Friday, September 30, 2011

New York and New Jersey done a favor by not getting 2012 Olympics
Thursday, 29 September 2011 10:40

It has been more than six years since we last heard from Jay Kriegel and NYC2012, the group that had hoped to bring the 2012 Summer Olympics to the New York City metropolitan area. The New York Olympic dream or at least the Dan Doctoroff, Kreigel and others dream, ended in June 2005 when New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver voted against building a West Side Olympic/football stadium.

Doctoroff decided New York would be a perfect place to hold the Olympics while watching a Soccer World Cup match in New Jersey at the Meadowlands in 1994.

Sheldon Silverhammer came down on NYC2012 head, Sheldon Silverhammer made sure NYC2012 was dead and in doing so probably did New York and New Jersey taxpayers a major favor. He saved them hundreds of millions of dollars as the International Olympic Committee requires local communities to pay for Olympics cost overruns.

NYC2012 limped into the Olympics selection sweepstakes without a stadium and lost to London. Recently the organizers of the 2012 London Summer Olympics announced that they would no longer provide financial summaries of the Games since it might be a distraction. The general feeling is that Prime Minister Tony Blair’s 2005 genuflecting act before the International Olympic Committee and London’s 2012 budget will be causing some cash flow problems after the Games are done.

So see no evil, say no evil and hear no evil or taking a Sgt. Schultz “I know nothing. Nothing.” stance is probably best. It may also be telling. London could be losing copious amounts of money on the Games even though Prime Minister David Cameron claims the Games will be worth a billion pounds (or $1.5 billion) in economic impact. Some analysts think England is spending 7.2 billion pounds or $11.2 billion on the event.

Those numbers should become available in about a year although no one knows what China spent on the 2008 Games. Budapest considered a 2012 Olympics bid and came in with a $28 billion budget which seemed absurd. Hungary was going to redo the country’s infrastructure to house the Games. The bid never got off the ground.

Kreigel and NYC2012 contended that a 2012 New York Olympics would have cost $3.3 billion and would have been paid for by ticket sales, TV revenues and various IOC funds including merchandising.

The 2004 Athens Summer Olympics didn't cause Greece's financial meltdown but the billions of Euros that need to be paid off by the government for the debt accumulated by hosting the Games.

Sheldon Silver voted against funding the Manhattan west side stadium was not necessarily a vote against the Olympics. Silver was concerned too much money would be funneled into the stadium that would have been built between 34th and 30th Street and 11th and 12th Avenues and that his downtown district would lose out on dollars for local needs.

Is government spending on sports worth it?

For fans the answer is yes even though a lot of middle and lower class fans have been priced out of stadiums by owners who got public money for new stadiums.

The stadium game was pretty simple. Owners knew investing in stadiums was prohibitive and asked for government handouts, if they didn't get the local government to help with financial assistance for a new stadium, another city would give owners just what they wanted on the public dime.

That is what happened in Cincinnati although the owners of the Major League Baseball's Reds never did say they would leave town without a new stadium. The Brown family, the Bengals' owners, did in the mid 1990s when they threatened to move to Baltimore without a new stadium. Cleveland Browns owner Art Modell beat the Brown family to Baltimore. Eventually Cincinnati and Hamilton County worked which included a 0.5 percent sales tax hike which would pay down the stadium debt.

The Browns finally kept virtually all of the revenue generated inside the stadium which is capped at 92 percent by federal law. Eight cents on every dollar generated inside the building could go back to the municipality to pay down the debt thanks to the 1986 federal tax reforms.

The sales tax hike did not produce the revenues needed to pay off the two stadiums debt and that has become a major problem. The Reds and Bengals ownership got sweetheart deals and local taxpayers now face a tax hike or slashed services and municipal employees could lose their jobs because of sports stadiums debt.

Don’t expect the Reds or Bengals ownership to share in the sacrifice. After all a contract is contract and the lease is good for them.

Hamilton County needs $14 million in a hurry to pay off the 2011 stadium bill. The county doesn't have the money for the two stadiums debt load. Hamilton County property owners are now paying more on their tax bill because of the stadium but that is not enough.

The two teams got great deals from Hamilton County—maybe too great. Back in the 1990s, the general feeling was that if you built a stadium, it would be an economic engine. A platform that featured a stadium and potential growth of businesses around the facility. That has never happened although some will argue that downtown Baltimore was revitalized by a baseball stadium but that would be wrong. The Orioles baseball park was the next to last piece of an urban renewal that included a museum and an aquarium along with the building of a retail center.

