Usually when sports and politics intersect, the only meaningful issues involve the degree to which the taxpayer will have his pocket picked so that a team can get a new tax break or a new stadium/arena. Every once in a while, they will intersect as some politician pulls a grandstand play taking a stand on some social issue or principle that involves a major sports team or figure. Other than those scenarios, sports and politics tend to go their separate ways.
However, the Brexit vote in the UK last week might shove sports and politics together in a protracted mating dance. Let me review a couple possible intersections here:
The NFL will play multiple games in England each year in the next several years and there are “contemplations” regarding putting a team there permanently. With the UK now needing to enact laws with regard to taxation of monies earned there by foreign entities whatever deals that had been made between the “UK as part of the EU” will need to be renegotiated/validated with the “UK in Brexit mode”. You just know that there have to be “other considerations” involved here besides the NFL finding a stadium to rent for a game.
The British soccer leagues – particularly the English Premier League – have plenty of players who are not British-born. One of the issues in the referendum that involved Brexit was the status of and approval of “foreign workers.” Well, those players might just become “foreign workers” and there may be new standards and new rules about their eligibility for that work. Oh, and there are foreign-born coaches in the English soccer leagues too… Here is part of a statement from the EPL regarding the Brexit referendum:
“Given the uncertain nature of what the political and regulatory landscape might be following the ‘Leave’ vote, there is little point second-guessing the implications until there is greater clarity. Clearly, we will continue to work with Government and other bodies whatever the outcome of any process.”
Here is my translation of that statement:
We have no idea how any of this will affect the EPL but we will try to stay on top of it with the folks who are in charge of working all this stuff out.
Here is one example of how this can get complicated very quickly. FIFA rules prohibit players under the age of 18 from being transferred to other countries – except in the EU because there is an EU regulation that says that no countries in the EU can restrict the movements of any person over the age of 16. So, the UK and the European clubs can transfer players around at the age of 16. So, what impact might the FIFA rule have on the UK now that they are not part of the EU – and/or will that regulation be part of whatever agreement is reached between the EU and the UK as the Brexit process moves forward?
This business is FAR from over…
No matter what happens there, I suspect that the EPL will continue to be a highly successful and profitable sports enterprise. Things may get a bit messy and may need to jiggle around a bit before it all settles in to a stable situation. But the EPL is not on the brink of implosion. Such is not the case with the entity here in the US known as Major League Football.
In case you do not recall, Major League Football (MLFB) was supposed to be a spring football league that would provide football games to football junkies in that “downtime” between the Super Bowl and the start of NFL training camps. The original idea was to put MLFB franchises in cities where there was no NFL team and no MLB team. That would give the MLFB team a chance to develop a fanbase without a major competitor in town. At the same time, that “business model” also consigns the MLFB franchises to minor cities. The consignment to minor cities does not portend good things for the MLFB when it comes to getting a TV deal with a major network. The league reported that it did reach an agreement with the American Sports Network to televise games. The American Sports Network is not part of my cable channel package…
The league was supposed to begin play in February 2016 but one of the financial backers pulled out at the last moment leaving the league to try to cobble together financing for a shortened season to start in April. That didn’t work either and the league announced that it would cancel its inaugural season and be back next year with finances in order.
The latest news regarding MLFB is not nearly so encouraging. The league is being sued for unpaid rent since March 2016 on the league headquarters in Florida. The amount of rent in arrears is less than $100K and the league contends that it has a financing deal in the works with a foreign investor for $20M. Obviously, if that financing comes through, MLFB will remain solvent and can consider a season for the Spring of 2017. Personally, as a developmental league, the model might actually work because people in the US do love football. However, the words of caution here for the folks at MLFB and any scribes and fans who really want to see the league succeed are:
World Football League
United Football League
World League of American Football
Fall Experimental Football League
Finally, here is an item from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times from a few weeks ago:
“Former NFL punter Steve Weatherford says he got kicked out of a Planet Fitness for grunting too hard.
“On the plus side, odds makers just installed him and Maria Sharapova as the mixed-doubles favorites at Wimbledon.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………