Americas Bulletin: MLB and Nascar leave it late; Under Armour joins the big leagues and more

SportsPro’s Americas Bulletin, dishing up a regular diet of news, views and insight from across the business of sport in the Western Hemisphere.

Americas Bulletin: MLB and Nascar leave it late; Under Armour joins the big leagues and more

It was touch and go but they got there just in time. Major League Baseball (MLB) and its players’ union, the MLBPA, agreed terms on a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) last Wednesday, settling on the framework for a reworked deal after 36 hours of round-the-clock negotiations and just hours before the 1st December deadline. The new five-year agreement, which comes amid record revenues for the league and on the back of record TV ratings for last season’s World Series, extends MLB’s 21 years of labour peace, ensuring there will have been no work stoppage for more than a quarter of a century.

Another 11th-hour deal saw Nascar finally put speculation surrounding its new top-tier series title sponsor to bed this week when it officially confirmed its rumoured deal with Monster Energy. The new contract lifts a weight off the shoulders of Nascar’s senior leadership but, as suspected, it is understood to be worth considerably less - as much as two and a half times less, according to ESPN’s Darren Rovell - than the current contract with Sprint.

Speaking at a launch event in Las Vegas on Thursday, Nascar chief Brian France (left) took credit for the deal, saying the approach to Monster was “one of the few sales calls I actually personally made”. He also pinned his hopes on the brand’s ability to attract millennials to a sport in dire need of younger fans and called the deal “a very difficult agreement to come to”, putting the protracted nature of negotiations down to “complexities” such as track and media components.

In other sponsorship news, MLB, Fanatics Inc and Under Armour made their on-field uniform and apparel licensing deal official on Monday. The landmark agreement, first reported in October, will begin in 2020 and run for a decade. In what is Under Armour’s first league-wide apparel contract, the brand from Baltimore will design and manufacture all on-field gear while Fanatics, the world’s largest retailer of sporting goods, will make and sell jerseys and licensed products in return for the lion’s share of the revenues. ESPN reports that the deal guarantees greater royalties from jersey sales for MLB’s 30 teams, who are currently supplied by Majestic and Nike.

Elsewhere, in a week that saw it gain the “strong support” of president-elect Donald Trump, the LA2024 Olympic bid released a revised budget on Friday in which it sets itself a record sponsorship target of US$1.93 billion should it win the right to stage the 2024 Games. Totalling less than half that of this summer’s edition in Rio, the bid’s “no surprises balanced budget” includes US$5.3 billion of revenue and cost, leaving a net position of precisely zero and a contingency of US$491.9 million, or just over ten per cent of costs.

As well as generating nearly US$2 billion from domestic sponsorship and activation, the bid team hopes to make US$1.47 billion from ticketing, while the US$1.1 billion it plans to spend on venue overlay will be the largest expenditure for what LA mayor Eric Garcetti (right) described as “a fiscally responsible Games”.

Is the North American Soccer League (NASL) on the brink of collapse? Reports in the US say the troubled league’s days are numbered, with three teams having jumped ship this year to rival leagues, several existing sides haemorrhaging money, and the third-tier United Soccer League (USL) looking increasingly likely to take its place as North American soccer’s second division. Adding to the sense of impending doom, reports emerged this week that the New York Cosmos, the NASL’s reigning champions and marquee franchise, have ceased operations for the second time in their tumultuous history.

A source with knowledge of the situation told last week that the Cosmos, who returned to the NASL in 2013, have terminated their players’ contracts amid mounting financial losses, dwindling attendances, front-office layoffs, and attempts by their ownership to offload the team. An official announcement on the future of the club, who deny the reports, is expected in the coming days. In the meantime, a GoFundMe page has been set up by fans to help pay unpaid staff over the upcoming holiday period.

In other news, the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) has appointed a new chief financial officer in the shape of Andrew Schleimer, who replaces the outgoing Nakisa Bidarian; the Houston Rockets have become the first National Basketball Association (NBA) team to hire a dedicated eSports executive, installing 25-year-old Sebastian Park as their director of eSports development, per Bloomberg; and Brazil's anti-trust body, CADE, has said several construction companies in the country formed a cartel and conspired to rig bids for at least five 2014 Fifa World Cup stadium contracts, including Rio de Janeiro's Maracana Stadium

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