10 to Watch Week of 6/27/17

As the 2017 U.S. Conference of Mayors concludes in Miami, its Mayors Professional Sports Alliance (MPSA) committee continues to be a trend spotter – and trend setter – at the intersection of sports and governance.

(Left to Right)  Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) Commissioner Michael Whan, Former Frisco Mayor Maher Maso, Horrow Sports Ventures CEO Rick Horrow,  USCM President Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett, St. Peterburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, Nielsen Sports Senior Vice President Stephen Master, and 
Major League Baseball Vice President Community Affairs Thomas C. Brasuell speak to the Mayors Professional Sports Alliance  during the 85th Annual Meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors. 

This year, the MPSA, chaired by outgoing U.S. Conference of Mayors President Mick Cornett (Oklahoma City), focused on sports as a vehicle for women’s empowerment, a discussion led by LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan; what sports trends mean for city-specific initiatives, led by Nielsen Sports SVP Stephen Master, and an in-depth examination of a new partnership between Fields & Futures, in Mayor Cornett’s Oklahoma City backyard, Delaware Life, and the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation. I was proud to be the leader of this presentation, as well as a longtime MPSA participant with a front row seat to the many, many, sports-centric initiatives it has supported around the U.S.

Amid escalating security concerns about PyeongChang, South Korea, the site of the 2018 Winter Olympics, NBC is considering keeping its top clients in the United States during the Games.

According to the Wall Street Journal, while NBC “usually rewards big advertisers with tickets and parties at Olympic host sites,” next year’s situation may prompt the network to send its top advertisers to Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Many of NBC’s clients have expressed concerns over the security in South Korea; “other Olympic participants and sponsors also have said that they are scaling back their delegation in PyeongChang.” Jackson Hole has not been officially named the locale NBC will send its clients – it could be to another U.S. resort, or ultimately South Korea. USOC CEO Scott Blackmun also commented that the USOC will have “less sponsor activation” in next year’s Olympics than it had in prior ones. When you’re dealing with an unstable neighbor with a nuclear weapons arsenal and an uncertain diplomatic climate, “better safe than sorry” is clearly the name of these Games.

Sports and the Courts Part I: The FTC made its point clear – it does not want the proposed DraftKings-FanDuel merger to go through.

According to SportsBusiness Journal, the FTC released a written complaint outlining its strong rejection of a central argument made by the two daily fantasy sports companies. DraftKings and FanDuel argue that “they are a subset of a much larger and still-growing fantasy sports business,” while the FTC rebuts that the immediate chance to win money is what keeps daily fantasy sports going, with social interaction fueling season-long fantasy sports competitions. Also, the FTC argues that if the merger did go through, it would essentially monopolize the industry, producing “concentration levels well beyond what is necessary to establish a presumption of competitive harm.” Both DraftKings and FanDuel have suffered heavy financial losses over the past year due to strict regulations on gambling in certain states; the FTC “was not swayed” by that.

After speculating that both clubs would not be allowed to compete in the Champions League simultaneously, UEFA will allow RB Leipzig and Red Bull Salzburg to play next season.

 

According to SportsBusiness Journal, UEFA rules prevent “multiple teams from the same ownership” from playing in the Champions League, as both clubs have ownership links to energy drink company Red Bull. RB Leipzig finished as runner-up in the Bundesliga, earning them a spot in the group stage, while Red Bull Salzburg won the Austrian Bundesliga, placing them in the second qualifying round at the tournament’s start. UEFA will allow both teams to compete because the governing body’s “adjudicatory arm was satisfied that the clubs had fulfilled the requirements needed to allow entry for both sides.” Had both teams not been allowed to play, Red Bull Salzburg would have had priority over its counterpart. While some criticize the NFL for its stringent ownership requirements, this is precisely the situation NFL rules seek to avoid. For the good of sport, competition organically trumped commerce here.

 

Ahead of Wimbledon, World No. 1 Andy Murray is giving his prize money from the Queen’s Club Championship to the families of the victims in the Grenfell Tower fire.

 

According to the London Telegraph, the U.K. star will “will hand over his check” to the dozens of families who lost everything in one of Britain’s worst peacetime fires. At least 79 people have been known to have perished in the blaze. As admirable as this is for Murray, it is not the first time he has used this tournament as a philanthropic platform. In 2013, Murray donated his winnings from Queens to the Royal Marsden Hospital, where his friend Ross Hutchins “was then being treated for cancer.” Other athletes with ties to London and Britain have also pledged to assist the victims. Manchester City midfielder Raheem Sterling has promised to give a “substantial sum” and Arsenal defender Hector Bellerin plans on donating $63 for every minute he plays at the Euro U21 Championships. As we saw during Hurricane Katrina and the devastating 2010 Haitian earthquake, for example, sport continually rises to meet global crises needs.

