolution is "attracting new entrants into this exclusive competitive space,” PwC says, also noting Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, and Google among the major technology disruptors “putting pressure on sports rights holders to create new fan experiences.” The report claims there will likely be a shift in brand exposure when broadcast contracts for the NFL and MLS expire in 2022, which is considered a pivotal year. Competition will continue to drive up license fees post-2022 and, clearly, mobile rights are still complimentary to live TV.

The Walt Disney Company went to great lengths to defend its territory last week during the midterm elections. According to JohnWallStreet, Disney spent $20 million to support a ballot initiative “that would give Florida voters the right to prevent the expansion of casino gambling within the state.” The move was made with the intent of protecting Florida’s tourism industry and the state’s brand as a “family friendly” destination. The initiative, Amendment 3 of the Florida Constitution, passed after garnering more than 70% of voter support. The new law “will require new casino projects to gain the support (60% must vote in favor) of the state-wide voting public prior to breaking ground; few (if any) projects are likely to meet the 60% benchmark.” MGM Resorts International, the Miami Dolphins, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers all spent money opposing the measure, but their $500,000 commitment was dwarfed by Disney’s spend. The initiative also greatly benefits the Seminole tribe, which dominates the Florida gaming landscape by operating in the state under a Federal gaming exemption afforded to Native Americans with little competition.

David Beckham’s conquest to finally get a stadium in Miami continues forward but is not yet in the clear. According to SportsPro Media, the recently-named club, Club Internacional de Fútbol Miami, cleared a major hurdle after voters “gave the green light for the city of Miami to negotiate a 99-year lease with club ownership for the construction of soccer stadium and adjacent commercial complex on what is now a city-owned golf course near Miami International Airport.” Sixty percent of voters showed support for Beckham and his ownership group on the agenda. “We won tonight,” said Inter Miami CF co-owner Jorge Mas of the vote. “We showed the world what Miami can do.” The development will go beyond just a stadium; in all, the 73-acre site will include 750 hotel rooms, municipal soccer fields and a public park surrounding the state-of-the-art 25,000-seat stadium. Not as fortunate was former MLS star Landon Donovan, whose attempt to bring an MLS team to San Diego under Measure E failed to garner 50% of the vote. However, San Diego’s Measure G, creating a western campus for San Diego State University, passed and may still pave the way for an MLS franchise in that city.

Miami Dolphins owner Steve Ross’ Hard Rock Stadium is seeking a football double header in 2020. South Florida 2020 Super Bowl Host Committee Chair Rodney Barreto said that his group is “negotiating with the NFL” to bring the Pro Bowl back to Hard Rock Stadium, according the Palm Beach Post. Should Barreto’s group succeed, the game “would be played” January 26, 2020, the Sunday between the two conference championship games and Super Bowl LIV on February 2. Miami “broke Hawaii’s stranglehold on hosting the Pro Bowl when it brought the game to Miami” along with Super Bowl XLIV in 2010. The past two Pro Bowls “have been in Orlando’s Camping World Stadium,” which also hosts the next iteration of the game on January 27, 2019. South Florida is clearly a winter tourism mecca, and if Hard Rock lands the Pro Bowl in 2020, fans can potentially parlay their Super Bowl experience into a fortnight of mega sports events, from the Pro Bowl to SB LIV to Fort Lauderdale Beach Major volleyball action the weekend after. Travel agents, take note.

College basketball is back, but is its image? According to SportsBusiness Journal, last week’s opener marked the earliest start ever to the college basketball season, coming weeks before the typical Thanksgiving tipoff. The NCAA moved the first slate of games up to avoid a conflict with college football on the weekend, hoping to create more positive buzz around the sport after an FBI scandal tore through it. In response to the pay-to-play recruiting scandal that saw some of the country’s notable programs targeted, the NCAA “created new rules based on recommendations by a commission headed by Condoleezza Rice in hopes of curtailing the pay-to-play practices, but may not punish any programs or coaches ensnared in the probe until after the final trial, which is scheduled after the Final Four in Minneapolis.” Hopefully this college basketball season, which is nearly 200 days long, will feature more action on the court than off it.

05 Dec

10 to watch 111918

Major League Baseball is sticking with Fox Sports. MLB signed a seven-year media rights deal with Fox worth a reported $5.1 billion over its lifetime, equating to $728.6 million per year. Fox is currently locked into an eight-year, $525 million per year deal that is set to run through 2021. According to SportsBusiness Journal, “The deal, which keeps MLB tied to Fox and FS1 through 2028, looks much like Fox’ current deal, in part, because that was all MLB could sell as its other media packages are not up.” The new deal is worth 39% more per year than the current one. As part of the new arrangement, Fox is going all in on baseball, preparing to carry the World Series, All-Star Game, one LCS, and one LDS during the span of the new deal. The lucrative Fox Sports extension comes as a much-needed positive for MLB, as it locks in long-term media revenue amidst sharply declining viewership numbers.

Despite being removed from the NFL’s slate of game this season, Mexico remains in the NFL’s long term international plans. According to the Los Angeles Times and other sources, the International Series game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Rams was moved merely days before the planned primetime matchup due to terrible field conditions, depriving Mexico of its annual game. Estadio Azteca is one of the most iconic and historic stadiums in the Americas, having played host to countless mega sporting events, such as two World Cups. The Mexico City NFL game is “usually scheduled on the third weekend of November, when Mexicans celebrate the Revolution’s anniversary.” “In the next 20 years the Mexican economy is going to grow,” said NFL Executive VP of International Mark Waller. “So it’s important for us that we’re part of that long-term future.” While moving the Thanksgiving Week game to L.A. will directly benefit a region reeling from deadly wildfires and a mass shooting, the Rams are intent on building up a fan base in Mexico – expect the team to play there again in coming years.

The Golden State Warriors will offer $100 monthly passes with no view of the court. The team recently sent an email to fans offering an “In The Building Pass.” The team plans to sell 200 passes each month, starting now; they will automatically renew each month through April. The mobile pass does not include a seat, and with no access to the seating bowl, doesn’t even include a view of the court itself. The Warriors noted that fans who “purchase the pass will have access to the arena’s bars and restaurants and can watch on the televisions in the club areas.” And fans, who can each buy up to four of the new passes, still have a chance to receive one of the Warriors’ in-venue giveaways if they are one of the first 10,000 people into the arena. Sporting events have been cast as the new social clubs, and for the 44,000 fans stuck on the Warriors season-ticket wait list, this is an innovative alternative to bask in the aura of the most exciting team in basketball.

