Moag and Company Sports Notes (6 Dec 2019)

Date: Dec 2019

Trivia

Name the four players in MLB history have recorded at least five straight 40-homer seasons?

Last Week’s Answer: The NFL was founded in 1920 and played its first Thanksgiving Day games that same year.

Football:

The NFL on Feb. 7 is set to "file a high-stakes petition to the U.S. Supreme Court with major implications for the television industry," according to the Hollywood Reporter. NFL teams "pool telecast rights to all live games and collectively negotiate licensing packages with broadcasters." However, the 9th Circuit Court in August "hinted at potential upheaval" to that system. In reviving a class-action lawsuit concerning DirecTV's Sunday Ticket, the federal appeals court "ruled it was plausible that the 'horizontal' agreement among the NFL's 32 teams to pool TV rights along with the league's 'vertical' agreement with a satellite distributor amounted to an illegal restraint of competition under the Sherman Antitrust Act." The 9th Circuit "relied in part" on the '84 NCAA v. Board of Regents case, as well as the '10 American Needle case. The NFL states that the "arrangement is 'integral to the creation of [its] product,' setting up the argument that the 9th Circuit has misconstrued legal precedent and that game telecasts are nothing like the kind of licensed apparel that the Supreme Court focused on" in the American Needle case. The timing of this dispute is notable because the NFL's broadcast deals "expire in the next few years" The league also "has yet to come to a new collective bargaining agreement with players -- the split of TV money is traditionally the biggest issue." This "deep pass to the Supreme Court is of much larger import than just what it means for football broadcasts".

Baseball:

The Wilpon family is "in talks to sell up to an 80% stake" in the New York Mets to billionaire and team investor Steve Cohen, in a transaction that would "value the team at a baseball-record" of $2.6B, according to a source cited by Bloomberg News. Cohen's "deep pockets may give hope to long-suffering" Mets fans, but the transition "will take time." The source said that Mets Control Person & CEO Fred Wilpon will "remain in his current role for at least five years, at which time Cohen would control the franchise." The source added that Mets COO Jeff Wilpon also will remain in his role for the "five-year period." The source said that in the meantime, Cohen will remain CEO of his Point72 Asset Management hedge fund. Bringing Cohen on as the majority owner "may signal a turning point in how the franchise spends." The Mets' payroll in '19 was $160M, 10th in MLB.

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman will "not allow" the Tampa Bay Rays to "split their season between the Tampa Bay area and Montreal while the lease of Tropicana Field is in effect," according to the Tampa Bay Times. Both the city and club "will abide by the contract that locks the team" into Tropicana Field through the '27 season. Kriseman said that he wrote the memo "in response to pressure from City Council members for an update on the split-season negotiations." Now that negotiations are "off the table, the clock continues to tick" toward the end of the '27 season. That is the "last year through which the Rays are contractually obligated" to play all of their home games at Tropicana Field. When the contract ends, the team will be "freed from the now 30-year-old dome and become a free agent franchise." Rays Owner Stu Sternberg said that he "disagrees with the mayor that ending the Montreal talks is the best option." He "reiterated his faith in the split-season idea as the best way to keep baseball in Tampa Bay." Meanwhile, Kriseman also "reaffirmed St. Petersburg's commitment to contribute public dollars should the team wish to build" a full-time ballpark in the city. But he added that St. Petersburg "will not help pay to build" a ballpark for a part-time team.

Soccer:

Former eBay and HP CEO Meg Whitman is "buying a minority stake" in FC Cincinnati, part of a "push by the first-year team to raise money for facilities and player contracts," according to Bloomberg News. Sources said that Whitman and her husband, Griff Harsh, are "taking about 20% of the club" at a valuation of around $500M. Whitman, whose purchase was approved, will become the sixth woman on the MLS BOG, one of five to "join within the past two years." Whitman will join Majority Owner & CEO Carl Lindner as the club's second MLS board rep. Whitman, who began her career at Cincinnati-based P&G, said, "Cincinnati has a special place in my heart. FC Cincinnati and soccer have both already proven to be cultural forces in the market. Between the crowds at Nippert Stadium and the corporate commitments it has drawn, it's a team with an exceptionally high ceiling." The cash infusion is "expected to help pay for various infrastructure projects including the new West End Stadium set to open" in '21. PROSOCCERUSA.com noted Whitman and Harsh previously were members of the ownership group "aiming to bring an expansion franchise" to Sacramento.

Bimbo Bakeries USA has entered into a four-year renewal as the Philadelphia Union's official jersey sponsor. The deal, which will continue through '23, is a first-of-its-kind in MLS, as Bimbo will have different branding on the Union's home and away kits for the upcoming season. Bimbo's relationship with the club first began in '11. The renewal also includes Bimbo and the team investing in youth soccer development and supporting the local community through various service projects. The team and brand "finally answered fans who don't like the pejorative mainstream usage of 'bimbo' by agreeing to use one of the company's sub-brands on the Union's away jerseys." However, exactly which name will be on the jerseys "isn't known yet." Some examples of brand names that "could land on the away jersey include Entemann's, Arnold, Sara Lee, Thomas' English Muffins and Artesano," the latter of which replaced the Bimbo logo on the "warmup jerseys used for the team's playoff game this year, in what was a one-time deal." The Union declined to say how much money the latest agreement is worth; the previous deal ran from '15-19 and paid the team about $2.3M annually.

Other:

NASCAR revealed the four premier partners in its new sponsorship system: Geico, Coca-Cola, Busch Beer and Xfinity. The sanctioning body has overhauled the title sponsor model it had been using since the early '70s to go with the new system, which as of the '20 season will see its top circuit called the NASCAR Cup Series with no brand attached. The idea from NASCAR execs is to have more of the focus on the NASCAR brand instead of sharing its name with another company, while having its sponsorship revenue less dependent on one title sponsor. NASCAR will now devote the vast majority of its advertising assets to the four major brands. Terms were not revealed for the deal, but sources said NASCAR was originally seeking around $20M annually from four to six premier partners before eventually settling closer to $15M over several-year periods. All four of the premier partners were already official NASCAR sponsors, so it is unclear how much incremental revenue NASCAR will see from the brands. Coca-Cola, for example, was already one of the sport's biggest sponsors as its official soft drink with a spend over $10M annually. NASCAR received around $20M annually from its final title sponsor, Monster Energy, which has been in advanced talks to buy a second-tier "signature" position. NASCAR has yet to reveal details of its second or third tiers. The premier partner deals include assets across NASCAR, tracks and media, part of an attempt by NASCAR to make the sport more of a one-stop shop and less complex for advertisers.

Sources: SportsBusiness Daily; The Athletic; ESPN.com; Hollywood Reporter; Bloomberg News; Tampa Bay Times; PROSOCCERUSA.com

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