Should Chris Christie be considered one of the most powerful people in sports?
TUESDAY, 12 OCTOBER 2010 16:22
BY EVAN WEINER
THE BUSINESS AND POLITICS OF SPORTS
It is silly season again as a S. I. M. magazine "the only global sport business magazine targeting a dual readership that focuses exclusively on influence and affluence in today's ever-changing world" is polling readership and asking readers to name the most influential people in the world of sports. For the record, this United Kingdom-based publication has Joseph Blatter, the President of FIFA (Soccer) out in front in the voting followed by the President of the International Olympic Committee, Dr. Jacques Rogge and Herbert Hainer, the Chairman and CEO of adidas in the top three slots. The first American on the list and coming in at number four is Heidi Ueberroth, which is a head turner. Ueberroth's father Peter, of course, ran the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Committee and was the Commissioner of Major League Baseball but his daughter simply doesn't belong as high on this list as President of NBA International. Her boss David Stern as the Commissioner of the National Basketball Association has more power.
Stern is ninth on the list well ahead of NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman who is at 50. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who cannot get his league market attention and traction outside the North American continent unlike Stern, Bettman and Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig, who is 11th. Selig is 32nd, one spot ahead of CBS Sports President Sean McManus, which makes no sense. McManus just gave the NCAA billions of dollars in a partnership with Turner Sports for the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament. McManus' Turner Sports Partner David Levy is ranked 54th.
For some reason, S. I. M. magazine has San Francisco 49ers owner Denise DeBartolo York in the Top 100. York doesn't run the football team, her 29-year-old son Jed with a rather thin business resume does.
Stern, the former Teaneck resident, understands where the real power in sports is located. Stern's three legged stool formula for success always starts with government. In the United States and in a great many countries, elected officials either directly give money to sports (as in Malaysia) or set up laws that funnel money into sports whether it is through tax breaks, tax incentives, the building of facilities at taxpayers' expense and in America, the federal government changed the cable TV laws which allowed owners like the Yankees George Steinbrenner, the Mets Fred Wilpon and the Dolan-family owned New York Knicks, New York Rangers and New York Liberty to make enormous sums of money from cable TV. The feds also give tax breaks to corporations buying high item sports event seats for "business purposes."
In New Jersey, Chris Christie as Governor is more important to the sports world than the state's highest paid employees, the Rutgers football coach and the Rutgers men's and women's basketball coach. Christie has to decide the fate of the Meadowlands at some point soon along with the horse racing industry in the state. Horse racing is a sport even though none of the top 100 on S. I. M.'s list represent horse racing.
Governors, mayors, state elected officials are major players in sports as they control the purse strings. The Meadowlands complex never would have opened without government support.
When publications and websites put out lists of the Top 100 this, the Top 100 that, they are should always to be taken with a grain of salt. In 2007, BusinessWeek posted a list of the Top 100 Power People in sports with National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell on the top of the list. BusinessWeek should have asked me to be part of their panel because their list is filled with questionable choices and omissions.
BusinessWeek asked the wrong people — players, agents, sports gadflies, for their opinions and didn't know that there is a formula for sports success — government support, a large local cable TV deal and corporate support, the latter two made possible by government assistance.
It's too bad because that Power 100 list might be far more accurate with real sports business experts than the BusinessWeek 100 that was presented. There really is nothing on the list that indicates that the panelists thought about the UEFA 2008 football tournament. That happens to be the second most watched sports event in the world behind the World Cup.
There is nothing about cricket or boxing on the list. The National Hockey League Commissioner is rated just 27th on the list even though the NHL has lots of eyeballs watching its product in Europe far more eyeballs than the NFL on that continent.
The list also was too United States-centric. The oddity here is that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell heads a highly successfully United States business that is attempting to catch up with Soccer, Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association and yes even the downtrodden National Hockey League in the global community. The list places Los Angeles Kings, Los Angeles Galaxy and AEG owner Phillip Anschutz at number 21. Anschutz may be the most powerful man in sports globally. Anschutz's LA Kings opened the 2007-08 National Hockey League season in London in the London arena he owns against the Anaheim Ducks. .
Anschutz controlled most of the franchises in Major League Soccer and brought David Beckham to America. National Basketball Association Commissioner David Stern will tell you that London, England is the most ready city in Europe for an NBA franchise thanks to Anschutz.
Anschutz is also a major force behind the 2012 London Olympics.
The list has International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge but absent was the heads of the 2008 Beijing Summer Games, the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games, the 2012 London Summer Games and the 2014 Sochi Winter Games. That is worth noting because US Presidential candidate Mitt Romney launched his political career by running the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games. From there he ran for Governor of Massachusetts and may be attempting to get the Republican nomination for President in 2012.
Of course sports can be a great stepping stone. United States President George W. Bush was a two percent owner of the Texas Rangers baseball team and its general managing partner but he was never considered a Top 100 performer in sports during his days as a minority owner of a baseball team.