A future Winter Olympics in Calgary seems unlikely after voters rejected a bid for the 2026 Games. According to the Calgary Herald, supporters of the city’s 2026 bid noted that another bid for the 2030 Olympics seems “unlikely” right now. The supporters indicated that they “do see the city hosting another Winter Games in the future, if there’s community support behind it.” At this point, Calgary planners are looking past the 2030 cycle. “I don’t think it’s 2030,” said Calgary 2026 Chair Scott Hutcheson. “You can’t put a city through this every four years. My view would be let it go, accept the result, move on and come back with a bid maybe in seven years.” Funding for the mega event was always up in the air, even after the IOC pledged to help pick up a significant chunk of the city’s planning costs. Nearly 60% of voters opposed the 2026 bid; 2030 is not expected to be much different. While Calgary organizers didn’t mention it, always back of mind for Canada’s Olympic Committee are the 1976 Montreal Summer Games, which left that city C$1.6 billion in debt – an obligation that took 30 years to pay off.

The English Premier League and English Football League are uniting to show their support for the LGBT community. According to Sky Sports, both entities will turn all of their field side equipment rainbow-colored “to raise awareness of Stonewall’s Rainbow Laces campaign.” The EPL will promote the cause during two weekend’s worth of matches beginning on November 30, “giving all 20 clubs the opportunity to celebrate their LGBT community and to make clear football is for everyone” with rainbow colored laces. Premier League matches will feature a “bespoke Rainbow Laces pitch flag, ball plinth, handshake board and substitutes board” from November 30-December 5. This push for awareness in the LGBT community has been echoed all across the globe in professional soccer. In June, the U.S. men’s and women’s and other international teams sported rainbow numbers on their jerseys during competitive and friendly matches as part of LGBT Pride Month.

Leaked documents regarding a new “Super League” have taken the soccer world by storm. According to JohnWallStreet, plans for the newly-proposed league were revealed by German magazine Der Spiegel and indicated that seven of Europe’s biggest clubs (Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Juventus, AC Milan, Manchester United, and Arsenal) were considered leaving their own domestic leagues to form the “Super League” back in 2016. Under the “Super League” plans, a league featuring 16 of Europe’s heavyweights would effectively replace the Champions League and steal the show from domestic leagues. In response to this report, FIFA threatened that all players taking part in the “Super League” would be banned from competing in the World Cup. The 11 permanent clubs in the competition — Barcelona, Real Madrid, Manchester City, Chelsea, Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool, Juventus, AC Milan, Bayern Munich, and Paris St. Germain — would be protected from relegation, with five others invited as special guests. Amid FIFA’s ongoing leadership turmoil, this is an interesting development to watch indeed.

Tennis has a new tournament in the ATP Cup. According to SportsBusiness Journal, the new competition will feature teams from 24 nations with buckets of ranking points and prize money. These new plans set men’s professional tennis on a “collision course” with the ITF’s planned 18-nation Davis Cup event being held in late November 2019 in Madrid. With the new ATP Cup, “the ATP is essentially replicating the same format six weeks later to start the 2020 season in Australia.” Many close to the sport speculate that the events will eventually merge or one will have to replace the other. The first ATP Cup is being planned for early January, 2020 in three Australian cities with $15 million to be awarded in prize money, “less than the roughly $20 million the Davis Cup said it will award next November.” While the money will be less, the ranking points will be worth a lot in this event, as “smaller prize money might be a worthwhile tradeoff.” The sport’s ranking male stars, already long in the tooth by tennis standards, will be a year older when the ATP Cup debuts, so expect this new global stage to be grabbed by many now-unknown tennis up-and-comers.

The LPGA has made major upgrades to its Race to the CME Globe for 2019, with the winner of the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship to receive $1.5 million, marking the largest payout in women’s golf. The changes were announced last week prior to the start of this year’s finale. According to SportsBusiness Journal, the total purse for the event in Naples, Florida, next year will double to $5 million. As in previous years, players will accumulate points at each official LPGA event throughout the 2019 season leading up to the Tour Championship. “Rather than 72 players making the Race to the CME Globe, 60 players will make it to the Race,” said LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan. “We’ll still race all year…Once you’re one of the 60 to get in, we throw the points out the door and anybody can win the final event. The winner’s check will be $1.5 million, so it will be the largest winner’s check in women’s golf history. To think that the best players in the world won’t be paying more attention to the CME Group Tour Championship next year would be wrong.” The Race upgrades mark the latest creative flourish in Whan’s expansive LPGA tenure, from expanding his tour’s global footprint to adding cutting-edge events like the Indy Women in Tech Presented by Group1001 tournament.

The legalization of sports betting across the country is expected to ultimately change how we interact with sports venues. According to USA Today, Monumental Sports & Entertainment Chair and CEO Ted Leonsis expects sports venues to eventually become “casinos of a sort — open nearly around the clock to capture a coming mania for legalized sports betting.” Some expect new stadiums to be smaller than previously built ones as virtual reality becomes a more viable option for watching games. Instead of paying for a courtside seat, one would simply have to pay a much smaller fee for that same seat thanks to their VR headset. Leonsis sees sports franchises across the board increasing their franchise values as they begin to partner with technology companies for advanced sports betting. “Five years from now, it could be an Amazon is streaming and your subscription is part of Prime, and they have your credit card on file and you’re able to bet live through an Amazon,” said Leonsis. “And you would have never envisioned that something like that could happen.” As anyone who has viewed a basketball game from a VR-enabled courtside seat can attest, this technology is fast maturing, and it’s certainly conceivable that sports betting could become a regular – and lucrative – part of the experience.