The football stadium was supposed to have cost $280 million. The official price tag is being disputed with the Bengals owners saying the field cost $350 million while local politicians say it is $454 million. Hamilton County was on the hook for $34 million in debt payoff in 2010. The country pays the day-to-day maintenance of the facility

The Cincinnati Enquirer newspaper did something remarkable last Sunday for a newspaper. The newspaper reported on the financial problems of the two stadiums that were built for Reds baseball and Bengals football and how the stadiums have become a financial drain on the city. The paper's reporter checked out how other cities were handling cost overruns of stadiums and arenas.

The reporter looked at a number of cities. Indianapolis built a new football facility which nearly bankrupted the city's Capital Improvement Board with a $47 million a year shortfall. The Capital Improvement Board fired people and cut other costs while Indiana created a Professional Sports Development Zone near the stadium and there was a tax hike--one percent boost in hotel taxes.

That might not help. More tax hikes could come in 2013.

The stadium game has been a losing proposition for years. Jay Cross, the man who was supposed to deliver to Jets owner Woody Johnson, once said that the only people who benefit from a new stadium or a new arena were owners, players and parking lot attendants.

The Cincinnati saga is being ignored in other cities. Sacramento's city council voted on Tuesday to spend $555,000 to consultants as the first step in building a new arena to house the National Basketball Association's Kings. The city's mayor is Kevin Johnson a former National Basketball Association player. Johnson claims that the $555,000 investment (in a city that has cut municipal jobs and social services and has had a tent city for homeless within Sacramento) is worthwhile because an arena can create thousands of jobs and bring billions of dollars into the region.

Johnson is still reading off of the 1990s pro sports script sounding like Major League Baseball Commissioner Fay Vincent telling Cleveland build a stadium and it will open up enormous business opportunities for you. Cleveland built a baseball park, an arena and a football facility and none of them has done much to revitalize the struggling downtown. The next hope is a casino to turn Cleveland's fortunes around.

Silver did New York and New Jersey taxpayers a favor by killing the New York Olympics dream. Montreal and Quebec residents pay extra taxes for 30 years to pay down the debt of the 1976 Summer Olympics. Do local politicians learn a lesson? No Montreal leaders were thinking of bidding for another summer event. Sydney, Australia interests are paying down the debt on unused facilities as a legacy from the 2000 Summer Olympics. Greece has to pay billions of Euros to pay off the 2004 Games.

Still countries continue bidding for the Olympics; California politicians have bowed to the Anschutz Entertainment Group and are trying to fast track a Los Angeles football stadium despite losing a convention center. Minnesota politicians are trying to figure out how to built a Vikings football stadium, Charles Wang's New York islanders could spark a bidding war for the team between Brooklyn interests, Nassau County interests, possibly Queens interests and Quebec City investors. Of course Quebec as a province is broke but that probably won't stop politicians from funding an arena and out in Edmonton, politicians seem to be a little too slow for the National Hockey League's Oilers owner Daryl Katz's liking on funding a new arena. Katz has told Edmonton elected officials vote on the arena issue by October 31 or else. Whatever the "or else" means. Buffalo, Oakland, San Diego and St. Louis politicians better start firing up the mint if they want to keep their NFL teams around.

The Buffalo Bills record is 3-0 but that's immaterial. The Bills next real important game will take place in 2012 or 2013 when the lease between Erie County and New York State officials ends and the real contest begins---"the Stadium Game."

