Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Cancellation looms for NBA season

The National Basketball Association is likely to cancel the entire season as its players moved to disband their union on Monday, the most dramatic move yet in a months-long standoff between team owners and superstars.
A cancellation would mark the first lost season of a major US sports league since the National Hockey League scrapped its 2004-05 season and will have an impact on media companies and some US municipalities. It would also put the skids on the NBA’s popularity, which was soaring after a banner year that finished in June.
The move by the players came in response to what they saw as an unfair final offer from the league in a dispute over a new collective bargaining agreement, which expired after the previous season, stopping work for the players.
Negotiations were ongoing through the summer and autumn but the league proposed a final offer last week designed to put an end to the standoff. Several weeks of games had already been cancelled, resulting in hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenues and causing media groups to turn to contingency plans.
Analysts expected the players to either ask for more concessions or accept the proposed deal with some amendments. Instead, the union surprised the league on Monday, saying it would move to disband and file a lawsuit against the league.
“It looks like the 2011-12 season is in jeopardy now,” said David Stern, NBA commissioner, who has run the league for 21 years and saw it through its previous labour dispute in 1999.
Mr Stern put the blame on the players and their union leader, Billy Hunter, saying they had walked away from a fair offer, which would have seen players and owners split evenly the league’s estimated $4bn in annual revenues.
“They’ve destroyed incredible value that would have otherwise gone to the union membership,” Mr Stern said. “They’ve been badly misled.”
Players and owners have been negotiating for more than five months on a new framework for revenue sharing, and amendments to league rules meant to create more parity among teams. But players said the proposals left them with less job security.
With the NBA Players Association disbanded, players can file an antitrust lawsuit against the league, alleging unfair labour practices. “We’re prepared to file this antitrust action against the NBA,” Mr Hunter said. “That’s the best situation where players can get their due process.”
Analysts said that such cases can take months to process, leaving little hope that the season will be salvaged.
But a technicality in the way the union disbanded could leave the door open for a partial season if the union and owners reach an unexpectedly swift agreement through backdoor negotiations. The players union is actually attempting to create a scenario in which they may still not lose the season,” said Ric Bucher, ESPN analyst.
A lost NBA season would affect a large swath of the US economy, including media companies and local governments.
“The national and local media partners are facing a loss of programming and advertising revenue, while the municipalities, which own most of the arenas, may see local tax revenues decline as the arenas are dark on game nights,” Standard & Poor’s, the rating agency, said on Monday. “We believe that the loss of a portion of the season will not significantly affect these key players in the short term. However, the impact may change if the entire season is lost.”

By David Gelles taken from http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/e119fa50-0eff-11e1-b585-00144feabdc0.html#axzz1dmteZPBy

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