Chegg teams up with sports stars Julie Johnston Ertz of USA Women’s Soccer and Zach Ertz of the Philadelphia Eagles. According to PR Newswire, Chegg will give $860.00 dollars for every first down and $1,086.00 dollars for every touchdown recorded by Zach for a contribution of up to $86,000.00 to the Ertz Family Foundation. The “86” is an ode to Zach’s jersey in a campaign dollar amount. All proceeds will benefit the Ertz Family Foundation’s education initiatives. The campaign started on the NFL regular season opening game and will run through February 10, 2019. To date, Zach has earned $41,550 from Chegg. Zach has been honored as an NFL Pro Bowl nominee in 2017 and was recently named the NFLPA Community MVP for Week 5 as a result of his work to change the lives of children in Haiti through the Foundation’s scholarship program. Zach and his world champion wife Julie established the Ertz Family Foundation earlier this year. The dream philanthropy team continues to stay dedicated to their community and relentlessly promote education.

05 Dec

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380,718. That’s the estimated total number of fans at the six college football conference championship games played over the weekend. Those numbers stretched from a record 83,114 – the largest crowd to attend a conference championship game anywhere – who flocked to AT&T Stadium in Arlington to watch Oklahoma battle Texas in the Big 12 title game, to the 35,134 who turned out at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara to watch a lackluster Pac-12 championship game between Utah and winner Washington. Likewise, the must-see slate of Saturday games saw an SEC Championship Game between Georgia and victor Alabama that was not only a rematch of last year’s CFP title game, it was the most popular college football regular season game on any network in seven years, according to CBS. And as usual since the current CFP format was established five years ago, controversy abounds over the choice of the top four teams to make the semi-finals – Alabama, Clemson, Notre Dame, and Oklahoma – with Ohio State, Georgia, and UCF fans particularly enraged at their teams’ supposed snubs. With all this proof of college football’s wild popularity, it’s clear that each season, we’re inching closer to an eight-team college football playoff. It’s really no longer a matter of “if,” but “when.”

True or false: the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl is really a thing. Alas, it’s real. So is the SERVPRO First Responder Bowl, Academy Sports + Outdoors Texas Bowl, Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl, and yes, the Cheez-It Bowl. In fact, of the 41 bowl game matchups announced by the NCAA on Sunday, comprising 80 teams and including the January 7 National Championship, only two games do not carry a corporate title or presenting sponsor, cementing the fact that bowl games have become corporate billboards rather than a showcase for regional agricultural pride. New logos on bowl game programs this year include jeweler Jared, title sponsor of the December 22 Jared Birmingham Bowl (which had been without a title sponsor since 2014 when BBVA Compass bowed out), and travel site VRBO, which just days ago reached a deal with ESPN and Florida Citrus Sports to become the title sponsor of the VRBO Citrus Bowl in Orlando on New Year’s Day, hosting Kentucky and Penn State. The good news for all of these brands, broadcasters, and football fans – all 80 teams accepting bowl berths in 2018 have at least a 6-6 record, meaning unlike last year, no losing team will take the field as a postseason perk.

PlayStation will extend its naming rights sponsorship of the Fiesta Bowl as part of a multiyear agreement with ESPN. According to SportsBusiness Journal, PlayStation has held naming rights for the bowl game since 2016 as part of a two-year deal; financial details regarding the new contract have not yet been disclosed. The multiyear deal will see PlayStation become the “official gaming and virtual reality sponsor of the CFP and its New Year’s Six bowl games.” “Our audience insights tell us that college football fans are more interested in video games, more likely to play them and more likely to stream sports through a gaming console compared to the average person,” said ESPN Senior VP of Sports Marketing Rob Temple. Before PlayStation, the Fiesta Bowl enlisted Battlefrog (2016), Vizio (2015), Tostitos (1996-2014), IBM (1993-1995), and Sunkist (1986-1990) as title sponsors. This year’s PlayStation Fiesta Bowl, featuring No. 11 LSU vs. No. 8 UCF, will be played at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona on New Year’s Day, with a $17 million payout.

The college football coaching carousel slows. Last year on “Black Sunday,” Florida, Nebraska, Tennessee, Texas A&M, and UCLA all fired their head coaches, subsequently causing openings at Mississippi State, UCF, Florida State, and Oregon. This year, it was curtains for Texas Tech’s Kliff Klingsbury and UNC’s Larry Fedora, but Clay Helton survived at 5-7 USC (and subsequently hired Klingsbury as his offensive coordinator), Lovie Smith not only survived at Illinois but got an extension, and Chris Ash will remain at Rutgers despite going 1-11. “The final full weekend of the college football season was more about who didn’t get fired than who did,“ noted Andy Staples of Sports Illustrated. Staples shared two potential explanations for the coaching carousel slowing. First, “College athletic administrators have realized constant churn rarely breeds success.” Second, “Perhaps the schools didn’t fire their coaches because they didn’t want to pay the steep price tags" to do so. Illinois, for example, would have owed Smith $12 million if they fired him. Yes, buyouts are costly, but they’re not yet stopping the likes of Kansas paying Les Miles $2.775 million a year for five years, with heavy incentives, or Mack Brown receiving an estimated $3.5 million a year to return to UNC despite having been out of coaching for five years.

The Oakland A’s unveiled impressive plans for a new 34,000-seat stadium at Howard Terminal. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the A’s recently disclosed their “‘bigger than baseball’ mega-ballpark deal that includes a ‘jewel box’ stadium.” The team’s goal of building a completely privately funded ballpark is contingent upon controlling both the 55-acre Howard Terminal waterfront site and the 111-acre Coliseum site in East Oakland. The stadium’s design will pay tribute as a “deliberate throwback” to early 1900s baseball parks. It would be “nestled amid wedge-shaped high-rises – some as tall as 20 stories – with windows looking directly down on the playing field.” The site is “too windy for the ballpark to be open to the water,” but it would include a “publicly accessible rooftop park with sweeping views of the waterfront, Oakland and San Francisco.” The club has already put in a $137 million bid to purchase the Coliseum site outright. If the Oakland waterfront site doesn’t end up working out for the A’s, Portland might be an option for the franchise after the Portland Diamond Project on Thursday announced an agreement in principle for an MLB-ready ballpark on the Willamette River near downtown.