Evan Weiner, the winner of the United States Sports Academy's 2010 Ronald Reagan Media Award, is an author, radio-TV commentator and speaker on "The Politics of Sports Business." His book, "The Business and Politics of Sports, Second Edition" is available at, Barnes and Noble or Amazon Kindle.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Another week of sports business tests fan loyalty
MONDAY, 26 SEPTEMBER 2011 10:44
Sometimes you wonder why people become emotionally and, in some cases, overzealous about sports. After all, it is just a game and when one ends another begins. It is understandable that someone cares when they are an active participant in a sports activity but why should a fan care about an industry — sports is an industry — when the real owners of sports seem to take a rather cavalier attitude about their customers.
Just in the last week, the National Basketball Association’s collective ownership through their hired help — NBA Commissioner David Stern is an employee of a consortium of 29 owners (the franchise in New Orleans is owned by the league) — “postponed” (canceled is the real word) the opening training camp sessions and 43 preseason games (which count as regular season games in season ticket plans even though they are not bona fide contests in the strictest sense of competition as part of the 30 team’s business plan.
The only good news for season ticket holders is that a good many of those games were scheduled in so-called neutral sites). There is no word on whether cable TV subscribers will get a refund for paying for something that is not going to be available for them -- NBA pre-season games on cable TV.
While David Stern and the owners’ lockout continues, there is a very real possibility that Seton Hall and St. John’s University basketball fans may see the Big East Conference crumble as big time jock factories presidents and chancellors are again building up cartels and “expanding” big time sports conferences.
Pittsburgh and Syracuse, not the cities but the two jock-factory schools that play big time college football and basketball and earn money off of college kids who don’t get paid for their services and in some cases risk their health for the good old alma mater, have decided the Big East is no longer their cup of tea. The school presidents have decided that there is more prestige playing in the Atlantic Coast Conference and more money that can be squeezed out of fans from a cable TV contract. Pittsburgh’s chancellor Mark Nordenberg made it quite clear that college sports is a business when he addressed the issue talking to the media.
"Every university leader involved in intercollegiate athletics really has two fundamental responsibilities,’’ said Nordenberg. “One is to work to build strength in a current conference home. The second is to be appropriately attentive to the changing landscape and institutional opportunities that might need to be pursued. We also have been attentive to that responsibility. There's nothing incompatible about those.”
Nordenberg’s quote seemed to contradict the school’s 2003 stance when Boston College, Virginia Tech and the University of Miami left the conference to join the ACC.
Pitt brass was very critical of the move after the ACC poached The Big East for “big market schools” to strengthen the ACC’s bargaining position with cable TV executives because the conference needed bigger TV markets.
"We made very clear that if other opportunities did arise, we would feel obligated to seriously assess them looking at the long-term future of the University of Pittsburgh, and I made that point clearly in writing both to the commissioner of the Big East and chair of the conference in May of 2010, and they each responded was they thought the position I had articulated for Pittsburgh was the position that had been embraced by all the members of the conference."
The University of Connecticut seems to be the next Big East school to jump to the ACC. The irony here is that the state of Connecticut sued the ACC in 2003 for poaching the Big East. The case was settled and the ACC took the three schools for TV purposes.
There are some issues surrounding schools jumping from conference to conference for TV dollars. The first is just how are those TV dollars generated? They come from somewhere and the answer is that somewhere is cable TV consumers, who probably have no idea that their money is going to support big time college athletic programs.
The 1984 Congressional rework of cable TV rules that created a sort of cable TV socialism was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan. Cable TV is the second biggest part of the three necessities needed to operate a successful franchise in Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association, the National Hockey League and Major League Soccer. You can add big time jock factories to that list as well.
