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Madkour: First-quarter stories that grabbed our attention

Here are the people and stories that stood out to me in the first three months of 2022.

Baseball’s Uneasy Labor Peace: The bottom line on MLB’s new collective-bargaining agreement is that, in the end, neither side was happy with the deal. There’s hope both sides hit the refresh button on the spirit of the relationship and roll out innovations — many already announced — to improve the product. But remember, the sides must return to the negotiating table later this year on some remaining issues, and sources I’ve spoken with are concerned about what lies ahead at the end of this CBA’s short five-year shelf life.

PGA Tour Brushes Back LIV Golf: In what could be Jay Monahan’s finest moment as commissioner, he has forcibly stared down and skillfully outmaneuvered LIV Golf’s efforts at landing players to supports its efforts. Monahan’s unyielding leadership compares to the careless comportment by Phil Mickelson. There’s no doubt the PGA Tour has stood its ground and seems more solidified than ever.

Oak View’s Las Vegas Ambitions: Oak View Group CEO Tim Leiweke’s plan for a $3 billion multiuse development, including a $1 billion arena, south of the Las Vegas Strip, could have broad implications on that super-hot sports market and could connect the dots to NBA expansion over the next few years in two OVG buildings — Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle and the new Las Vegas facility.

A Hot Sport In A Hot Market: Speaking of Vegas, landing a Formula One race for a Saturday night in November 2023 looks to be a masterstroke for the city and the series. The groundswell of interest in Formula One is one of the most surprising stories in sports business and shows no signs of slowing, leaving one to wonder when it potentially levels off.

CFP Shelves Expansion: The decision to halt talks of expanding to eight or 12 teams for the College Football Playoff was significant for far more than remaining with the four-team format. It was more telling for what it said about the new commissioners in the room and the tenuous relationships among the leaders of the conferences.

The NFL’s Next-Gen Building Boom: I started to list these separately but had to roll them up as one massive trend — a run of stadium developments that could mark a transformational era for the NFL. There’s the mega-deal in Buffalo, a possible new venue for the Titans in Nashville with Nissan Stadium outdated after only 23 years, and stadium plans for the Commanders. Those projects will be a litmus test in public financing and the role these facilities can play in a region. And don’t overlook the major renovations for or studied in Foxboro, Jacksonville, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Baltimore, Detroit and Tampa. This comes amid supply chain challenges and inflation. It’s a delicate time, but this follows the boom of the mid-1990s as one of the most active eras in stadium construction.

The NFL As Cultural Driver: It’s simplistic, but the NFL continues to lead in headlines, driving business and deal flow. You have owners in the news for the wrong reasons — Stephen Ross, Jerry Jones and Dan Snyder. You have the massive contracts paid out to Joe Buck, Troy Aikman and Adam Schefter at ESPN and Al Michaels and Kirk Herbstreit at Amazon. You have the free agency/trade frenzy, the AFC loading up on star talent, and Jimmy and Dee Haslam giving an unprecedented contract to Deshaun Watson. This comes even before the draft and schedule release. Add it all up and this could be the most heavily anticipated season in NFL history.

The Games That Time Will Forget: Will there ever be an Olympics less memorable than the Beijing Winter Games? I feel awful writing this understanding the years of training and effort by athletes, coaches, families and officials. But I can’t list the top sports business stories of the first three months of 2022 and not take notice of the world’s indifference to one of sports’ great global spectacles.

Leaders Growing Soccer:  A trio of women will have major influence in the growth of soccer in America. In one of her last acts as interim NWSL commissioner, Marla Messing reached a historic CBA with the players that promises $100 million in new investment in the league. A month later, the NWSL board named Jessica Berman commissioner, as she promises to build on improving player relations and integrity in the league. Also in March, U.S. Soccer reelected Cindy Parlow Cone to a four-year term as president. Key leaders who are changing their game in their own way.

Abraham Madkour can be reached at amadkour@sportsbusinessjournal.com.

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SBJ I Factor: Jed York

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