The Houston Dynamo have signed on MD Anderson Cancer Center to be the club’s jersey sponsor starting next season. According to SportsBusiness Journal, the prominent Houston-based cancer center will reportedly pay the MLS club $4 million per year as part of the deal. The Dynamo were the only team is the league without a jersey sponsor this past season, failing to sign one “after its previous deal with BHP Billiton expired.” Under conditions of the contract, the Dynamo will now donate a “portion of single-game ticket sales to MD Anderson, and will also offer fans the option to add on a donation of their own during the purchase process.” BBVA Compass Stadium will also become a totally tobacco- and smoke-free facility, and plans are being made to add additional healthy concession menu options, honoring the sponsor’s work as a health center. “The team said that this is the first season-long, cause-related jersey partnership in MLS history.” More immediately grabbing soccer fans’ attention: the MLS Cup Final this coming Saturday, featuring Atlanta United vs. the Portland Timbers at Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

LeBron James and Lindsey Vonn have teamed up with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Cindy Crawford to launch a health and wellness brand. Called Ladder, the brand aims to help people “achieve a healthy and active lifestyle” by providing “support and guidance from world class advisors and experts.” The company’s offering will be built around three key pillars: content, community, and product. Content will include information sharing and online training tips, while the community element will draw on insights from experts who “represent different philosophies and beliefs in fitness, nutrition, health, and wellness.” The company is also bringing to market products “with the highest level of safety and efficacy for elite athletes that are also ideal to support everyday active lifestyles.” The idea for Ladder purportedly sprang to life when James suffered severe cramping during the 2014 NBA Finals. When James and his trainer struggled to find a remedy that met “LeBron’s needs for quality and safety,” they set about creating a custom protein powder. Just as sports science leader Embody restores peak performance to weekend warrior orthopedic patients alongside pro athletes, Ladder seeks to bring elite athlete “secret sauce” to health-minded people everywhere.

The second leg of the Copa Libertadores final between heated rivals Boca Juniors and River Plate will be held in Madrid. According to the London Guardian, CONMEBOL, South America’s soccer governing body, came to the decision following a meeting between all relevant parties at its headquarters in Asunción, Paraguay. The official location has been set at Real Madrid’s iconic Santiago Bernabéu stadium. Boca President Daniel Angelici "adopted a stubborn stance” on the matter, "formally requesting” that River be disqualified from the competition and for the second leg “not to be played at all.” The second leg of the match was postponed multiple times after Boca’s bus was attacked by River fans who broke windows and threw tear gas inside. Regardless of the outcome on December 9, this final will forever be marred by the awful scenes in Buenos Aires earlier this month.

MGM’s new four year deal with Major League Baseball is significantly more lucrative than its deal with the NBA. According to SportsBusiness Journal, MGM’s deal with MLB is worth $80 million over its lifetime, a far bigger number than the $25 million it committed to the NBA over three years. The numbers don’t do all the talking though. Some key differences distinguish the two deals, namely that MGM “will receive exclusive access to some advanced Statcast data in addition to non-exclusive access to the league’s official stats feed” as part of the MLB deal. The entertainment group will also have an international presence in Japan at MLB grassroots events held in the country, “historically a key overseas territory for the league.” Baseball is believed to be a great sport for fans who enjoy in-game betting, and Japan “could become one of the world’s largest gaming markets by the middle of the next decade.” MGM will obviously work toward being granted a gaming license in Japan when the time is right, using baseball betting as its cleat in the door.

Tiger Woods and Discovery set GolfTV streaming content partnership. Fresh off strong tune-in (750,000 viewers) during his PPV match against Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods has inked a multi-year global content partnership. The deal offers Discovery and the PGA a significant marketing hook for GolfTV. It plans to stream 2,000 hours of live golf each year along with on-demand content. Content created with Woods will be available in the U.S. eventually, but international streaming will be the main focus at present. GolfTV plans to show Woods’ preparation routines and take viewers behind the scenes of PGA Tour rounds, as well as offering weekly instructional videos and post-round commentary. The bottom line: GolfTV is following the success of other niche sports streaming platforms by building a destination for hardcore fans who welcome the idea of watching their favorite athlete spending an hour hitting shot after shot out of the same sand trap.

05 Dec

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The Boston Red Sox have met the Dodgers in the World Series once before. The year was 1916. One hundred and two years ago, the then Brooklyn Dodgers faced the Sox and their best pitcher, a 21 year-old gent named Babe Ruth. Boston’s Fenway Park had opened four years earlier – and today is the oldest active ballpark in Major League Baseball. In 1916, the Red Sox beat the Dodgers, ruining their first World Series appearance. And since then, of course, Babe Ruth left the Red Sox and the Dodgers departed Brooklyn. The 2018 World Series pits the Los Angeles Dodgers, at $3 billion the second most valuable team in MLB according to Forbes’ annual valuation against the $2.8 billion Red Sox, number five on Forbes’ list. Fenway Park holds only 37,731 fans – Dodgers Stadium packs in 56,000, MLB’s biggest. And all of this history and data adds up to one thing – what is perhaps the most storied, eagerly-anticipated World Series in the modern era.

As the NFL settles in to London for its ever-growing annual International Series, different timing news has come from across London Town. Starting on Monday, the NFL Network will film its “Good Morning Football” studio show in London for six days straight, leading up to Eagles-Jaguars at Wembley Stadium next Sunday. Last Friday, the All England Tennis Lawn Club and Wimbledon organizers announced that the tournament would “adopt final-set tiebreakers for all matches” in 2019 if the score is tied at 12-12, joining the U.S. Open as the only events of tennis’ four Slams to implement any sort of tiebreaker in the final set. As the New York Times noted, the French Open and Australian Open “still do not have a tiebreaker in the final set.” Tradition "dies hard at Wimbledon,” so this change was “notable and somewhat surprising.” And Sports Illustrated concludes this is the “latest in a long string of welcomed innovations by Wimbledon, which has done a masterful job in reshaping and modernizing its image.” Now, if the NFL would only attempt to show the same respect for athletes and fans by better attempting to limit football’s constant interruptions for penalties and commercial breaks, all but rendering the sport unwatchable in real time for today’s time-shift savvy consumers.

