SBJ Morning Buzzcast

SBJ Morning Buzzcast: February 25, 2022

Episode Summary

Champions League Final shifts to Paris; Norman tell Monahan it's "just the beginning"; Caesars eyes another retail sports book and remembering Harry Hutt

Episode Transcription

Abe Madkour:
Sometimes the short workweeks feel like the longest workweeks. I don't know about you but I am certainly feeling happy that it's Friday. It's been quite a week and it is Friday, February 25th. This is your Morning Buzzcast. Good morning. I'm Abe Madkour. Let's get to the stories in sports business you need to know.

First, European soccer's governing body, UEFA, voted today, on Friday, to move the Champions League final from St. Petersburg to Paris in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. The game is scheduled for May 28th. It had been scheduled to be played in St. Pete in a stadium that was built for the 2018 World Cup. Now it will be moved to the Stade de France in the northern Paris suburb of Saint-Denis. It will be the first time France has hosted the Champions League final since 2006 and that was a key point as other markets were interested in the final but Paris emerged because it had not hosted the game since I said, 2006. So Champions League final moving from St. Petersburg to Paris.

I know you've heard me say this but Major League Baseball and the Players Association are expected to negotiate through the weekend to try to get a labor agreement before Monday, which the league has set as a deadline to start canceling regular season games. Now, as we've talked about on the Buzzcast, the sides have met all week. They met for nearly four hours yesterday in Florida and that is a good thing and they are surely making some progress but it should be noted that they haven't begun talking about the core or key economic issues such as the Competitive Balance Tax threshold and team penalties for going over that tax. Those will be key negotiating points and they really haven't even dug into those yet.

Now, according to ESPN, Hal Steinbrenner, who of course is chairman of the Yankees, joined the owners bargaining group for the first time on Thursday. Now, getting owners and more players involved is key. There are more voices in the room and they get more engaged although I will say there's a flip side to that coin. I've seen it both ways. Sometimes more voices in the negotiating room complicates the talks but Steinbrenner is a key voice for the larger market teams and he and the Yankees will surely need to support any deal that management puts in front of the club. So Major League Baseball and the Players Association are expected to continue through the weekend. Look for updates over the weekend on

Let's move on to the other topic we've been talking a lot on the Buzzcast this week. Yes, golf, and LIV Golf isn't going away and it isn't being quiet. LIV Golf CEO, Greg Norman, sent a letter to PGA Tour Commissioner, Jay Monahan, on Thursday saying that the PGA Tour can't ban players from playing on the PGA Tour as Monahan indicated that he would if any players join the rival golf tour backed by the Saudis. Norman believes many players want to play for both the new league in addition to the PGA Tour and he continues the narrative around the Tour recently from players in writing that the Tour is putting its own financial thoughts ahead of the players. Norman had a pretty forceful end to his letter to Monahan saying that the effort by LIV Golf is, quote, just the beginning, it certainly is not the end, end quote.

This comes as Greg Norman also reached out to players and agents and challenged the PGA Tour's ability to ban players, believing it wouldn't stand up in court. So now we have to see where this dispute goes from here. The Tour is ready to get into the heart of its season and wants to move on from this distraction but LIV Golf continues to try and push forward. This story will be in the news for a while.

More news on the sports betting front in a key state of Ohio. Caesars reached a deal with the Cavaliers that makes Caesars Sportsbook the team's official sports betting partner and Caesars Entertainment its official casino partner. Now the key to the deal is it includes plans to bring a retail sportsbook, or open a retail sportsbook, at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse which will be open year-round on both game and non-game days. Now, legalized sports betting is expected to begin in Ohio by 2023. It could begin even sooner than that. So all of this deal really, and the construction of a retail sports book, is dependent on that approval. The structure, the retail sportsbook, is expected to open by the end of 2022 so, remember, Caesars has a similar deal in Washington, D.C. It opened a retail sportsbook at Capital One Arena. It's supposed to be one of the best in the business. I know many people who have been there and absolutely love that retail sportsbook. So the Cleveland Cavaliers look to follow that and get a key deal with Caesars.

