Saturday, June 30, 2012

Money Fixes Everything

I want to revisit Thursday's post and expand the scope of the commentary. It has long (for paintball) been an article of faith that money will fix everything. While it's certainly true that money would fix a few of paintball's problems no one seems to have given much thought to what new problems would arise--and there will be plenty--if significant amounts of money enter the world of competitive paintball. And I don't mean a resurgent player base that starts buying truckloads of new gear. That's just business and while it would benefit the industry it's not what people mean when they imagine the mainstreaming of competitive paintball and the cascade of accompanying cash.
Let's begin with divisional tourney ball. Cui bono? (Who benefits?) Not them. Let's say the league begins to generate some outside of the paintball industry revenues; nothing spectacular but a sufficient wedge of cheese that it eases the necessity for the industry to sponsor the league. While that is good for the league and potentially good for the independence of the sport there is no guaranteed trickle down to the divisions. And for those of you who prefer your abstractions as concrete as possible let's assume we're discussing the PSP for example. A modest outside revenue source stabilizes the league so that's a positive for everyone competing and intending to compete in the future--you have a somewhat more secure place to compete. And if you favor the working plan to regionalize much of divisional play over the longer term via the affiliates network and streamline the national circuit you might consider that a divisional benefit. (The VFTD non-official understanding of the concept regionalizes say D3 [or even D2] down so that each region contributes its top teams to World Cup each year for a true championship. Of course the affiliate program isn't restricted to North America so it is conceivable that teams representing all parts of the world may one day compete.) While the league has gone forward laying the foundation for the affiliates the problem, revenue-wise, of how the league gets from its current model to the modified model has limited progress. The new plan with PBAccess offers the possibility of a solution.
In one scenario there's enough outside money to advance the plan to build a real grassroots to World Cup unified competitive paintball as sport, but what if a lot more money than expected were to begin rolling in? Does the plan move forward or does the deadweight get discarded and left to others to reorganize? (This is, btw, the same question I asked in the early days of NPPL 1.0. If the league had successfully brought pro paintball to TV why would they keep running tournaments for all the other divisions? If TV or anything like it ever works who doesn't follow the money and focus on keeping it coming? Under any circumstances a change in fortune for the league makes no promises to the divisional ranks.
But what about the featured teams? Surely this is would be good for them, right? Maybe, maybe not. Let's start again with the modest revenue stream that reduces or obviates the need for industry sponsorship. Again, it's good for the league and its indepenence, but... Back in the days of the NPPL 1.0 when everyone was convinced the mainstream (and all its perks) were right around the corner that league touted success for the teams in terms of the opportunities exposure would bring. Being on TV would allow them to go out and develop their own portfolio of sponsors and income. Which doesn't sound half bad until you realize that as a team you are not only competing against the other teams for those sponsor dollars you're also competing against your own league for sponsor dollars. And that no agreements exist aimed at maintaining league parity or stability. Or that once the contract is signed by the league your individual team becomes superfluous. (Before the deal is done it's the teams that validate the league but after the deal is done it's the league that validates the teams.) So imagine here we are with the PSP seeing a modest revenue trickle beginning to come in from the PBAccess webcast. Perhaps at first everyone is happy and supportive. But it won't last. It can't last. At some point the featured teams will begin to ask, What about us? And that day everything changes.
Maybe the league says, we're not making much or say what about you? We're the ones who made this happen, invested the time and money, took the risk and the reward for success should be ours. And if they were selling cupcakes or car parts I would agree unreservedly but they aren't. They're selling competition between an inclusive group of teams who can make the case that some part of the league's success accrues to them because they are the ones drawing the audience--and the audience is everything. And the teams will also say we have spent years of our lives, made sacrifices and spent plenty of money as well. How and when is that impasse resolved? Odds are (should it ever come to pass) that it won't be solved any more than mainstream sports have ever solved their conflicts but some sort of temporary agreements will have to be made and the window in which to make them opens when outside money starts to arrive and closes once the league de facto controls the identity of competitive paintball as sport. 

The object of raising today's hypotheticals is simply to remind the (seeming) majority that more money in paintball isn't likely to be the universal panacea they seem to think if for no other reason than human nature.

45 comments:

Anonymous said...

I can hear the objections from lane or the league owners.... "Here we are trying to build a house and before we even have money to put the roof on you're no only demanding that we start allowing you to live their rent free, but that we pay you to live in the house we're going broke trying to build". (Theres my attempt at an analogy that Lane would say)

It's a pretty damn good objection. The PSP or PBA or whoever, is spending tons of money with the dream of it some how paying off in the future. And it probably pisses them off to no avail to see photographers or team unions etc. who want to talk about getting their fair share.