The 1984 legislation created a basic expanded tier where “networks” could be banded together and sold as one to consumers. It was the lifeline that saved CNN, the Weather Channel, ESPN and others. The “I Want My MTV” ad campaign grew out of that because the MTV owners wanted to be placed on that tier because that was where money could be made. The cable systems operator decided what should be on that tier, not the consumer, and sports was a natural fit. ESPN thrived and started jacking up the network’s rate. Regional sports networks were founded and that became a huge source of revenue for teams.
The New York Yankees franchise was fortified by TV.
College presidents and chancellors are jumping on the bandwagon. The Disney-owned ESPN has created a University of Texas sports network. The college “realignments” have been caused by the want for TV dollars.
There is not that much interest in the college sports industry on TV. It is a niche industry at best and the cable TV ratings reflect that as a rather small number of people in the cable TV universe (ESPN has over 90 million subscribers) watch the games, yet 100 percent of the people are paying for what a rather small number of people are viewing. (Cable TV “news” works the same way, 100 percent of the basic tier universe is paying for what maybe a combined five million are watching on the FOX News Channel, CNN, MSNBC, CNBC, FOX Business, CNN’s “Headline News” and other networks.)
The colleges and universities also have a federal tax exemption, which means that the schools and conferences don’t pay taxes from the proceeds of bowl games.
Consumers should be screaming about getting fleeced legally by jock factories by cable TV networks and tax loopholes because of federal legislation that does not help consumers. There are also some questions that need to be answered about all of the stars realigning to produce “Super Conferences.”
Just where is the money going? Most athletic programs lose money, so is the Disney and Rupert Murdoch money going to fix a budget problem or will the college student body see any of that money? Will the money go to pay coaches even more money? Why are college coaches the highest paid state employees in places like Connecticut, Iowa and New Jersey coaching at state schools? Why are governors like Chris Christie not addressing the issue? Rutgers is a New Jersey state school and all of the realignments will impact Rutgers.
Why are the players, the people who make the games possible, getting nothing out of this? The players get scholarship money, yes, and an opportunity to get an education, yes, but the demands on a so-called “student-athlete” are great as there is the emphasis on the sport, not studies. The players on scholarship are also stymied in non-school job opportunities as they are limited to about $2,000 in earning from outside work annually while on scholarship. Other college students are free to earn as much as they can in part time jobs.
Jock factories can say, look because of Bobby Bowden’s or Joe Paterno’s or Bobby Knight’s success, we got money to build new labs, etc. There probably will be some noise that college games have a big economic impact (but local and state governments don’t want to research the real economic benefits of sports because the numbers may not coincide with reality -- that the economic impact is minimal at best).
There is a paucity of reporting on the why Pac 12 Commissioner Larry Scott thinks an Arizona State-University of Southern California baseball game in Japan is great for his conference. Scott wants to put Pac 12 sports in front of Pacific Rim viewers. Don’t be surprised if the Pac 12 starts sending football teams to Asia for games, Scott’s tennis background suggests that he knows all the key money players in Asia and that the college presidents and chancellors of the then Pac 10 when he was hired wanted global expansion.
But what is the real reason that these chancellors are acting like pro sports owners and why are Robert Iger from Disney and Murdoch playing ball with them? Are they bettering the schools or just seizing an opportunity to grab more money?
Sy Syms in ads for his clothing store boasted that “an educated consumer is our best customer,” but that may not be the case in sports. The less a consumer knows the better off sports is as a business.
So Seton Hall, St, John’s and Georgetown probably will be thrown under the jock factory bus because the schools don’t play football and football is driving conference realignments. Without football, those schools are not welcomed into the super college jock factory club. They will be left behind in the money grab because they are not worthy.