News for runners. The New York Marathon, well, it's called the TCS New York Marathon, is returning at full force for this year's race on November 6th. Remember, the race was canceled in 2020 and the field was cut in half last year. So in November the race expects to host over 50,000 runners, that's double the 25,000 who finished last year's race. So this is very good news for the running community. It's great news for the sports business. The marathon will require proof of vaccination as the New York Road Runners said full vaccination was required for all of its races in 2022. But good news for the New York City Marathon returning to a full field.

Let's shift to soccer. Major League Soccer kicks off its season with a full schedule of games this weekend. Yes, so MLS kicks off. So here's what I'm watching for on the business side of MLS which now stands at 28 teams, remember, Charlotte FC is the newest team. They will have their first game in team history on Saturday in Washington, D.C. Meanwhile, Charlotte FC will have their home opener next weekend, right across our offices at Bank of America Stadium. It's going to be quite the show. If you're going, please let me know, I'd love to see you.

Okay. So a couple of things on the MLS front to keep an eye on for this season. First, we've talked about this on the Buzzcast, expect a new media deal within the next, I would say, four to five weeks and it will be a real indication of MLS's strength in the media marketplace. The league is seeking a solid increase from its current deal. It gets around $65 million a year without the US soccer rights and these are only domestic rights. Now, it surely wants to get closer to low $200 million, mid $200 million per year with its new deal. The new deal will begin in 2023. And, remember, MLS's media package has everything. It has national rights. It has local rights. It has some sports betting rights. It has some data rights. So it's a very big package. We'll have to see how the market responds but a new media deal is expected shortly.

Two, in terms of new facilities, Nashville SC opens its soccer-specific stadium sometime in May. This will be one of the largest soccer-specific stadiums. Capacity will be, I believe, 30,000. And this comes after new or renovated facilities in Austin, Cincinnati and Columbus. So MLS certainly stepping up its facility footprint. We could see expansion this year. Remember, there is St. Louis coming on in 2023. St. Louis will be the league's 29th team. It looks like Las Vegas could be the league's 30th franchise and a deal in Las Vegas could be announced sometime in the next few months.

And finally, with the World Cup in November, Major League Soccer won't have to interrupt its season or playoffs. It'll play all the way through to its MLS Cup on November 5th. I believe that will leave players and others a couple of weeks before the start of the World Cup in November. So those are some of the key business issues to keep an eye on as MLS kicks off its season this weekend.

And finally, a number of people asked me to mention this on the Buzzcast and I think it is appropriate. Longtime sports executive, Harry Hutt, who spent time at the Trail Blazers and in marketing with the Tampa Bay Lightning, died earlier this month. Now, Harry Hutt had a long career in sports media, production and sponsorship and I heard from many of the professionals he impacted during his time. He started in Buffalo. He was at the Detroit Pistons. I mentioned he was at the Portland Trail Blazers, Seattle Seahawks, Tampa Bay Lightning. He later had his own shop. I met Harry Hutt when I was maybe 30 years old in Portland. I was immediately drawn to his big personality, big laugh. Boy, could he tell a story? We had a long, enjoyable dinner at his favorite steakhouse where everybody knew his name and he had one story after another. So Harry Hutt and I lost touch through the years but I'll just say I'll never forget the sports business education I received that night from Harry Hutt. Harry Hutt died earlier this month.

So I will not be joining you on the Buzzcast Monday and Tuesday. You will hear from my gifted colleague, David Albright. I will be at the National Sports Forum in Round Rock, Texas. I'm giving the keynote speech on Tuesday. If you're going to the National Sports Forum I'd love to see you so let me know and hopefully we can get a chance to say hello. And this is your Morning Buzzcast for Friday, February 25th. I'm Abe Madkour. Stay safe, stay healthy, be good to each other. I'll speak to you next week.