At the same time, while it's true that PBA is spending a ton of money to build something, they can't forget that whatever they are spending, the grand total the teams are spending is probably the same or more. (maybe not when you include the recent PBA expenses...)

So the teams are in effect underwriting some of the risk. Ya ya, the teams walk away from an event and they have the competition experience to show for their payment... but the crew of PBA/PSP etc are presumably paid as well. So it's not like it's a zero sum game for the PBA crew.

It wouldn't be entirely unreasonable for the teams in the PSP to band together an insist on some kind of representation or dare I say minority shared ownership as a result of their investment.

Actually, this makes perfect sense anyway (and the NPPL does it right?)... if you have 12 pro teams, and they all commit to spend a ton of money to play in the PSP (or NPPL) the chance of each one of those 12 teams getting some kind of "payout" out of 4/5 events is exactly 0%. A handful of teams will get some money back that doesn't even cover expenses. And the rest will get nothing.

A reasonable person might suggest, than the "least" a league could do is offer a small percentage of ownership to each of the teams that commits to the long haul.

Baca Loco said...

Anon
That sounded just like Lane minus the volume and expletives. :)
And I completely understand that point of view but better to think now about how to handle such a situation than have it fall into your (collective) lap later on. And ownership isn't the only answer. There's potentially lots of ways to go.

Dan said...

This is paintball... When the league starts to make money, then they players will demand a portion of it. Either in reduced costs, prize packages or outright pay.

Anonymous said...

More money would lead to more consistent officiating for everyone.

As for splitting money in the future, it will work out. The league and the teams each deliver their own value and will get compensated accordingly. Even if the league and teams are competing against each other for sponsor dollars, it will be the sponsors that determine what each is worth.

No matter how it goes, it's hard to see how league success could mean LESS value for the teams.

Baca Loco said...

2nd Anon
You are mistaken on two counts. Count 1--See NBA refs. Money alone guarantees nothing other than when factions disagree there is more at stake.
Count 2--once recognized and established the league validates its teams. At that point the teams have little to no power.
Today the lowliest NFL team (or a new team entering the NFL) is worth more than the entire Arena league combined. Not because the team is something special but because the league is. If a similar situation ended up occurring with the PSP the teams would be virtually powerless and left with the sponsorship leftovers on limited or short term deals.

And then you're confronted with the issue of how potentially widely disparate incomes impact the competition on the field. Small market/big market. Popular team/unpopular team. Winner/loser.

Anonymous said...

Baca,

Your use of the NFL as an example in a discussion of league vs. team shows a fundamental lack of knowledge of the organization of Pro sports. In the NFL (and lesser so MLB, NBA and NFL) the league and the teams are very close to the same thing. Revenue is shared to various degrees and league action is ultimately determined by team owner vote.

The players are separate.

Another big item you are missing is that paintball doesn't actually have teams to begin with. Let's say paintball "makes it" and suddenly a bunch of money flows in. Forget the league for a minute - what reason would any of the players have to keep playing with current teams? Why would a group of players currently being financed by a particular pro team owner not just get together, create a new team they own themselves, and cut the current pro team owner out entirely?

Baca Loco said...

Latest Anon
D'oh!
You have missed the point twice. Once in the post and once in the comments. The issue isn't the structural differences; the issue is timing. At present it is the teams that are potentially marketable because of the demographic they attract. The PSP and PBAccess are betting they can make a less grandiose plan than direct to network TV work to generate revenues. For now and until the league establishes itself as THE competitive paintball league the teams have some leverage. After that it is substantially diminished.

As to the players breaking away. Possible but the game isn't star driven, it's team driven even though we all recognize assorted "name" players. A throw together star team would be totally dependent on whether or not the league would offer them a spot--and the league would control the conditions of their entry.

For a thought experiment think "Dynasty" and the issues in recent years caused by ownership of the team by the original members. It's not hard to project the sorts of problems that would arise over time.

Anonymous said...

Lane is an idiot. No need to worry about any of this as long as he is in control. The league/business is not going to bring any outside money in and even if they do he stay true to his greedy nature and keep it all himself. Just like always. He doesn't even pay his employees all the time and has even tried to not pay the teams when they win. Ask around. It's true.

raehl said...

Last Anonymous:

I have worked with Lane Wright for 10 years. I have never once heard of a PSP employee not being paid. I have never once heard of a PSP team not promptly receiving prizes. If that had ever happened I would know.

Wanted there to be no doubt whatsoever that you are lying.

Anonymous said...

