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Sports Business

Owners meeting in Miami critical for 2012 Super Bowl

February 3, 2010
KEYWORDS Sports Business

I’d be stunned if members of Indianapolis’ Super Bowl host committee contingency down in Miami this week don’t have Saturday circled on their calendars.
It’s the most important day this week for the Circle City. The results of Saturday’s happenings will have a bigger impact on the local economy than anything that happens Sunday.

I know, the game is on Sunday. But an NFL owners meeting is being held Saturday. And in the hours preceding that meeting a group of owners (the labor committee) is meeting with the players’ union.

Despite assurances coming at every turn from local host committee CEO Allison Melangton and Chairman Mark Miles, they’re well aware how serious this situation is.
If NFL owners and players can’t begin to thaw their frosty relations in the next two months, the 2011 season and 2012 Super Bowl—set to be held in Lucas Oil Stadium—are in grave danger.

If a collective bargaining agreement isn’t hammered out by March 5, the 2010 season will be played without a salary cap. That also means there’s no minimum player payroll owners must maintain.

It’s true, players and owners have until March of next year to save the 2011 season (and 2012 Super Bowl). But the misnomer that there’s plenty of time, just isn’t true.
And there are two recent signs that indicate we’re in for a drawn-out fight.

It’s not just as simple as ironing out an agreement between players and owners. There are some serious skirmishes breaking out among owners, especially of the large-market vs. small-market variety.
Consider this; In recent months, some owners sought to unilaterally dismantle its supplemental revenue sharing program, a pool of $200 million divided among the eight to 12 lowest revenue generating teams. The logic is that without a salary cap, certain stipulations for revenue sharing go out the window. That shows some owners are ready to pull the rug out from under small-market teams, and yes that includes your Indianapolis Colts.

Despite the Colts’ recent stellar on-field performance, the team is not the Richie Rich of the NFL. The players are fighting this move in court, because they understand that no revenue sharing means teams in Indianapolis and Cincinnati simply can’t afford to pay as much as those in New York and Chicago—certainly not long term. And that ultimately shrinks the market for big-money players.

There’s one more very ominous sign. Bob Batterman is on the scene. Who, you ask, is Bob Batterman? Local host committee members should have his bio by now.

Batterman is a menacing figure in the world of sports labor negotiations. The owners’ decision to hire Batterman, a partner in the powerful New York law firm Proskauer Rose, as outside counsel is a clear warning that owners are ready to wage a long, hard war with the players.

Batterman represents the National Hockey League and presided over negotiations when the NHL became the first North American sports league to sacrifice an entire season, boldly locking out the players for the duration in 2004-05.
When a gun slinger like Batterman enters the room, people take notice, or at least they should.
The NFL may not want to talk about a possible 2011 lockout, but it’s time for officials in Mayor Greg Ballard’s office and those with the local Super Bowl host committee to start asking pointed questions.

Like what happens if the season gets delayed, shortened or scrapped altogether? Is there a contingency plan to get Indy back to the front of the Super Bowl line or to help this city and its corporate partners—not to mention volunteers—recoup some of the time, energy and money that’s put into to hosting this event if it doesn’t happen.

There’s been an awful lot of time and money siphoned out of the local community toward putting this event on. And with an estimated economic impact near $400 million—not to mention a boatload of positive publicity for Indianapolis, it’s well worth it.

And I understand the need to continue on the course of planning for the event. But acting like these ominous signs don’t exist—and not planning for all possible scenarios—is like asking Peyton Manning to stop reading defenses and just hurl the ball down field to see what happens.

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