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US Digest | Falcons’ Mercedes-Benz stadium bucks concession pricing trend

Welcome to SportBusiness Group’s US Digest, rounding up the news and developments coming out of the world’s biggest sports market

Atlanta gives food for thought on concession prices

Mercedes-Benz Stadium – home of the Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta United FC – is reaping the rewards after breaking the traditional stadium food rules: making it affordable. Hot dogs are just $2; pizza slices $3; beer $5. Fans spent on average 16 per cent more on concessions in 2017 than in 2016, and they came to the stadium earlier. Unsurprisingly, the Falcons topped an NFL fan survey for quality and value of food and beverages, up from 18th. “Dozens” of team owners and venues around the US have reportedly asked for more details on the pricing strategy.

Fox shells out $3bn for Thursday Night Football

Despite declining TV ratings, despite their incumbents (CBS and NBC) bidding below their current fee, despite the fact Thursday Night Football has its exclusivity eroded in a handful of ways – the NFL does it again, striking a $3.3bn, five-year deal with Fox. It’s obviously a win for the league. For Fox? Rupert Murdoch built Fox’s rise on the back of NFL rights acquired in December ’93. Now – twisting while other networks stick – he’s taking the leaner Fox (flush with Disney cash) back to its beginnings. Also worth noting: the NFL announced an international game at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City for next season.

Solo files complaint against US Soccer

Just a week to go in the US Soccer presidential race, and it’s still wide open. Former USWNT keeper Hope Solo – a late, left-field candidate – has surprised everyone by making a formal complaint against the federation she shortly hopes to run. Solo argues US Soccer has neglected its broader duties to the sport in favor of propping up MLS and Soccer United Marketing, its media and marketing partner. The impact on the race is anyone’s guess, but it highlights the huge divide between the establishment candidates and the insurgents – brush up on who’s who with our guide to the runners and riders. Other US soccer news: women’s pro team the Boston Breakers folds ahead of the 2018 NWSL season; Jacksonville Armada owner Robert Palmer looks into “funding and operating an unsanctioned professional league“.

NFL esports goes mainstream after ESPN-Disney deal

Esports competitions the Madden NFL 18 Club Championship and the Madden NFL 18 Ultimate League – both based on NFL-licensed video games Madden NFL 18 – will be shown on ESPN2 and other Disney platforms this spring after a deal between EA Sports, the NFL and ESPN. What’s interesting is how deeply each party will work to integrate the league as part of their offering. Three notes: 1) A lot of coverage will be on the Disney XD channel, aimed at adolescent boys. 2) The Ultimate League will run between the Super Bowl and the 2018 NFL Draft – adding some competitive content to the off-season. 3) EA is planning a way for owners of Madden NFL 18, the game on which the Ultimate League is based, to watch action in game. NB: Madden 18 came out in August but was still America’s fourth-highest selling video game of 2017.

Beckham reveals little in glitzy Miami MLS launch

A big announcement but little detail. David Beckham’s MLS team in Miami was formally admitted to the league in a glitzy ceremony on Monday. But despite being nearly four years in the making, neither the team’s official name, logo or much else were revealed. What do we know? It’ll join the MLS in 2020. And Beckham and his co-owners still don’t fully own the Overtown plot where they plan to build a 25,000-seater stadium.

Indians to stop using Chief Wahoo logo

Seventeen years after the National Congress Of American Indians released this hard-hitting poster, the Cleveland Indians have promised to remove ‘Chief Wahoo’ from their uniforms in 2019. The announcement immediately puts pressure on the remaining US pro sports teams with Native American imagery and nicknames – the NFL Washington Redskins and Kansas City Chiefs, MLB’s Atlanta Braves and the NHL Chicago Blackhawks – to follow suit. Note, though, that the Indians will continue to sell some merchandise featuring the logo, to avoid losing ownership of the trademark.

Also this week… 

Americans are expected to bet around $4.76bn on this weekend’s Super Bowl – about 97 per cent illegally

NHL teams will play games in Sweden, Finland and China next season. The league is also planning an esports competition

Vince McMahon’s XFL released a provisional list of franchise cities, and could also create its own TV network

United Airlines bought naming rights to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in a $69m deal

MLS newcomers LA FC have signed a deal with YouTube TV, which the paid streaming platform the local English-language broadcaster as well as the jersey sponsor

Golfer Wesley Bryan will play with Taco Bell branded balls at this week’s Waste Management Phoenix Open

And some further reading…

    Why windfalls for the Super Bowl host cities are often overstated

How the NBA’s ’50-state solution’ for sports betting could impact Nevada   

The pros and cons of XFL operating as a single-entity league


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