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Sports Business Hot Topics: MLB's Next Commissioner, NFL In London

July 17, 2014

Here are two of the hottest stories making the rounds in the sports business world. 

St. Louis Cardinals CEO Bill DeWitt Jr. is heading up the search committee to find a replacement for Allan Huber "Bud" Selig. After 22 years as MLB commissioner, Selig will retire when his contract expires Jan. 24, 2015. 

One of the names near the top of most media lists to replace Selig is former Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves executive Stan Kasten, who is currently the president and co-owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers. He has business experience, is a lawyer, understands the way MLB works and has a broadcast background from working with Ted Turner.

One of the favorites to replace Selig is Rob Manfred, the acting MLB executive vice president. Manfred has worked closely with Selig for almost a decade. He helped in the crafting of a new television package with ESPN, Fox and Turner Sports. The deal runs through 2021 with a total value worth $12.4 billion. That breaks down to about $50 million per team per year through the length of the contract, and that does not count local TV rights money, which is at an all-time high leaguewide. 

The stability of the game's bottom line could help Manfred's chances. In the NFL, Roger Goodell was an executive vice president and chief operating officer for the league before replacing Paul Tagliabue as commissioner in 2006. Adam Silver was NBA deputy commissioner and chief operating officer before taking over for David Stern as commissioner in February. 

Manfred's experience working in the MLB office could give him an advantage against other candidates.


Would you be willing to go to London to see an NFL game? 

As part of the NFL International Series, at least one league game has been played in London's Wembley Stadium since 2007. NFL and Wembley Stadium officials have started talking about a new long-term deal -- the current one will run out in 2016. NFL officials are also looking into the possibility of using another stadium in London, according to news reports.

In 2014, there will be three NFL games in London. The Oakland Raiders will face the Miami Dolphins Sept. 28, the Atlanta Falcons will take on the Detroit Lions Oct. 26, and the Dallas Cowboys will play the Jacksonville Jaguars Nov. 9. 

There had been talk about relocating an NFL team to London or having an expansion team there. It now seems NFL officials are leaning more toward the concept of playing an increased number of games in London, perhaps as many as eight per year.

The NFL has made seeing a game in London like going to a college bowl game, complete with travel and sightseeing packages. If officials from the NFL and Wembley Stadium can't come to a favorable arrangement, then finding a partner to build a stadium could be an attractive option. 

League executives have had early conversations with some Americans who own teams in the English Premier League about the possibility of building a stadium in London where there could be up to eight NFL games per year as well as a full schedule of EPL games.

Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan bought London-based Fulham of the Premier League in July 2013. Fulham's home games are at Craven Cottage, a 25,700-seat stadium in west London. It is possible that the NFL and Khan could work out a deal for a new stadium. 

Meanwhile, St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke owns Arsenal, another London-based Premier League team. With some changes, Arsenal's 60,361-seat Emirates Stadium could be ready for NFL games by 2017. Emirates Stadium is the third-largest football venue in England, trailing Wembley and Old Trafford (home of the Premier League's Manchester United).

If the NFL schedules more and more games in London, it's possible the NFL would hold a Super Bowl in London. According to news reports, Goodell would consider that possibility.