Despite conflicting reports, “Crown Jewel” remains on WWE’s calendar of events, indicating the November 2 show in Riyadh will happen as planned. Political and diplomatic tensions between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi have driven several high-profile companies to cut business ties with the Kingdom and have brought on demands for WWE to cancel the high-profile show. Sports Illustrated reported that several of the company’s stars are uncomfortable with the idea of performing in Saudi Arabia, citing the country’s “poor record with human rights” as the reason for their apprehension; WWE female stars are still banned from performing in the Kingdom. "Crown Jewel” is worth $450 million in PPV signups, and the decision to cancel the event could torpedo the lucrative long term deal. Should the WWE end their relationship with the Saudis, they’ll join Endeavor and Virgin as companies that ended profitable deals in the name of human rights. According to JohnWallStreet, Endeavor is reportedly terminating a $400 million investment agreement that would have given the Saudi’s a 5-10% stake in the company. A formal announcement will likely come this week, amidst continuing political and diplomatic fallout.

Hosting a mega international sporting event like the Olympics or World Cup often takes a heavy financial toll on a host nation without much return, but the 2018 World Cup provided Russia with a $14.5 billion economic boost. According to SportsBusiness Journal and a report from the organizing committee, from 2013-2018, a total of 952 billion rubles, equivalent to $14.5 billion, was added to the Russian economy. That number is equivalent to 1.1% of the country’s GDP. This figure comes as good news for Russia, which spent an estimated $10.5 billion preparing for and hosting the World Cup this past summer. In all, the tournament created over 300,000 per year in the build-up to the event, adding $7 billion to the population’s income. Going forward, the positive economic impact from hosting the World Cup is expected to continue for Russia, with an additional $2.3-3.2 billion per year being contributed over the next five years from areas such as tourism.

The Los Angeles Chargers have struggled to fill the seats at the tiny StubHub Center but remain optimistic that they will pack their new stadium in Inglewood once it opens in 2020. According to the Los Angeles Times, the Chargers believe that their pricing model for season tickets will bring more fans to their new stadium than what they are currently seeing. Tickets at the Inglewood facility, which will be shared with the Los Angeles Rams, will start at $50 per game for the least-expensive general seating option; that will also require a “one-time personal seat license fee of $100.” News of this pricing comes just a month after the Rams announced their ticketing options. For that franchise, season tickets start at $60 per game and require a much more expensive PSL, beginning at $1,000. For Chargers games, more than 26,000 seats will be made available at prices between $50-90 per seat at the new Inglewood stadium, as the low prices will hopefully bring in more fans. However, the new pricing scheme will drop the Chargers’ revenue goals for the initial Inglewood season from $400 million to about $150 billion – a reality that is reportedly concerning to NFL owners.

UConn and IMG have agreed to extend their partnership through 2033 as part of a 15-year deal worth at least $93 million. According to the Hartford Courant, the deal will “allow IMG to continue holding the sole rights to UConn multimedia, as well as remaining the licensing agent of UConn athletics.” UConn athletics are buoyed by the women’s basketball program, the most successful women’s basketball program in the nation with 11 National Championships. The university’s previous deal with IMG was signed back in 2008 and worth $80 million, including "incentives for UConn, which could have raised the yearly threshold.” Under terms for the new contract, IMG will pay $6 million in the first year, with that number increasing by $10,000 in subsequent years. However, “the deal is a revenue-sharing agreement” in which UConn receives 100% of revenue in the first three years, 95% in years three and four, 90% in the two following years, 85% in the next three years and 80% for the remainder of the contract. Will the new deal ultimately be better for IMG or for UConn? Time, and athletic teams’ win-loss records, will tell.

Jacksonville Jaguars and Fulham FC Owner Shahid Khan has withdrawn his bid to purchase Wembley Stadium. According to the Financial Times, Khan’s $787 million offer was met with a great deal of controversy in England, creating a divide within the FA. The thought of selling Wembley Stadium, known as “England’s home of football,” to an American did not sit well with much of soccer’s establishment overseas. “I cannot rule out revising the opportunity at another time when perhaps the Football Association family is unified in its view on the opportunity,” said Khan. “I recognize the passion many people have for Wembley and what it means to English football, and will be willing to reengage with the FA on this matter under proper circumstances.” Talks between Khan and the FA first began in April and escalated last month when the two sides agreed to draft sales terms. Both sides continue to deny that the collapse of Khan’s bid has any bearing on the future of a permanent NFL franchise in London, but without a guaranteed, controlled home it’s not likely that the Jaguars or any NFL franchise will call the moving vans any time soon.

Canelo Alvarez is moving to DAZN as part of a record-shattering 11-year, $365 million deal. According to ESPN.com, the boxer will now move away from HBO PPV in favor of the upstart OTT platform that launched in the U.S. just last month. The deal is set to commence on December 15 when Alvarez fights Rocky Fielding at Madison Square Garden. On HBO PPV, Alvarez’s fights cost $80 apiece for viewers, while “his two fights per year on the all-sports streaming service” cost $9.99 per month. When Alvarez was fighting on PPV, he would “earn money for every buy above a set threshold beyond his guaranteed purse.” But even though DAZN “doesn’t offer” PPV, Alvarez can “still earn even more money beyond his guarantee based on specific subscription benchmarks that DAZN can reach during the course of the deal.” DAZN has been making serious moves in the professional boxing space — this deal comes after a $1 billion deal with Matchroom Boxing USA was struck to stream 32 fight cards per year.

Rest in peace Paul Allen. Allen, owner of both the Seattle Seahawks and Portland Trail Blazers, passed away on October 15 at the age of 65 from complications of Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. According to the Seattle Times, with no spouse or children to take control of the two franchises, questions are beginning to emerge regarding the future of the two Pacific Northwest clubs. While many speculate that Allen’s sister, First & Goal Vice Chair Jody Allen, could take charge of the teams, it remains unclear whether or not she has an interest in running the daily operations for the Seahawks and/or Trail Blazers. Trail Blazers Vice Chair Bert Kolde would "likely have interest in ownership” of the NBA team however. Trail Blazers President and CEO Chris McGowan, who serves as the team’s alternate governor, will “continue to represent the Blazers at all ownership meetings” following Allen’s death. Considered a progressive sports franchise owner, Allen brought a Super Bowl championship to Seattle back in 2014 and got the Blazers to the NBA finals twice during his tenure.