So it goes in the world of sports. NBA lockout, college sports realignment, allegations by the British Broadcasting Corporation’s Newsnight that the Beeb has uncovered evidence of secret payments of millions of dollars from Azerbaijan in exchange for two boxing Olympic gold medals at the London 2012 Olympics. Phil Anschutz, the owner of the Los Angeles arena that houses the NBA’s Lakers and Clippers (Anschutz is a part Lakers owner), all of a sudden showing an interest in developing a Sacramento arena for the NBA’s Kings after the team owners, the Maloof brothers, made a pitch to relocate the franchise in Anschutz’s backyard in Anaheim and become a competitor for corporate support in the market.
The Lakers franchise in 2012 will start printing cash as a part owner (with Time Warner Cable) of a Lakers cable TV network in Southern California but Anschutz seem to want to make sure there is no reason for the Maloofs to cash in on LA area cash. While Anschutz will try and play white knight for Sacramento Kings fans, he is trying to convince an NFL owner to move to his proposed football stadium in downtown Los Angeles.
That was the week that was. It makes you wonder why sports fans still watch games when the lords of the game don’t care about them.
Evan Weiner, the winner of the United States Sports Academy's 2010 Ronald Reagan Media Award, is an author, radio-TV commentator and speaker on "The Politics of Sports Business." His book, "The Business and Politics of Sports, Second Edition" is available at, Barnes and Noble or amazonkindle.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Ask Rick Perry about failed Formula 1 racing investment in U.S.
MONDAY, 19 SEPTEMBER 2011 13:50
There is a question that "news presenters" who somehow get the plum assignment of moderating a GOP Presidential nomination debate should ask Governor Rick Perry of Texas. But given the absolute lack of imagination and scant information that the presenters and their researchers have or the lack of diligence in fact finding, it is unlikely that Governor Perry will be asked the following.
"Governor Perry, why are you, with your state having colossal financial problems (an estimated $27 billion hole), investing $250 million into a Formula-1 car racetrack in Austin, Texas in an effort to help Billy Joe "Red" McCombs re-introduce the car race to American audiences when F-1 racing is a proven failure in the U.S.?"
It is hard to believe that Brian Williams, Wolf Blitzer, Bret Baier or any other presenter would actually ask a narrow policy question in a national debate (These presenters take their jobs somewhat seriously. In 1992 ABC presenter Carole Simpson complained about the debate format in the Bush-Clinton-Perot gabfest which allowed normal citizens to ask questions troubled her as the electorate is filled with unqualified people. Ironically the electorate depends on Simpson and others to inform them. Simpson’s complaint did not reflect well on her and her colleagues’ professional acumen).
But there should be at least a mention of the quarter of a billion dollar subsidy and an inspection of the Texas-F1 contract as to how much money will Bernie Ecclestone and F1 keep from a television contract, how much of the ticket sales will go to Bernie Ecclestone and F1 and how much goes back to Texas as well as concession and how much rent Texas taxpayers can expect to see in the deal. Will there be a corporate sponsor slapping a name on the racetrack marquee and will investors/taxpayers get any of that money?
Will the Perry/Texas investment yield a dividend for Texas taxpayers or just put money in McCombs and F1's pocket?
Allegedly private money is going to pay the estimated $180 million required to build a permanent 120,000 seat F1 facility for Full Throttle Productions, McCombs company and Ecclestone, the commercial rights holder of F1. If the facility is being funded by private funds, why has Perry green lighted an annual $25 million payment to help out F1 and Full Throttle? Do the math; the state will spend a quarter of a billion dollars for 40 full time jobs. The race organizers contend the track will be a winner for Austin with the creation of 1,500 construction jobs, and 1,200 people will work the race on a per diem basis annually for maybe four or five days.
The race backers claim the track will be used 250 days a year. The key word in all of this is "claim".
The race people contend the race will have $300 million worth of economic impact but offer no proof behind the rationale of their claim. Sports organizers offer make large boasts of large economic impact, but New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said last year no one has ever really done a study to show the real economic impact of sports events in a community.
Austin taxpayers are kicking in $13 million for infrastructure and could be on the hook for an additional $4 million annually in subsidies for ten years. In this day and age, private money to build sports venues is rare and there are examples of private money sports arena failures in Minneapolis in 1994 and Columbus, Ohio in 2011.
