The Big Deal Weekly #5: Monster 4-way JHF deal done, trade period 'PR and posturing', sports salary disparities, NCAA lawsuit in spotlight & much more
October 10, 2022
Welcome to The Big Deal!
It’s a big week in Australian sports business as we wrap up the AFL trade period in a couple of days, while Melbourne Storm CEO Justin Rodski will join The Big Deal podcast fresh from re-signing NRL star Cameron Munster - so make sure you’re following the show on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or Google Podcasts.
Now, let’s get down to business.
IN THIS WEEK’S WRAP OF THE BIG DEALS
Pick a winner in ridiculous 4-way JHF deal
Tredders’ Trade Whispers
Cam Munster turns back on monster deal
Lucky Sevens for Melbourne Victory
Australian women’s sport paying off for sponsors
Rivers of gold for Nuggets’ mascot
36ers’ salary sacrifice while stunning Suns
NCAA on trial for wrongful death
Rising Spanish star could miss majors
Texas fan catches historic baseball
MLB’s grand slam
Aussie sporting luminaries hit US market
Fairytale over for Worcester Warriors
Barca pulling in the big bucks
In retrospect: Bobby Bonilla Day
HORNE-FRANCIS LANDS AT ALBERTON BUT WHO WINS MONSTER 4-TEAM TRADE?
It’s being described as the most complex trade in AFL history and it will be some time before anyone can say with any certainty who has won and who has lost out of it.
Until then, everyone will have an opinion on the deal that sent 2021’s number one pick Jason Horne-Francis to Port Adelaide, meeting up with Junior Rioli who fled the other side of the continent.
To make it happen, it needed the facilitation of three other clubs, Rioli and 14 draft picks spinning across four states.
Here’s how it looked when the music stopped:
Port Adelaide - IN: Horne-Francis, Rioli, 2023 2nd rounder (tied to Collingwood), 2023 3rd rounder (tied to Fremantle). OUT: Picks 8, 43, 53, 57, 2023 1st rounder, 2023 2nd rounder, 2023 3rd rounder.
North Melbourne - IN: Picks 2, 3, 40, 43, 2023 1st rounder (tied to Port) OUT: Jason Horne-Francis, pick 1, 2023 3rd rounder (tied to Fremantle)
West Coast - IN: Picks 8, 12, 2023 2nd rounder (tied to Port), 2023 3rd rounder (tied to Port). OUT: Rioli, Picks 2, 40.
GWS - IN: Picks 1, 53, 57. OUT: Picks 3, 12, 2023 2nd rounder (tied to Collingwood).
We’re even all split on this at The Big Deal.
Tredders thinks Port has nailed it getting the players they wanted.
Dion reckons North’s done okay while the Power has paid overs, putting the pressure on the kid to deliver.
And Monty thinks GWS are geniuses for walking away with their fourth number one pick in 12 years - one which gives them picks 1, 15, 18 and 19 this year.
Sorry Eagles fans.
TREDDERS’ TRADE WHISPERS
The Bulldogs have threatened to send Josh Dunkley to the pre-season draft. That’s if Brisbane doesn’t cough up two first round draft picks.
They’re prepared to lose him for nothing if it means not furnishing the midfield of a serious premiership rival.
The Bulldogs are well known for putting unrealistic price tags on their players’ heads and it’s not out of the realm that Dunkley may have to follow Jack Martin’s path who joined Carlton in 2020 after the Blues failed to strike a deal with the Suns.
Clubs rarely have salary cap room or spots on their lists available by then and with players putting lofty prices on their heads, they remain a strong chance to get to where they want - although it would be a risky strategy with Brisbane holding pick 15 in the pre-season draft.
No such problems for the Adelaide Crows, though. They’ve landed prized recruit Izak Rankine along with pick no.46 and a future fourth-round selection, while Gold Coast receives pick no.5 plus a future third and future fourth. As we’ve told you, he’ll earn a lazy $1.5m in his first year.
The last couple of days of the trade period are all about PR and posturing.
List managers know what it will take to manufacture a trade.
Clubs haemorrhaging players to stronger sides higher up the ladder often use the tactic of leaking a less equitable trade to a journo, crying foul and then talking tough in the media when questioned about it.
They let it fester for a few days only to sign off on what appears to be a much improved offer at the trade deadline - when the reality is, that offer was on the table all along.
It’s all about trying to save face in the eyes of their members.
They end up looking like they have driven a hard bargain and squeezed everything out of the deal when in fact, it could have been done and dusted days ago.
Clubs are told to hold the big trades back for the final days so the AFL dominates the news cycle.
It also gives the AFL a dramatic climax to the trade period for partners SEN which gets more bang for its buck as millions of fans stream “Trade Radio”.