This Tuesday brings the latest book release continuing the dialogue around CTE: Brainwashed, by former NFL running back Merril Hoge. When post-concussion syndrome forced Hoge into early retirement in 1994, research on football-related head injuries wasn’t a priority. At the time, football was heavily influenced by a tough guy culture, and little was known about concussions and their potentially dangerous effects. Then the tragic death of Hoge’s ex-teammate Mike Webster in 2002 launched a wave of fear after an autopsy determined he suffered from an obscure brain disease—chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Concern over player safety soon became a discussion about football at every level, with one scientist even declaring youth football “child abuse.” In Brainwashed, Hoge and board-certified forensic neuropathologist Dr. Peter Cummings address some of the common perceptions surrounding the disease, examining significant flaws in the often-cited studies and exposing some of the sensationalistic reporting that colors today’s CTE dialogue. Brainwashed attempts to provide a balanced dialogue around the disease that’s creating serious questions about America’s favorite sport, and adds valuable perspective to the “Is football too dangerous?” conversation.

05 Dec

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This year’s World Series and the World Champion Boston Red Sox reveal one thing: money talks. According to the Wall Street Journal, both the Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers are proof of the “cold reality” that money really does matter in professional baseball. The Red Sox have reached the “third and highest tier of luxury tax spending, investing more than $237 million in payroll” this season, while no other team in the league comes even close to that. And despite reaching the last two but not winning a World Series in over three decades, the Dodgers “have spent about $1.4 billion in salaries to claim the last six NL West crowns.” The Red Sox, who bested the Dodgers 4-1 this Series, had the league’s highest payroll, thanks to their iconic venue, deeply-rooted fan base, and an RSN deal valued at more than $8 billion. The Dodgers had the third biggest payroll in the majors. Both of these elite clubs epitomize the current state of MLB; smaller market teams will continue to struggle without the right financial investments going forward.

The World Series just ended, but MLB is already looking toward next season. According to SportsBusiness Journal, the league will roll out a series of innovative programs aimed at helping players “who are interested in being out there, interested in marketing themselves, but making it easy for them to do.” Social media will be a big area of focus in the offseason, according to MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred. “The trick with players is that things are authentic,” said Manfred. “What we put on social media through our accounts may be really good but when you add the players’ input or their take on what has happened on social media, it’s way more important to our fans.” The league will be providing players with highlights next season by allowing them to simply grab the content and repost it on their pages. MLB still struggles with youth engagement and decreasing levels of participation — the social media push is a step in the right direction to make baseball “cool” again.

Midway through the NFL season, Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium is working to finalize most of its Super Bowl details. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Super Bowl LIII on February 3 will have ultra cheap concessions prices compared to past events and other NFL games. The stadium’s “much-publicized” food and beverage prices will not change for the Super Bowl; hot dogs will still cost $2, soft drinks and popcorn will still be refillable, and more. Stadium officials noted that they “stipulated in Atlanta’s Super Bowl contract that concession prices would remain the same as at Falcons games and other stadium events.” The league is still deciding whether or not it would be possible to play the game with the sunflower-shaped roof open. “Open-or-closed is going to change the dynamics of a few things — some of our halftime stuff, some of our pregame stuff,” said NFL VP of Event Operations and Production Jon Barker. “All of that will go into consideration, but…from an NFL standpoint we would love to see it open.” Just like NFL fans will love to see those cheap food and beer prices come February 3.

FIFA’s fear of white elephant stadiums is already being realized in Russia following the 2018 World Cup. According to the Guardian, after recently surpassing the 100 day mark since France beat Croatia 4-2 in the World Cup Final, soccer has had a mixed impact on the host nation. Attendance in the Russian Premier League, Russia’s top soccer flight, is “up somewhat” from where it was before the World Cup. Regarding World Cup arenas, there "have been some early success stories” — stadiums in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Rostov are all "posting strong figures for the Russian Premier League season,” but others have already started to falter. The brand new €257 million Kaliningrad Stadium, which hosted only four World Cup matches, the $779 million Fisht Stadium in Sochi, constructed for the 2014 Olympics, and the $450 million Kazan Arena all "appear set to fulfill dire predictions” with a lack of attractive football being offered. This dilemma, of course, is not unique to the World Cup, as the potential for orphaned sports facilities has caused many cities across the globe to withdraw from Olympic and other mega event bids.

Top high school basketball players are starting to get a lot more creative with their professional development plans in the wake of the NCAA scandal that tore through college basketball. According to the New York Times, top prospect Darius Bazley will not attend college or play in the NBA G League: he will intern for New Balance. Bazley signed a multiyear shoe contract with the company guaranteeing him $1 million regardless of how his career pans out, but that could be worth up to $14 million if he “reaches all performance incentives.” Last March, Bazley de-committed from Syracuse so that he could wait out his one year in the G League before declaring for the 2019 NBA Draft, but those plans have changed. Bazley is now preparing to move to Boston in early January, where he is “expected to spend time with New Balance’s marketing department, digital and social teams, footwear and apparel design arms and the company’s sports laboratory in Lawrence.” This could be an invaluable long term experience for Bazley and other players following in his footwear footsteps – if he actually commitments to do the work and learn.

With only one year left on the Miami Heat’s current naming rights deal with American Airlines, Miami-Dade County has taken over talks regarding a new naming sponsor. According to the Miami Herald, the original deal, struck between the NBA franchise and American Airlines was signed back in the 1990s, creates a scenario in which the county “receives almost no revenue from the $2 million that American pays the Heat each year.” Consultants hired by the county expect the value of a new naming rights deal for the arena to be worth at least triple compared to where it currently stands. American Airlines has already reached out to Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez regarding an extension to the deal, but the county is intent on evaluating all potential options. In taking control of the situation, the county “must pay the Heat an additional $2 million annually starting in 2020 to make up for the money the team currently receives from American Airlines.” Presumably, the county will make much more than that from a new deal.

