<
>

Not Content Just Annoying the NBA ...

... Mark Cuban has charted a course to annoy the NFL, too.

From a press release about this weekend's PLAY magazine:

PLAY: The New York Times Sports Magazine reports in its June 3 issue that Wall Streeter Bill Hambrecht and Google executive Tim Armstrong are launching a professional football league to compete with the N.F.L., and have lined up billionaire Mark Cuban as their first team owner.

In an exclusive column, Joe Nocera writes that the new United Football League aims to line up seven more owners "with Cuban's deep pockets and contrarian mindset" so that it can debut with eight teams. Right now, the league is scheduled to play its first pre-season games in August, 2008.

Cuban owns the N.B.A.'s Dallas Mavericks. Undaunted by the monopolistic N.F.L., which has squashed four competitors, he tells Nocera, "There are quite a few good-sized non-N.F.L. cities that can support a pro team." So far, the league has picked Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Mexico City. San Antonio and Orlando are among other top markets without N.F.L. teams.

According to U.F.L. executives, Nocera reports, the new league will emulate the old American Football League -- one of whose major characteristics was revenue sharing. Each owner will put up $30 million, worth a half-interest in a team; the league will own the other half. Eventually, the plan envisions that fans will become stakeholders - because each team will sell shares to the public to raise an average of $60 million per franchise. Public ownership will reduce the pricing pressure on the teams, resulting in cheaper tickets all around.

Officials are convinced they can land decent players from the get-go, and better players later on. "The U.F.L. will be able to offer most rookies, who aren't top draft choices, far more money than the N.F.L. would give them," Nocera writes.