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MUNSTER REJECTS MONSTER DEAL
Melbourne Storm superstar Cameron Munster has rejected a colossal $5.6m over four years from NRL expansion side the Dolphins to remain in Victoria.
Had he decided to return to his home state, the deal would have made him the highest paid player in the competition.
Instead, he has accepted a carefully crafted offer from club chairman Matt Tripp worth $4m to remain with the Storm for the next four years - one which should see him finish his career as a one-club player.
Although he hasn’t yet given up on playing beyond 2027.
The new contract, which begins in 2024, will see him drop $200,000 per season to remain loyal to the Storm.
Munster has clearly chosen the potential for more success over cash. He has already played in two premierships with the Storm.
And we’ll be unpacking the deal with Storm CEO Justin Rodski this week so make sure you’re subscribed to the show.
LUCKY SEVENS FOR MELBOURNE VICTORY
A-League giants Melbourne Victory are scoring goals off the field and on it after linking up with Miami-based 777 Partners.
The private investment firm has US$3b in assets and is quickly growing its interests in soccer clubs worldwide - Victory joining a stable that includes Sevilla (Spain), Vasco de Gama (Brazil), Genoa (Italy), Standard Liege (Belgium) and Red Star FC (France).
It is however a curious mix of teams with Victory far and away the biggest and most successful team in its respective competition.
Vasco, Genoa and Red Star are not even in their country’s top flights.
The firm bought Genoa, Italy’s oldest club, outright last November along with a 100% stake of Red Star, despite passionate protests from disapproving fans, suspicious of 777’s intentions and acumen in running its team.
It purchased a 70% share of Vasco in February for a reported US$137m (A$213m) which also saw it take over the club’s debts.
Throw in a “controlling” stake in Standard, 15% of Sevilla and now a “minority stake” in Victory and you have to wonder who’s next on the list.
Still, it didn’t stop Victory chortling this deal to be one of the “biggest investment deals” for an Australian sports team - one it hopes will allow it to retain and develop elite talent.
777’s CEO Don Dransfield joins the Victory board as part of the deal and is a disciple of the City Football Group that owns Victory’s crosstown rivals.
The investment firm’s founder and managing partner Josh Wander couldn’t hide his delight at closing the deal.
“Football is poised for tremendous growth in Australia, and on this basis, it is strategically important for our group to be here,” he said.
“Melbourne Victory with its success on the pitch, and passionate, loyal fan base, is the perfect club for us.”
It won’t take a lot of money to give the already cashed up Victory an even bigger head start against most of its A-League rivals.
AUSTRALIAN WOMEN’S SPORT PAYING OFF FOR SPONSORS
GWS AFLW player and founder of The Female Athlete Project, Chloe Dalton, has told The Big Deal supporting women’s sports is getting better results for sponsors than men’s sports.
Australian company True North Research has unearthed fascinating data that reveals the teams Australian fans have the greatest emotional connection with are the Matildas and Australia’s women’s cricket team.
“Because fans of women’s sporting teams have a greater emotional connection, the sponsors that partner with these teams actually get greater results, they get a greater return on investment,” Dalton said.
Behaviour on and off the ground is key to this outcome, she said.
“Female athletes have a greater sense of trust and pride and respect with their fans because of the way that female athletes carry themselves both on the field and away from the field.
“You don’t often read stories in the newspaper about female athletes getting into trouble. You see those stories all the time from these male athletes.”
As the debate for equal pay in women’s sport continues to simmer, Dalton says women just want to be paid enough to justify a full-time commitment to their sport.
“From there, the quality of the game continues to improve, you continue to get more people watching the game, more sponsors backing the game, but I really think there’s got to be a level of foresight that goes into it,” she said.
“You want to be a person that invests in it now, and you want to get on board early, rather than in 10 years’ time and say ‘I wish I got on it then’."
Hear the full interview at Apple Podcasts, Spotify or Google Podcasts.
RIVERS OF GOLD FOR NUGGETS MASCOT
While women’s sport in the US is well ahead of Australia, it has been revealed that their star female athletes are earning far less than … team mascots.
Getting inside a big fluffy suit and hamming it up for the local fans isn’t everyone’s idea of a great day job.
Many do it just to support their local club.
But not the guy/gal who acts as the mascot for the Denver Nuggets.
They are paid a sweet $US625,000 per season according to GOALS, a US women’s sports marketing agency.
Why do they care?
Well, compare that salary with what the WNBA’s best players earn and suddenly, they’re crying foul.
Phoenix’s Diana Taurasi is the League’s highest paid player and earns less than half that!
The three-time WNBA champion and five-time Olympic gold medallist is only paid $US228,000 while some dude or dudette in a lion suit is making it rain!
And the Denver mascot is not alone.
That Atlanta Hawks’ mascot makes $US600,000, the Chicago Bulls’ $US400,000 and the Phoenix Suns’ $US200,000.