Texas Rangers and Dallas Stars owner Thomas O. Hicks, a major financial support of George W. Bush's 1994 and 1998 gubernatorial races in Texas and 2000 and 2004 Presidential bids is not on the list. Hicks and Montreal Canadiens owner George N. Gillett, Jr. purchased Liverpool P. C. in the English Premiere League and are building a football stadium in the English city that is more known for being the home of the Beatles John Lennon, Paul Mc Cartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr to Americans but Liverpool football has a long history. Tampa Bay Buccaneers owner Malcolm Glazier isn't on the BusinessWeek 100 Power list either. Glazier owns the most recognizable sports brand internationally, Manchester United. Manchester United football is a lot better known globally than the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Hicks and Gillett recently sold Liverpool to Boston Red Sox owner John Henry.
Two glaring omissions in the 2007 list came from the world of the original cable TV investors, Ted Rogers in Canada and Chuck Dolan in New York . Rogers owns the Toronto Blue Jays and Sportsnet, which carries Blue Jays baseball, five NHL teams telecasts and has the rights to the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics and the 2012 London Summer Olympics. Dolan, who helped found HBO, owns Madison Square Garden, the New York Knicks, New York Rangers, New York Liberty, the Madison Square Garden Network (which has Knicks basketball and the three New York City area hockey teams, the Rangers, Islanders and New Jersey Devils hockey as part of its programming along with the Liberty and other sports) and Radio City Music Hall.
Another cable TV guy, Altitude Sports and Entertainment Network-Colorado Avalanche-Denver Nuggets-St. Louis Rams-Colorado Crush-Colorado Rapids and Arsenal FC owner Stan Kroenke is also not highly thought of by BusinessWeek either. Nor is New York Islanders owner Charles Wang who is trying to raise hockey interest in China, nor are the Toronto Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment Chairman of the Board Larry Tannebaum a player on BusinessWeek's 100. Tannenbaum runs the NHL Maple Leafs, the NBA Raptors, the MLS Toronto FC, two Toronto arenas Leafs TV, Raptors TV and Maple Leaf Square which includes office space and residential living.
Why is Arnold Palmer on this list? Palmer was a great golfer in his day and businessman but if you include Palmer how do you leave off Jack Nicklaus and Greg Norman who are major figures in golf course development?
There is something else that is puzzling on the BusinessWeek 100 when it comes to NFL owners. Jerry Jones, Daniel Snyder, Robert Kraft, Robert Mc Nair and Jeffrey Lurie are the five most powerful NFL owners in that they stuck together and tried to break the NFL's "Leaguethink" philosophy during the last owners squabble over revenue sharing but neither Mc Nair nor Lurie are on the list. Denver owner Pat Bowlen was on the NFL TV committee, a group that helped negotiation the league's huge TV deals with Rupert Murdoch's FOX, General Electric's NBC, Disney's ESPN and Sumner Redstone's CBS along with DirecTV but he isn't on the list.
Where are politicians on this list? Without Anthony Williams, the former Washington mayor, there is no new baseball park in Washington; there is no Major League Baseball in the city period. Russian President Vladimir Putin belongs on this list. Putin lobbied the International Olympic Committee to get the 2014 Winter Olympics for Sochi and Putin was behind that the formation of a state corporation, which will supervise the infrastructural development of Sochi and the construction of the Olympic facilities.
Can BusinessWeek explain Vladislav Tretaik's 2007 exclusion on the list? Tretiak, the President of the Russian Ice Hockey Federation, refused to sign off on the International Ice Hockey Federation-National Hockey League transfer deal that allows young Russian players to play on an NHL in exchange for financial considerations.
Business Week also enlisted ESPN: The Magazine for data. Another mistake. ESPN may own TSN in Canada and ESPN International may carry North American sports around the world but you would never know it from the Power 100 list. Depending on ESPN reporters for business information is risky because ESPN reporters are clueless when it comes to business. What do Shane Battier, Amanda Beard, Bill Cowher, Carl Edwards, Brad Faxson, Martina Hingis, Mark Kreigel, Tommy Lasorda, Lisa Leslie and Mark Spitz know about dealing with politicians to secure taxpayers dollars for the Olympics, World Cup, Super Bowl and other major sports events globally for stadiums and arenas? What do they know about the difficulties in getting tax abatements, payment in lieu of taxes, tax increment financing in the United States, getting dollars from provincial hockey lotteries in Alberta, converting US dollars into pounds, Euros and Yuans?
If BusinessWeek did an honest list of the real power figures about 50 percent of the Top 100 would be gone. BusinessWeek failed to identify the real power behind sports, particularly in the United States. It's a fun list to scan but its little more than that. It is sort of like the Forbes list of what North American sports franchises are worth. Interesting reading but in reality a franchise is worth want someone is willing to pay for the business.
BusinessWeek's 2007 list was filled with glaring holes. In 2009, BusinessWeek had Tiger Woods as its most powerful sports player followed by Goodell and Stern. As always, no government people were on the 2009 BusinessWeek list. The S. I. M. 2010 list will be no better. BusinessWeek had Goodell ranked too high. Goodell is powerful in the US but is pretty feeble internationally compared to MLB Commissioner Bud Selig, NBA boss David Stern, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and FIFA President Blatter.
That will tell you a lot about that list.
Evan Weiner is an award winning author, radio and TV commentator and speaker on the "Business and Politics of Sports. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org