Wednesday, February 29, 2012

From the experts in Sports and Entertainment Law:

I attended this week a sports law seminar sponsored by the Sports and Entertainment Law society at Widener University, an organization of which I am proud to say I was once a member.

Two of the featured speakers on one of the day's panels were Philadelphia Eagles general manager Howie Roseman, and Andrew Brandt, ESPN's sports business analyst and former Green Bay Packers officer.

I thought I would pass along some of the more interesting commentary from the seminar, particularly in relation to the recent NFL season that just wrapped up. If you remember, the 2011 season almost did not happen, as the NFL owners' lockout went right up into the start of NFL training camp.

Andrew Brandt said that when the 400 or 500 page Collective Bargaining Agreement comes out, they (salary cap executives like he was) just go to the 4 or 5 pages that matter -- the salary cap and free agency provisions. They don't care about things like pension provisions for the players.

Howie Roseman agreed, adding that when he gets his hands on the CBA, GMs also start looking for loopholes (in the cap and free agency).

Brandt, as founder of, and author for, The National Football Post (, said that writing about the NFL labor situation last year was not fun. He described it as "messy." But, he added, matter of factly, "it was a negotiation," as if to say that negotiations are, by their nature, messy.

Brandt did most of the talking during the seminar. Not because he was intent on dominating the discussion, but more than once, the Eagles' general manager, Roseman, said that he was unable to discuss certain player-personnel issues. The seminar's moderator, player agent Christopher Cabott, said not-entirely-jokingly that while Roseman would take questions, we should not bother asking the Eagles GM about free agency, the upcoming draft, or the status of Eagles star wide receiver, DeSean Jackson.

So why was it that Philadelphia Comcast SportsNet's Neil Hartman thought he could get Roseman to talk about free agency, the upcoming draft, and the status of Eagles star wide receiver, DeSean Jackson?

Hartman showed up at the sports law seminar with a camera at Widener University in Wilmington, Delaware, about 1/2 hour outside Philadelphia. Later in the evening, Comcast SportsNite's roundup program featured the first of a series of reports of their "exclusive" interview with Roseman, which was done at the law school following Roseman's appearance on the Sports and Entertainment law panel. Hartman, a distinguished sports reporter in the area, asked Roseman about the very things which Roseman said he was unable to discuss during our Sports Law panel discussion. And Roseman's answers to the interviewer were, as expected, non-specific.

Why Hartman felt it necessary to chase Roseman all the way down to Philadelphia is unclear to me. Is the Eagles General Manager not accessible in his Philadelphia office, which is just blocks from the studio where Hartman works?

Back to the panel, Andrew Brandt managed to narrow down the issues in the recent NFL labor environment. He said that lately, escalating player costs were outpacing revenues, fans weren't willing to pay for new stadia, and those facts are what the owners presented to the players. So, in the recent negotiations, some of the financial risk was shifted from owners to players. That shift comes in the form of the types of revenue now subject to the players share. On the players side, they wanted a shift in injury risk from players to owners. So as a result, players will now practice less, get hit less at practice, and work out less in pads.

Moderator Christopher Cabott then summarized what each side wants: Owners want more revenues going to the clubs in the revenue sharing arrangement with the players, an 18-game season, and a rookie salary cap.

The players, according to Cabott, want revenue divisions similar to the last CBA, a 16-game schedule, and to maintain post-career benefits.

As expected, there would be some good-natured needling and disagreement between the player and ownership reps on the panel. Player agent Cabott stated that an average NFL player's career is 3.4 years on grass, but only 3.2 for those who play home games on artificial turf.

Cabott was trying to make two points. First, that a player's career is short, and secondly, that home-turf players careers are shorter. I'm not so certain that a .2 years (6.3 percent) difference in career length is statistically significant. But the panelist on the owners' side had another problem with Cabott's statistics.

Roseman said that Cabott's numbers may have covered all NFL players, including those on an NFL roster that never play, and players that may be cut before playing a down. He said that if you go by just players who actually play in The League, the average years for a career rises into the 4's.

As for the revenue streams that were part of the contentious negotiations last year, Brandt made the point that the percentage that was thrown back and forth for player compensation was just part of the equation. Under the previous CBA, players were getting 60% of revenues towards the salary cap that teams could spend. That percentage was based on "Total Football Revenue," or TFR.

But Brandt made the distinction that the percentage received by players is not the only factor, but instead, it matters "OF WHAT" the percentage is from.

If you remember last summer's mess, the players and owners went back and forth on a lesser base percentage. Owners wanted players to get less than 50%, the players proposed something along the lines of 52% -- still less than the 60% the players has been getting under the previous CBA. But those percentages were of TOTAL revenues, not just football revenue, as per the previous CBA. So, under the new deal, players will get 46-48% of all revenues generated by the teams, which is a larger pool than just football revenue. This larger pool might thus include merchandising, concessions, and corporate sponsorships, which may not be covered under just "football revenue."

If you are interested in sports and entertainment legal and business issues, I recommend you research local Continuing Legal Education (CLE) programs or American Bar Association programs in your area. While these seminars can be expensive, you can usually just walk in and take a seat. Just don't tell them that I said so.

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