36ERS SALARY SACRIFICE WHILE STUNNING SUNS
A lack of cash didn’t stop the Adelaide 36ers who made an absolute mockery of the gulf in salaries between themselves and the Phoenix Suns, proving the gap in class was much, much narrower.
The Sixers’ breathtaking win in a practice match at the Footprint Center came on a night they shot a telling 24 from 43 from the arc, which lies around 18 inches further out than they are used to.
The result was a shock 134-124 win, the first by an NBL team over an NBA side.
The proud-as-punch NBL quickly boasted about the enormity of the achievement, highlighting the Suns’ season salary of $US173m ($A270m), the seventh biggest in the NBA, compared to the Sixers’ $1.7m, which equates to the competition’s salary cap.
That’s a factor of almost 160 times the difference!
Star Suns guard Devin Booker alone will earn $US33.8m ($A52.7m) this season.
Cameron Johnson, the lowest paid player in the Suns’ starting five against the Sixers, will earn $US5.8m ($A9m).
But the old adage of only being as good as your last game quickly rang home.
The Suns came out days later and toppled the Lakers in LA.
While the Sixers couldn’t repeat the dose in Oklahoma City against former player Josh Giddey’s side, going down 131-98.
For the record, the Thunder only spent $US144m ($A224m) on their roster, ranking 22nd in the League.
NCAA ON TRIAL FOR WRONGFUL DEATH AND NEGLIGENCE
A watershed moment in American and potentially world sport is arriving with the NCAA on trial facing a wrongful death and negligence suit - the result of brain injury caused by multiple concussions from American football.
The suit has wide-reaching ramifications for the NFL and potentially other codes around the world.
The plaintiff is Alana Gee, widow of Matthew Gee, a USC linebacker who played from 1988-92.
He died in his sleep in 2018 aged 49 after five years of suffering confusion, depression, anger and extended memory loss.
Gee was sober yet had alcohol in his system at the time of his death and was posthumously diagnosed with CTE, a condition that some athletes have developed, the result of repeated blows to the head.
The suit claims the NCAA is responsible because “for decades, it knew about the debilitating long-term dangers of concussions, concussion-related injuries, and sub-concussive injuries … that resulted from playing college football, but recklessly disregarded this information to protect the very profitable business of ‘amateur’ college football”.
The NCAA is fighting the motion, saying there is a level of “assumed risk” playing the game and that the schools, not the national body, are ultimately responsible for any injuries.
If the allegation is sustained, it could face damages that run into the multi millions of dollars and it would open the floodgates for a mountain of similar suits.
Pre-trial proceedings begin in Los Angeles this week with the trial to be live-streamed.
RISING SPANISH STAR COULD MISS MAJOR DEBUT
One of golf’s brightest young stars is a multimillionaire after his first professional win, yet may not be seen in the world’s biggest tournaments next year.
Eugenio Lopez-Chacarra, who quit his final year as an amateur at Oklahoma State University, won $US5.4m for taking out the LIV event in Bangkok, beating former US Masters champion Patrick Reed by three shots.
His four-man team also won the team’s event, splitting another $US3m.
But with no points awarded for the win by the PGA, the 22-year-old Spaniard faces a difficult path to qualify for a major next year, despite already having the scalps of Dustin Johnson, Cam Smith and Phil Mickelson under his belt.
LIV CEO Greg Norman remains at war with the Official Golf World Ranking Body in a desperate bid to give players in his rebel tournament the ranking points to go with their handsome cheques.
But for now, it remains one or the other for golf’s rogues proving you really can’t have it all.
TEXAS RANGERS FAN WEIGHS UP $2M OFFER FOR HISTORIC BASEBALL
Rangers fan Corey Youmans is weighing up a $US2m (A$3.1m) offer after catching Aaron Judge’s record 62nd American League home run for the season.
Judge smashed his way into the history books, breaking Roger Maris’s mark in Arlington.
Youman is an investment banker from Dallas and vice-president of Fisher Investments which manages worldwide investments worth $197 billion.
He was surrounded by Yankees fans, when he found himself in the right place at the right time to glove the ball.
We’re not sure he’s going to jump on the first offer that comes in though …
A Mark McGwire baseball sold for a record US$3m in 1999 while the most valuable baseball collector’s item was a US$12.6m baseball card featuring Yankee Mickey Mantle in the 1950s.
The Yankees went down 3-2 on Judge’s big night. He’s still hoping to see the ball again but the odds are someone is going to have to pay some big money for that to happen.
"I don't know where it's at," Judge said.
"We'll see what happens with that. It would be great to get it back, but that's a souvenir for a fan. He made a great catch out there, and has got every right to it."
Another fan was ejected from the stadium after leaping out of his seat, hoping to grab the ball if it was spilled by the crowd and hit the ground.