 

With the Raiders planning on leaving within a few years, the A’s are ramping up their search for a new stadium.

 

According to the East Bay Times, a recent economic analysis projects that a new baseball park in the area “would be a big boon for Oakland.” The A’s have only broken the 2 million attendance mark once in the past 10 years, and the economic analysis is solely based on what the facility itself would generate. A Coliseum replacement would definitely bring in more fans, but attendance numbers would still pale in comparison to other teams around the league; “The projections are based on an estimated attendance of 2.55 million in the ballpark’s first year and slightly less than 2.4 million in years 2-10.” The Los Angeles Dodgers led MLB attendance last year with over 3.7 million attendees, while the A’s were just above last place with a marker of 1.52 million. Clearly, the A’s have a lot of ground to make up, but a new ballpark, as history has told us, will benefit the franchise every bit as much as its host city.

 

Sports and the Courts Part II: A recent Supreme Court ruling could ultimately aid the Washington Redskins.

 

According to the Daily Signal, the Supreme Court ruled that “offensive brand names” should be allowed to receive federal trademarks. The case at hand for the court involved Simon Tam, an Asian-American musician and political activist, who named his rock band “The Slants” in an attempt to take back a term that was once derogatory. Tam sought to register the name with the U.S. trademark office. The Redskins, along with other Native American-related sports mascots, have been at the forefront of debates for years now about the ethicality of the team’s logo and the minority group that it represents. Lisa Blatt, the Redskins’ team attorney, said the franchise is “thrilled” about Tam’s court ruling. This ruling in favor of The Slants ultimately begins to resolves the team’s longstanding run-in with the government, if not with naysayers.

 

Philadelphia trusts The Process. That is, the city finally believes its time has once again come to have its team shine in the NBA.

According to Philly.com, 5,000 tickets “were claimed” for an outdoor draft watch party to see Washington point guard Markelle Fultz drafted first overall by the hometown team. Momentum has been building in the city ever since the team traded picks with the Boston Celtics, moving up to the top spot on the board. The team “sold all of its available season tickets, needing a waiting list for those who signed up later.” The 14,000 season tickets sold for the upcoming season sets a new franchise record, and the 76ers also lead the NBA in “new full-season ticket packages.” After having the top draft pick in back-to-back years, the 76ers expect to sell out all of their home games this season. StubHub is expected to be a major distributor of 76ers tickets this coming season, with heightened demand for game passes. The hype is real, but the team needs results on the court. Sixers CEO Scott O’Neil has slowly built trust in his four years helming the franchise, and his vision and hard work are clearly beginning to pay off.

 

Five years after buying 25% of MLS’ media and marketing arm, Providence Equity Partners have reportedly struck a deal to offload their shares back to the league.

 

Providence paid $150 million to become the only outside investor in Soccer United Marketing (SUM) in 2012, but even though six expansion teams have joined MLS since then, thereby diluting the firm’s original share, the company stands to triple its investment due to SUM;s success in the interim, according to Bloomberg. “By combining the most popular sport in the world with the largest media market in the world, we knew MLS had a unique opportunity,” said Jonathan Nelson, Providence founder and CEO. The firm is amassing an enviable track record of garnering sizeable returns through sporting investments, having also seen threefold gains through selling Learfield Communications last year, and the World Triathlon Corporation in 2015.

 

IndyCar is looking to broaden its horizons. According to the Indianapolis Business Journal, Hulman & Co. CEO Mark Miles continues his search for new international venues to add to the current slate of races.

 

China and Mexico have been two of the more recent destinations Miles has looked into, with the goal of adding a race in one of those countries for the 2018 season. A recent report confirmed IndyCar believes that “the best bet for an international race in 2018 is Mexico,” though it continues to discuss an event with promoters in China as well. The Chinese race would likely be added for the 2019 slate, sticking to the plan of adding one international race annually. For domestic races, the IndyCar Series usually commands a $1-2 million sanctioning fee, but series officials “seek a higher fee for a race on foreign soil to help the teams and series cover costs involved with international travel.” Whether team sports or motor sports, a global footprint remains the blueprint.

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