Los Angeles might be the second biggest city in the U.S., but it still might not be able to hold two NFL franchises. According to JohnWallStreet, team owners from around the league took the chance to voice their concern regarding the Chargers’ long-term viability in Los Angeles at the recent league meetings. The biggest concern remains the team’s fan base. With a plethora of empty seats at home games at StubHub Arena, an MLS stadium, many fear that the situation will become even more dire once the team moves into its new Inglewood stadium in 2020. “The franchise draws a league low 25,370 fans (many of them rooting for the visiting team) to its temporary home in Carson and is struggling to sell SSLs for their new stadium,” though the Rams will own the venue. The Charger’s franchise value has continued to grow over the past few years, going from $1.525 billion in 2015 to $2.275 billion in 2018, though the Chargers have failed to win consistently and still lack an identity in their new home. Not helping the Chargers’ situation with L.A. football fans is the phenomenal success this season of the crosstown Rams, who at 8-0 remain the only unbeaten team in the NFL after their victory over Green Bay on Sunday.

Despite pulling his bid to buy Wembley Stadium, Shahid Khan has done an incredible job elevating the Jacksonville Jaguars’ profile across the Atlantic. The Jaguars just completed their annual game in London, going up against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday, and have come to call the city their second home. Appearing on NFL Network’s “Good Morning Football” ahead of the matchup, Khan pointed out that at one point his club ranked "31 out of 32 teams on fan recognition outside the U.S.,” but the Jags now rank much lower on that list. “I had a number of people telling me that our ticket…other than the Wimbledon men’s final, was the most sought-after ticket this year in London,” said Khan. Hosting an annual game overseas and forgoing one of the team’s eight designated home games at their stadium might seem like a poor financial strategy, but in doing so the team has been able to boost local revenue, increase sponsorship value, and negate “some of the financial challenges associated with being in one of the league’s smallest markets.”

When the NFL agreed to pay out $1 billion in a settlement to victims of CTE, former players who suffered from the condition likely figured they were set for a significant payday. According to USA Today, as payments are starting to trickle out, some recipients “have been stunned to find they may receive just pennies on the dollar of what they’re owed, likely setting off another spate of frustrating court battles.” One example of this is former NFL players Ralph Goldston, whose family had been notified of a $160,000 award coming from the settlement; that number dropped all the way down to negative $737 after deductions and “holdbacks,” including “thousands the court has kept in case the family owes money for Goldston’s medical bills.” Goldston is just one of the 700 approved players to receive settlement money, though 20,000 players were involved in the suit. Some are blaming the league for this while others are blaming the lawyers who sought to take a percentage of the money despite their minimal work.

MLS is expected to join the likes of the EPL and Serie A in 2019 by adding sleeve sponsors. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Union Chief Business Officer Tim McDermott confirmed the news, saying that it is “something that the league is evaluating.” The Union, which currently have Bimbo Bakeries inked as their primary kit sponsor, previously said that they would entertain the idea of also using Bimbo as their sleeve sponsor, but favored using the logo of one of their subsidiary brands for their sleeve sponsor. “If you think about it from the standpoint of a company like Bimbo that has a lot of different brands, you can see how that can have a lot of value for them,” said McDermott. Under the league’s expected rules, clubs would not be allowed to use the same sponsor for both the chest and sleeve spots. A recent report emerged noting that D.C. United’s potential sleeve sponsorship value sits at around $500,000 to $1 million. Those numbers could either be the benchmark for MLS or, thanks to the likes of Wayne Rooney and a brand new stadium backing the club, could surpass the league average.

05 Dec

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As its 2018 regular season kicks off on Tuesday, the NBA’s global reach continues to expand – with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver claiming the league can be “the No. 1 sport in the world.” An examination by the Associated Press reveals the NBA has “opened up 12 international offices, establishing seven academies on four continents and started broadcasting games to more than 200 countries and territories.” Over 300 million people are “playing the game for fun in China alone.“ The NBA also "heads back to Mexico and England for regular-season contests, after the 76ers and Mavericks played exhibitions in China.” In that country, NBA China CEO Derek Chang said, “it’s our biggest market outside the U.S. We have close to 200 people in total. We have significant offices in Beijing and Shanghai.” Chang noted the NBA’s first game broadcast in China was in 1987, and its “first live game broadcast” was in 1994. Of course, the NBA doesn’t have a monopoly on scheduling regular-season games abroad. The NFL is in the midst of its annual three-game stand in London, and the NHL, which traveled to China in the preseason, is holding a two-game series in Finland in November.

The “LeBron effect” is real. Just ask the Los Angeles Lakers. According to JohnWallStreet, through the Lakers’ first two preseason games, merchandise sales were up 100% year-over-year. In terms of filling seats at Staples Center, the Lakers had little work to do after last year, when they averaged a 99.3% occupancy rate for home games. King James has had an impact on ticket prices in the secondary market however — “the average price to see a Lakers home game this year is up +427 year-over-year” according to StubHub. Demand has also skyrocketed since James landed in Los Angeles. The team claims that based on StubHub, the source the club uses to determine the intrinsic value of their tickets, they can sell out an arena with 31,000 seats, 10,000 more than what Staples Center can currently hold. While the Lakers are once again a big draw both at home and on the road, in Cleveland, the Cavaliers are left scrambling to maintain ticket sales.

Seattle isn’t the only city looking to land an NBA expansion team these days. According to the Montreal Gazette, an investment group from that city recently made their case to the Montreal Board of Trade regarding landing an expansion franchise there. The Brooklyn Nets and Toronto Raptors recently played a preseason game in the city that was promoted extensively by NBA Canada. Despite the league not having any clear plans to expand in the near future, Montreal is preparing itself should the day ever come when they are called upon. Members of the investment group said that the NBA has been “made aware of the interest, which originated in 2014, but has been ramped up” with the addition of GardaWorld CEO Stéphan Crétier as a main investor. The group has 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.” It’s worth noting that the Montreal Canadiens had the NHL’s second best attendance last year, averaging 21,299 fans, barely an ice sliver down from the Chicago Blackhawks at 21,653.

