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NIL Just Went the High School Football Route, and the First—Jaden Rashada—May End Up Being the Best (SportTechie) The first high school football player to ever secure an NIL is from a place called Pittsburg, minus the ‘h,’ and walks around…minus pretentiousness.

Jaden Rashada, the No. 1 rated dual-threat quarterback in the Class of 2023, has an accurate arm, swift feet, long legs, high IQ and a heart two sizes too generous. The football recruiting app named AIR (Athletes in Recruitment) that signed him to a four-figure endorsement deal last month could not have picked a more grounded high school junior—unless you don’t like an 18-year-old who spends his Christmas feeding the homeless.

“Honestly, my goal is to be somebody who’s remembered forever,’’ says Rashada. “I want to change people’s lives.’’

The era of the Name, Image and Likeness is upon us, and for those who thought it would corrupt both college and high school athletes, the early returns are: not so fast.

AIR’s founder and CEO, the Australian-born former SMU punter James Sackville, says he dove headfirst into the prep ranks “because, I think, everyone else was a little afraid, to be honest with you, and I think we just don’t care. We’re like, ‘Hey, we’re going to be first movers in everything that we do.’ And it was legal. It wasn’t a matter of legality.’’

To be exact, the only states currently allowing all of their high school athletes to be compensated for NIL are New York, New Jersey, Alaska, Nebraska and Rashada’s home state of California. Knowing practically nothing about Pittsburg—a quaint, blue-collar town 40 miles east of San Francisco—Sackville at least had the wherewithal to scroll down a list of top-rated California quarterbacks, a guaranteed hotbed. In milliseconds, he grew enthralled by Rashada’s video, stats, curls and Twitter feed.

NFL Awards AI for Head Impact Detection, New Innovation IDs Injury 83 Times Faster Than a Human Can (SportTechie) The NFL and Amazon Web Services awarded $100,000 to data scientists who took part in the computer vision competition to develop algorithms for automatic identification of players involved in on-field helmet impacts. 

  Previously, the NFL undertook a manual process of reviewing postgame video frame-by-frame to record 150 different variables for all major injuries. The league uses that data to inform rule changes, spur innovation in protective equipment and influence coaching and training strategies. This was the second phase of the competition, building on a previous contest to crowdsource methods of detecting helmet impacts. 

  The winning entry completed the task 83 times faster than a human. NFL SVP of health innovation Jennifer Langton previously summarized the results, suggesting a consolidation of required time from three or four days down to two hours. All of this data helps fuel the Digital Athlete that AWS is building in collaboration with the NFL and its injury surveillance data to simulate varying game and play conditions and how that affects injury rates. 

  First prize and $50,000 went to Kippei Matsuda from Osaka, Japan, while second place and $25,000 was given to Takuya Ito from Tokyo. The third, fourth and fifth finishers received a total of $25,000, distributed on a graduated scale. 

Tennessee Titans unveil ‘US$600m’ stadium development plan (SportsPro Insider) The National Football League’s (NFL) Tennessee Titans have unveiled plans for a reported US$600 million renovation of Nissan Stadium, featuring a new entertainment district in the surrounding Nashville area.

The Titans have played at Nissan Stadium since 1999 after relocating from Houston to Nashville in 1997 and the team’s lease at the venue expires in 2028.

With plans to renovate the team’s home shelved during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Titans are now pushing forward with development plans.

According to The Tennessean, renovations to the stadium will progress over the next three seasons and could cost up to US$600 million.

The report says that Metro Sports Authority, the stadium’s state-owned landlord, could cover as much as US$300 million of the development costs, with the Titans and private investors to fund the remaining US$300 million.

Mayor of Nashville, John Cooper, told the local news outlet that the city is looking to build a stadium that “has no burden on the taxpayer.”

Speaking to the Tennessean, Titans president Burke Nihill added: “I think if either the city or the Titans were pushing for something more basic we would’ve been done with this a long time ago. But we’re pushing for something that’s exceptional.

“Our highest priority is to win the Super Bowl, but this is the top priority behind that.”

NFL Playoffs Generate No Financial Windfall for Individual Teams (Sportico) Stadiums will be packed, and the TV audiences will be massive as the NFL playoffs kick off this weekend, but for the teams in the Super Bowl hunt, the playoffs offer little financial upside this season.

The NFL’s economic model spreads the wealth. Its massive media contracts, along with a large chunk of gate receipts, are divided equally among the 32 teams. The playoffs are no different. The league collects almost all ticket revenue from playoff games and simply provides a stipend for home and away teams that cover costs for travel and stadium operations. Home teams keep their share of concession and parking revenue, which typically ranges from $1 million to $2 million combined, per game, but it is a rounding error for teams who can expect a check next season from the NFL for shared revenue of roughly $400 million. A Super Bowl run boosts merchandise sales for teams, but much of that revenue is shared equally, as well.

