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Chapter 1 The Sports Franchise Game You can have Disney World and every major attraction, but if you don't have a team, in the eyes of the world you're not a big league city. - Patrick Williams, president and general manager of the group that successfully obtained a National Basketball Association franchise for Orlando, Florida1 In Bang the Drum Slowly, a novel about baseball and life, the main characters are professional baseball players who pass time off the field with a card game they call Tegwar, "the exciting game without any rules."2 The veteran players invite an unsuspecting "cluck" to join the game, and then they take his money in every hand, as the mercurial rules develop. The players find a fresh cluck to pluck in every new city they visit. In the sports franchise game the veteran Tegwar players are the franchise owners and their clucks are the cities that want to host their teams.3 Why do teams move? The obvious and most accepted reason is financial survival. But, as will be illustrated, financial survival is not the sole motivation. Sport is a unique business. Moving a sports franchise is not an easy thing to do, even when a franchise is in dire financial straits and good business acumen would dictate a move to a fresh venue. However , a move by a franchise can be delayed, or even prevented, by other players in the sports franchise game. If the owner is an Al Davis, Charlie Finley, or Bill Veeck he may have trouble gaining league approval for a move not for business reasons but merely because the commissioner or a fellow owner or two does not like him. A sports franchise owner has limited options compared with the proprietors of other businesses. Like operators of fast-food franchises such as McDonald's, a sports franchise owner usually cannotjust pack up and relocate when such a move makes good economic sense to the owner. 8 Chapter I The guidelines for successful relocation of a sports franchise are not the same as those of a privately owned dry cleaning business, where the sole proprietor may choose to move to a site where customers may more fully appreciate the business. Sports franchises belong to a bigger entity, a professional sports league. The National Football League, National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball, and National Hockey League operate in much the same way as does a partnership.4 The individual teams within a league share profits but usually not individual franchise financial losses. Several key parties affect the sports franchise business, and to varying degrees, each party looks out for his or her own self-interest.5 Apart from the owner and the league, the sports franchise business involves fellow owners, the athletes,6 the competing cities, politicians, and the fans (who primarily are voting, tax-paying residents of the involved cities). More so in the past but sometimes even today, these fans forget they are taxpayers and do not always realize the consequences ofurging their politicians to do "whatever it takes" to convince a team to stay, to attract a new team, or in some cases, to coax a team back home. More frequently , some sports fans and politicians now show signs of decreasing zeal. A major portion of the 1990 Oakland mayoral campaign that saw longtime mayor Lionel Wilson voted from office focused on whether the city should make the investment to bring the Raiders professional football franchise back "home" from Los Angeles.' Voters have refused to spend on sports in such diverse communities as Phoenix, San Francisco, Santa Clara, and SanJose.8 But this trend is not absolute. The voters in Denver, for example, said yes to a tax increase to finance stadium construction . They wanted a Major League Baseball expansion franchise and thought that building a stadium was the only way to get one.9 Partly as a result of that tax increase Denver now hosts the Colorado Rockies. Although money constitutes the main reason cities fight over sports franchises, cities also admit that their civic image is almost as important a factor. Today, sports pages constantly mention incidents of cities trying to entice a team or of a team trying to move to a new area. Direct and indirect economic benefits such as increased tourism, arena or stadium rental income, sports franchise expenditures in the city, taxes, and employment are often mythically thought to be guaranteed by the acquisition of a professional sports franchise. Such is...


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MARC Record
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