Despite a Red Sox-Yankees matchup, television ratings for the MLB’s League Divisional Series came in at their lowest level since 2014. According to SportsBusiness Journal, the 14 games that made up the NLDS and ALDS averaged 3.18 million viewers across TBS, FS1, and MLB Network this year, down a significant 13% from the 17 games played in the round last year. Two of the series were sweeps and no Game 5s were played at all. “TBS on its own averaged 4.32 million viewers for the ALDS, which is the net’s best LDS average since 2015, when it carried a pair of five-game ALDS matchups.” The Red Sox’ clinching Game 4 against the Yankees was a huge highlight for TBS, as the Tuesday night matchup averaged 7.15 million viewers, the most-viewed LDS Game 4 on any network dating back to the 2007 Indians-Yankees game which drew 9.23 million viewers. The league’s TV ratings will obviously benefit from having four popular, geographically-diverse teams in the LCS round, regardless who prevails in the Astros-Red Sox and Brewers-Dodgers series.

The NHL’s new season has been infused with a bit of flare and fun that it is not used to. According to The Hockey News, players across the league have started to show a bit more personality on the ice, something that fans have been “begging for” for years. The highlight of the first week came during a wild 7-6 win for the Toronto Maple Leafs over the Chicago Blackhawks. Maple Leafs C Auston Matthews and Blackhawks RW Patrick Kane exchanged jeers after each scored a goal within the final minutes of regulation. Meanwhile in Raleigh, the Hurricanes now have one of the league’s best post-game celebrations. After a win, the whole team applauds the crowd before “skating from their own blueline to the other end of the ice and jumping into the boards.” This playful nature is one thing that the NHL has lacked compared to its NBA and NFL counterparts. With more fun, expect more fans. And to the fun mix add Gritty, the startling new Muppet-like orange Philadelphia Flyers mascot, who calls his fans “Gritizens,” has been on with Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel, and after mere weeks has amassed over 136,000 Twitter followers.

Only a few years ago, anything connected to gambling was taboo in pro sports. Now, a Las Vegas-based slot machine manufacturer is “talking with the NHL about the idea of using the Golden Knights’ logo and mark” on casino slot machines. According to LVSportsBiz, American Gaming Systems “displayed a slot machine with the Golden Knights’ secondary logo” at this week’s Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas, but that was “strictly for promotional and marketing purposes.” AGS Executive Vice President and CMO Julia Boguslawski said that the company is “analyzing whether that particular slot machine would make financial sense.” AGS currently employs an electronic animated version of the Golden Knights’ helmet on roulette signage. The three-year sponsorship deal between the Golden Knights and AGS “came after the gaming equipment supplier wanted to create a T-shirt with the Golden Knights” during their surprising Stanley Cup run. A company "had to be a corporate partner with the Golden Knights to have a rally towel or T-shirt during the postseason.” The Golden Knights are quickly breaking down the gambling-and-pro-sports Chinese wall, and the soon to be NFL Las Vegas Raiders and many other sports franchises will benefit.
E-commerce giant Amazon is used to disrupting industries in a quick and swift fashion, but its dive into sports broadcasting has been described as “humble.” According to SportsBusiness Journal, Amazon has been linked with some of the world’s biggest leagues and tournaments, such as the NFL and Premier League, despite not being a longtime player in the sports broadcasting industry. “There is more to come from Amazon, full stop. We are in it for the long-term, that’s for sure,” said Amazon Prime Video European Managing Director Alex Green. “We just get our heads down and try and do the best possible job. We are quite humble about it. Amazon may be a big name but in sports broadcasting we are not. Let’s face it.” Amazon recently celebrated its first exclusive sporting event broadcast when it streamed the U.S. Open to tennis fans in the U.K. as part of a $40 million, five-year deal. While that effort did not go smoothly, with thousands of fans unable to access the livestream, Amazon has assured its current and would-be broadcast partners that their humbling performance would only improve.

NFL owners are preparing for a big vote at their fall meeting this week regarding cross-ownership. According to SportsBusiness Journal, the decades-old rule currently prevents “owners of other big four sports teams in NFL markets from buying a football team,” while also preventing NFL owners from buying non-NFL Big Four sports teams in an existing NFL market. The ballooning of franchise valuations has led owners to reconsider the rule due to the shrinking pool of potential buyers for clubs. To illustrate this, when the Carolina Panthers came up for sale earlier this year, only three bidders emerged before David Tepper bought the team for $2.275 billion. Even that NFL record setting sale came in under expectations. However, the league has not strictly upheld the cross-ownership rule. Back in 2010, Stan Kroenke exercised an option to buy the then-St. Louis Rams despite owning the NBA’s Denver Nuggets and NHL’s Colorado Avalanche. Kroenke skirted around the rule after he handed off the Colorado teams to other family members, setting precedent and setting up the NFL for a sensible rule change.

The PGA Championship is set to leave TNT for ESPN following next year’s tournament. According to SportsBusiness Journal, next year will mark the end of a 29-year relationship between the tournament and Turner Sports, which has carried the event on TBS and TNT dating back to 1991. CBS, the PGA Championship’s other long-term media partner, was able to renew its deal to carry afternoon coverage on the weekend. Financial details regarding the new 11-year deal have not yet been disclosed, though executives described the rights fees increase as a “healthy.” ESPN and CBS will now work together as partners for the first two majors on the annual golf calendar since the PGA is moving to May from August next year, “while CBS and ESPN have partnered on The Masters since 2008.” This comes as a big win for CBS, making it the first big sports deal sealed by Joe Ianniello since he replaced Les Moonves as the head of the company last month. The PGA Championship has long been the stepchild of the PGA Tour’s four Majors, and here’s hoping that the calendar move and migration to the more robust sports partner in the early rounds will be an eagle.

St. Louis has reentered the race to land one of the two remaining MLS expansion teams. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the founding family of St. Louis-based rental car company Enterprise is leading the bid and working with Missouri-based World Wide Technology CEO Jim Kavanaugh, a former pro soccer player who was part of last year’s failed MLS team and stadium bid. The majority of the Taylor family members leading the group are women, which, if successful, would make the St. Louis club the first MLS franchise and one of the few ownership groups in pro sports controlled by women. One of the reasons the city’s last bid failed was over financing for a $250 million, 20,000-seat downtown stadium. The Taylors said that the money needed to build the stadium would be “overwhelmingly privately financed.” “The MLS opportunity really isn’t just about the sport,” said Enterprise Executive Chair Andy Taylor. “It’s about redevelopment, and being part of the resurgence that is happening in St. Louis.” It would also help to fill the giant sports cavity left when the Rams left St. Louis for Arizona almost three years ago.