Meanwhile, playoff expenses can add up. Qualifying for the Super Bowl is rare for most teams, with New England the obvious outlier, so ownership often blows past its allotted travel stipend to bring employees to the Big Game. When you also factor in coach and player playoff incentives—the Bucs owed Tom Brady $2.25 million for his Super Bowl win last year—teams can end up with a financial loss during the playoffs.

“The centralized revenue sharing gives NFL teams less control over playoff dollars than their counterparts in other leagues,” said Sean Clemens, director of sports investment banking at Park Lane. “But it’s the same system and revenue base that see them ending with the highest profit margins in sports, so you don’t see owners complaining.”

The NFL playoff revenue allocation runs in sharp contrast to the NBA and NHL. The NBA started keeping only 25% of playoff ticket revenue in 2016, down from 45% previously. NHL teams kick back 35% of gate receipts for each home playoff game and keep the rest, although the provision was waived for the COVID-19-impacted 2020-21 season.

Playoff ticket demand is often sky high, and NBA and NHL teams take advantage with price increases that can lead to finals tickets priced 200% above their regular season cost. During their five straight trips to the NBA Finals starting in 2015, the Warriors regularly netted more than $50 million from the playoffs, after the NBA took its cut.

Baseball teams are only able to cash in during the postseason through a long playoff series, ideally in the final two rounds when prices are their highest. Teams must contribute 60% of ticket revenue from the first three games of the division series and first four games of the championship series and World Series. This funds the postseason player pool that hit $90 million during 2021, with each share for the Braves worth $397,391 after their World Series title.

Like their employers, NFL players are often competing for a fraction of their weekly pay during the playoffs. Players are paid their base salary on a weekly basis during the 18 weeks of the NFL season. That means $1.5 million a week for Aaron Rodgers, who heads to the playoffs quarterbacking the NFC’s top-seeded Packers. Players will earn $37,500-$42,500 a week during the first two weeks of the playoffs, per the collective bargaining agreement. It is a tick above the weekly pay of the NFL’s minimum salary of $660,000. It moves up to $65,000 for the conference championship games, while the Super Bowl is worth $150,000 for each player on the winning team and $75,000 for those who came up short. The player bonus pool is funded by playoff gate receipts.

The NFL playoffs are not particularly lucrative for participating teams or players, but every NFL team and player ultimately benefits from the playoffs, as their blockbuster TV ratings are part of the equation that last year enticed media companies to commit $113 billion to broadcast games over the next 11 years—half of which funnels to the players under the CBA. Eleven NFL playoff games ranked among the 20 most watched U.S. TV broadcasts in 2021, while the other two postseason contests ranked in the 30s. The Super Bowl led the way with 91.6 million viewers, followed by the championship games in the NFC (44.8 million) and AFC (42.3 million).

The financial upside from a Super Bowl title in the current season is limited, but the future benefits can be significant by raising demand and pricing power on tickets, suites and sponsorships. “We’ve used such numbers as 50% going forward,” said Stephen Jones, Dallas Cowboys COO, at Sportico’s NFL Valuations event in September, with the caveat he’d prefer the team’s first Super Bowl in 26 years over more income. “I think it has such an effect when you win a championship. We saw it when we first bought the team, how people get even more excited. They pull dalltheir Cowboys jerseys out of their drawers; they were closet Cowboys fans because we weren’t winning, and then you win and here they come.

Fan Controlled Football raises US$40m, adds two more NFT teams (SportsPro Insider) Fan Controlled Football (FCF), the tech-focused indoor football league, has secured US$40 million in additional investment and admitted two new teams governed by members of two non-fungible token (NFT) communities.

The Series A funding round was led by Animoca Brands and Delphi Digital and included involvement from all of the league’s initial seed investors, including Verizon Ventures. FCF says the additional capital will be used to facilitate further growth and expansion.

FCF launched last year with a unique selling point allowing fans to have influence on everything from team names and branding to team selection, league rules, as well as individual plays on the field. The aim is to combine live sports with fantasy and video game elements that offer an alternative to more established sports leagues.

    Fan Controlled Football gets global coverage on DAZN for season two

This interactivity has gained traction and in the opening round of fixtures last season fans made more than 250,000 combined play calls. Meanwhile, the league secured more than ten million views on streaming site Twitch.

“This is a historic day for FCF,” said Sohrob Farudi, FCF co-founder and chief executive. “The backing of investors like Animoca Brands and Delphi Digital, leaders in web3, further validates our initial success and vision to build the first pro sports league for the digital age.

“FCF combines the passion and excitement of traditional football with the best of web3, digital collectibles, and play-to-earn gaming, creating a unique IRL meets URL entertainment experience that was not possible until now. Many startup football leagues never make it to a second season, and we are now pumped for season v2.0 and v3.0 of FCF.”

A second season is due to begin in April and will see FCF double in size to eight teams. The initial four teams are owned by a range of celebrity investors, including athletes and musicians, and were joined by two new teams in December. The two newest sides will be owned by the leaders of the Bored Ape Yacht Club and Gutter Cat Gang NFT communities.

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