MLB’S GRAND SLAM
It’s been a rough few years for sport all around the world but America’s thirst for Major League Baseball is set to propel their profits to beyond pre-COVID levels, despite a 99-day lockout at the start of the season.
The 2019 season, the last one not affected by COVID, generated US$10.7b in revenue.
Notwithstanding the late start, the League expects attendances to reach up to 96% of 2019 levels when 68.5m fans attended games.
Record merchandise sales and streaming revenue are all helping push the game’s takings to new heights, along with the feats of the likes of Aaron Judge.
AUSSIE SPORTING LUMINARIES HIT THE US MARKET
Adelaide-based Lumin Sports has taken its athlete management systems to the US market, with five NCAA universities getting on board.
The GPS-equipped Arc Core technology tracks athletes’ heart rates and sleep patterns as well as their mental health and wellbeing and outputs detailed analysis to assist coaches with making crucial decisions based around rest and recovery.
It has already been adopted across several codes and sports in Australia with Hawthorn, Adelaide United, Cycling Australia and the SA Sports Institute among their clients.
The start-up raised US$750,000 (A$1,150,000) earlier this year, more capital than it had hoped, after being founded in 2018 by former triathlete Ben Tripodi.
FAIRYTALE OVER FOR WORCESTER WARRIORS
The fairytale rise of English rugby side Worcester Warriors has come with a solemn and sobering postscript - namely suspension and relegation.
The side which rose through eight tiers of English rugby and won the Premiership Cup in 2021-22 has slipped into administration and will lose all its players to rival sides during a year on the sidelines.
The club owes £6m in unpaid taxes and £14m to the Department for Culture, Media & Sport after taking out a loan during the pandemic.
The Warriors are now searching for investors to help them rise from the ashes in 12 months’ time.
But they are unable to return to the Premiership for at least two years.
The Rugby Football Union has come under some criticism for allowing the situation at Worcester to deteriorate as far as it did.
It appears it may be a symptom of a wider problem with fellow side Wasps also lurching dangerously close to administration, facing a £2m tax bill and struggling to repay a £35m bond, raised in 2014, to assist with their relocation from High Wycombe to Coventry.
London Irish and Newcastle are also struggling with the total debts across the top flight estimated at £500m!
It’s symptomatic of a code living above its means with the warning signs in place before the pandemic which certainly exacerbated the perilous position most teams were in.
BARCA PULLING IN THE BIG BUCKS
Things appear to be going a touch better for the Spanish giants who have announced a profit of $US111m for the year.
It remains a somewhat precarious situation at Barca though, with that profit coming from revenue of a whopping $1.15b!
Just last year, the club reported debts of an eye-watering $US1.5b, but with another profit of $274m projected for the next 12 months, it seems they are at least heading in the right direction.
Selling off assets has been their road to financial freedom.
The club sold 10% of its TV rights in June for $US278m with a further 15% offloaded the following month for $US326.5m.
But their path to parity is not coming quickly enough with the club joining Real Madrid and Juventus in fresh calls for a European Super League, an idea met with suspicion, derision and fury when it was first floated in April, 2021.
IN RETROSPECT: BOBBY BONILLA DAY
To New York Mets fans, July 1 is known as Bobby Bonilla Day.
That day is pay day for the 1997 World Champion with the Florida Marlins.
Bonilla had two stints with the Mets.
After impressing in five seasons with the Pirates, the Mets made him the highest-paid player in the game in 1992, signing him to a five-year contract worth $29m.
The $6.1m he was paid in his first season exceeded the previous biggest pay packet by $2.3m.
He remained the highest paid player in the National League for three straight seasons.
His output though failed to match the size of his wallet and he was eventually traded to the Orioles and then the Marlins where he enjoyed the ultimate success.
Fast forward to 1999 and the Mets went back to the well, regaining Bonilla in a player trade.
Again, he failed to live up to expectations and again he was moved on but this time, he was still owed $5.9m on his 1999 contract.
Here’s where it gets interesting.
Mets owner Fred Wilpon was heavily invested in an ultimately doomed Ponzi scheme organized by Bernie Madoff that hooked some big fish the likes of Steven Spielberg and Kevin Bacon.
Rather than accept payment up front, Bonilla agreed to defer payment for 10 years, on the condition Wilpon pay back $1.19m a year for 25 years, starting in 2011 and not ending until 2035.
Wilpon jumped on the deal at the time, anticipating a bigger return from his investment than the interest he’d be paying Bonilla.
Incredibly, Bonilla has another deferred contract, this one also with the Mets and including the Orioles, that sees him earn $500,000 a year for 25 years. That one commenced in 2004.
And they are paying another former player, Bret Saberhagen $250,000 per year, starting in 2004 and not ending until 2028.
Deferred payment of contracts are a big deal in American sports.
You can defer the payment, but never the pain.
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