Government support is an absolute necessity for sports in the United States. No project can be successful without cash handouts or tax incentives like PILOTS and TIFS. Will Ecclestone/McCombs pay property taxes to Austin? Is there a hidden taxbreak?
National Basketball Association and National Hockey League teams pay zero property taxes across the United States.
If Formula One is such a good investment, why is government dollars needed? Perry who is the hero of those who want sharp government cuts has created a government F1 racing program.
There seems to be something hypocritical about Perry’s stance that is at odds with his dogma. Perry’s recent political ideological book seems to be at odds with his political stances.
When completed, the Austin track will give F1 the circuit's first a permanent track in the United States in decades. Long Beach, California, Las Vegas, Detroit, Dallas and Phoenix have had street races which were fails. The F1 series inside the Indianapolis held eight races at the Brickyard.
F-1 racing has never been held in the New York area although there was a plan to hold a race in the early 1980s was never materialized. Now the mayors of Weehawken and West New York want to stage an F-1 race on the streets of those New Jersey municipalities in 2013. F-1 racing has been a financial disaster in the United States and the racing loop has not held an event in America since 2007. Formula One races were held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway between 2000 and 2007.
F1 does well globally but the United States has been a challenge.
The Austin November 18, 2012 date seems odd in that the University Texas football season is still in swing and Austin is the home of the University of Texas. Football is king in Texas and McCombs is a huge financial supporter of University of Texas sports but he has apparently agreed that F-1 and football can co-exist for one week in November. The race will also have competition from the National Football League, specifically the Dallas Cowboys and the Houston Texans.
But Governor Perry has cushioned the blow of possible financial losses by making sure the state taxpayers are subsidizing the racing event if things don’t work out for McCombs.
McCombs has partnered with Tavo Hellmund to bring F-1 racing to Austin with Perry's blessing. Hellmund has a long history of being a race participant and racing promoter.
F-1 racing is different from NASCAR and Indy Car Racing according to the racing association's website.
"Formula One, also known as Formula 1 or F1, and currently officially referred to as the FIA Formula One World Championship, is the highest class of single-seater auto racing sanctioned by the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA). The "formula" in the name refers to a set of rules to which all participants' cars must comply.
"The F1 season consists of a series of races, known as Grand Prix, held on purpose-built circuits, and public roads. The results of each race are combined to determine two annual World Championships, one for the drivers and one for the constructors, with racing drivers, constructor teams, track officials, organizers and circuits required to be holders of valid Super Licenses, the highest class racing license issued by the FIA.
“Formula One cars race at high speeds, up to 360 km/hour (220 mph) with engines revving up to a formula imposed limit of 18,000 rpm. The cars are capable of pulling in excess of 5 g on some corners. The performance of the cars is highly dependent on electronics (although traction control and driving aids have been banned since 2008), aerodynamics, suspension, and tires. The formula has seen many evolutions and changes through the history of the sport."
Perry has signed off on the quarter of a billion dollar package to subsidize an annual race starting in 2012 and ending in 2021. McCombs, who was a co-founder of the now bankrupt Clear Channel Communications empire (and right wing talk radio shows with a liberal show sprinkled in for balance), led the charge to get the race and racetrack built in the Texas state capital. McCombs has a long sports history including a onetime stake in the NBA's San Antonio Spurs and the NFL's Minnesota Vikings.
McCombs failed to get a new stadium built in the Twin-Cities and sold the Vikings to New Jersey resident Zygi Wilf for a reported $600 million in 2005. Wilf is battling with Minnesota lawmakers in his effort to get a new football facility built in the Twin-Cities.
During the spring when Texas and Formula 1 deal was concluded, Perry trumpeted the deal and his words are still etched into the F-1 website.
Texas Governor Rick Perry conveyed his enthusiasm for the project, explaining Texas' relatively strong economy continues to draw both national and international attention and I commend Comptroller Combs for her work in bringing this exciting event to the Lone Star State.
The presenters should ask Perry about the commitment in what is a documented money losing venture, after all if F-1 racing in the U.S. was a good deal, there would be elected officials jumping through hoops to build a permanent facility for the event.

No one really in the United States pushed for F1 races until Austin came around. The New Jersey plan doesn't call for permanent structures.
When the agreement was executed, Perry was dealing with a record budget deficit and discussing the possibility of slashing services and jettison teachers. Why would any elected official even think of spending taxpayers’ dollars on an unpopular form of entertainment when staring at a record budget shortfall?
The presenters who moderate the debates ought to do a better job in getting ready for the debates. But for the most part, they are as woeful as the candidates (see Gwen Ifill in the 2008 Vice Presidential debates performance as a moderator. Ifill lost control of the debate asking Sarah Palin a question), maybe worse. So some free advice for the next presenter, ask Rick Perry about his commitment to Billy Joe McCombs, because a fiscal conservative like Perry needs to explain the Texas investment in a proven loser in the United States, F1 racing.
Evan Weiner, the winner of the United States Sports Academy's 2010 Ronald Reagan Media Award, is an author, radio-TV commentator and speaker on "The Politics of Sports Business." His book, "The Business and Politics of Sports, Second Edition" is available at, Barnes and Noble or Amazon Kindle.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Could Major League Baseball or 'honkball' be coming to the Netherlands?
TUESDAY, 13 SEPTEMBER 2011 13:21
(Amsterdam, the Netherlands) – The flight out of Schiphol near Amsterdam in the Netherlands should be heartening for the Lords of Major League Baseball. Looking out the window, one can see four baseball diamonds as a flight heads out to the North Sea. There is gold in those diamonds if Major League Baseball can attract locals to play baseball.
There is some talk that Dutch baseball officials want to host a Major League Baseball game in Hoofddorp near Amsterdam in 2014. Could Honkball (Dutch for baseball) be played on a Major League level in The Netherlands on a one-off circumstance?
It is possible but the Dutch need a honkball stadium for a game or a series as MLB is not sending two teams to Amsterdam or Hoofddorp to play just one game and there is a need to build a higher level of awareness for the game. Hoofddorp plans to open a 30,000 seat facility which would be used for an MLB series. There is money available in Amsterdam and the country is rebuilding the infrastructure so the low country might be a good place to start in MLB’s quest to find a European market and sell baseball.
The Netherlands will be celebrating 100 years of baseball in the country in 2012 but a lot of work needs to be done before anyone will consider the Netherlands a baseball hotbed. At sporting goods stores in places like Delft and Rotterdam there are football (soccer) kits, footballs, sneakers, basetballs and lots and lots of bicycles. Baseball gloves are not widely available. Baseball doesn’t have a bottom to the top support system starting with youth baseball and working through high schools in the country.
Yet, the Netherlands national baseball team is pretty good. The Netherlands is for some reason the most baseball friendly country on the European continent and you can spot a lot of Atlanta Braves hats along with New York Yankees caps, although Yankees caps can even be spotted in St. Petersburg, Russia. The team upset the Dominican Republic in the 2009 World Baseball Classic (WBC) and the country will return to the WBC in 2013. The team competed in four Summer Olympics between 1996 and 2008 and the only reason that the country won’t have a baseball team in the 2012 Summer Games in London is simple. The overseers of the five interlocking rings two week corporate bazaar were upset that Major League Baseball didn’t want to play ball with them and send the game’s best players to compete. MLB didn’t want to shut down the regular season to allow their players to compete in a glorified all-star tournament and the International Olympic Committee delegates decided that golf and rugby were better fits for the competition than baseball and women’s softball.
The International Olympic Committee also went after Major League Baseball by badgering members of Congress in 2003 and 2004 because the self appointed arbitrators of sport didn’t like Major League Baseball’s drug testing policies. These were the same people who took bribes from competing cities in exchange for votes during the bidding between cities for the right to host an Olympics. These were the same people who required host cities to set up what is nothing more than a slush fund to pay for construction overcosts for an Olympics.
The Netherlands team is more than just European trained players. There are some Americans who have Dutch roots and a number of players who are from the Netherlands’ Caribbean territories, Aruba, the Netherlands Antilles and Curacao.
Major League Baseball blew an opportunity to establish a footprint on the European continent in 1992 when the owners and the players association could not come up with a payment formula for members of the New York Mets and St. Louis Cardinals to play a few spring training games in Barcelona as a prelude to the 1992 Barcelona Summer Olympics. The IOC in those days classified baseball as demonstration sport. The Mets and Cardinals Barcelona series never took place.
Major League Baseball officials would like to get into Europe. Mike Piazza has been spreading the baseball gospel in Italy and one of baseball’s newest Hall of Fame members, Dutch born but California raised Bert Blyleven is also trying to raise baseball awareness in the Netherlands. MLB looked into the possibility of holding games in Italy in 2012.
Baseball like other North American based sports is feeling the need to go global. Later this month four NHL teams including the New York Rangers will start the regular season with games in Stockholm, Sweden, Helsinki, Finland and Berlin, Germany. The four teams will also spend part of training camp in Europe. The National Basketball Association, currently in a lockout mode, sent the New Jersey Nets and the Toronto Raptors to London for a pair of games last March. The NBA has a significant footprint in Europe and NBA Commissioner David Stern has long been an advocate of establishing an NBA European division but the league has not been able to find the right cities for the plan to work.
Only London and Berlin seem to have the “North American” style building that Stern seeks. Coincidentally the London and Berlin buildings are run by AEG, the Los Angeles based entertainment company headed by Phil Anschutz. Anschutz owns the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings (Anschutz’s Kings will play in the NHL’s Berlin opener) and a piece of the LA Lakers. A couple of years ago, Stern felt London, Berlin and Rome, Italy could support NBA teams.
Both hockey and basketball are well established entities in Europe. Both the NHL and NBA have European trained athletes in the leagues. MLB had just two Dutch born players on active rosters in 2011, Seattle outfielder Greg Halman and Baltimore pitcher Rick VanderHurk.
A guy by the name of Derek Jeter won the Yankees shortstop position in 1996 beating out the Dutch born Robert Eenhoorn for the job.
Eenhoorn now runs the Dutch baseball program.
Major League Baseball is looking for new markets; the Netherlands, Italy, Ghana and India are on the industry’s radar. The International Baseball Federation once had the Netherlands ranked as high as sixth in the group’s ranking of baseball powers.
The view from the soaring plane of four baseball diamonds is rather impressive for MLB. You just don’t find many baseball fields in Europe but there are at least four in the Netherlands that you can see from the sky and there probably are quite a few more scattered around the country.

The Netherlands wants a Major League Honkball game or two in 2014. MLB would gladly provide them with a few games in exchange for a considerable amount of euros. That’s what sports is all about anyway, dollars, loonies, pesos, euro, yen, yuan and how to maximize whatever currency into the business.
The Netherlands is calling, now it is up to the country to get the right stadium and the right amount of Euros together for Major League Honkball.
Evan Weiner,the winner of the United States Sports Academy's 2010 Ronald Reagan Media Award, is an author, radio-TV commentator and speaker on "The Politics of Sports Business." His book, "The Business and Politics of Sports, Second Edition" is available at, Barnes and Noble or Amazon Kindle.