I just hope they sell some advertising spots on the webcast. It would cut down the amount of time the 'pundits' have to say "Be clutch" and other inane comments and indulge in their private clique jokes. The current infomercials get pretty old pretty soon.

Anonymous said...

Last Anon,
I really like the webcast as well... but I would like to agree that the inane "keys to victory" sometimes are groan worth. "Believe in yourself and your teammates" is a pretty lame key to victory. As if going on the field saying, "just believe guys, just believe" is going to help you win the point. Yes yes, there is a lot of of mental component to paintball. But a key to victory connotes something that you can actually "do" to unlock victory. Like a piece of advice you'd give the team. And if the team walked off the field victorious you'd probably say it was because of how they shot their lanes, made their secondaries, were aggressive or played patient smart ball or something. Not that they did a good job believing in themselves.

Matty has a huge amount of work to do and tremendous pressure. The more he focuses on the game, the tactics, the execution, the more he shines. When he gets into the old routine of psychobabble like being "clutch" or "believing in their talent" etc. the more you roll your eyes and groan. Matty, this is some constructive criticism because the webcast has shown your better than that. Keep the content on the specifics of the field and the players without getting into cliches.

Since you're a literary guy Matty, remember what a cliche actually is... An expression or idea that has become weak, tiresome, stale, trite.

You're not the kind of man that should be associated with the words weak, tiresome, stale, or trite.

Anonymous said...

Last anon from previous anon.

IMHO the issue is the amount of dead time Matty and co. have to fill, especially between games, if some of this was filled by some fresh advertising they might have a little more time to think about what they are going to say and research who made which plays (especially for the divisional finals and the players they don't know so well). Then their take on replays etc. may be a little more informed and their general chatter less tiresome. Many sportscasters get sidetracked in to telling anecdotes that often the audience don't want or need to hear.

I have little doubt in Matty's ability to anchor the webcast, less belief in Pony Boy's ability as a co-host and find some of the guests laughable. Amongst the best is Greenspan, he at least tries to present a good level of punditry.

Anonymous said...

If the league didn't need the team benefactors to cough up the running costs of the pro teams, technically couldn't the PSP just fold, and PSPv2 start the same day, with 12 new franchises that they control themselves, and couldn't they offer spots on those teams to the players? The players are fickle and would take the spots, because if they aren't in a franchise they can't play in the league...
Not that this would happen, but I certainly don't think the teams have the power here. They only have the power as long as they can hold onto their players. Even the players contracted into the teams can walk away if they choose to, no-ones currently going to enforce a contract, and if they do, that team become the 'bad guys' and will leak even more players.
Following on from that, if the teams have no handle on their players, then what value do they have to the league, and how can they posture to get the ownership Loco is suggesting? They can't.

I notice that TBD are out of the Millennium, so does that mean that no Damage players will be playing in that league? I'm guessing that a couple of your top guys are going to go play out there anyway as hired guns. If I'm right, do you see that 'damaging' the value of your team?

Team owners think that because they spend so much money funding their player's 'dreams', that they should be due some kind of return on that investment at some point. The players (somehow) believe that its them that should see the big bucks when the money finally comes flooding in. Then there's the league, that will most likely have played the largest part in boosting the income, and I fully expect that they will want their own money back before they decide to share.

Loco, you say that its the Audience that drives the funding and I agree. However, Houston Heat has no pedigree, is a totally new team, yet was one of the most supported teams at the Chicago event, Pheonix too. This is because it's not about the team, its about the players. The Russians defected to join that team - thats the interest for the audience, not the team itself.

The more that players are allowed to guest for other teams, play other leagues as hired guns etc, the weaker the team becomes and the more power the players have. Teams might end up getting left in the cold altogether as the league cuts deals directly with the players.

Baca Loco said...

12:00 pm Anon (Why the Anon?)
Some good stuff here. First, about the structure of outside revenue generating league. Loco isn't and never has suggested ownership shares for the teams. Otherwise while I have no doubts about most of the players willingness to follow that path were it an option, or the option I think your model has a couple of fatal flaws. The key to the revenue is the audience and the revenue stream starts as a trickle that hopefully grows. So at the beginning the money is modest and a complete overhaul of teams and players puts everything at risk. Fans identify with teams, the most popular paintball teams are the winningest and the ones that have been around the longest.
Re: Mills mercs. Unlikely due to roster rules in the MS. And yes, there has been internal talk about how 'guesting' players dilutes the brand value potentially.
Para 3: don't disagree with any of that.
Re: Heat. A significant portion of their Chicago fans were a result of the origins of the team being D2 'Distortion' from the Chicago area along with the ex-Shock guys. They were in essence a local team. Otherwise 'Heat' has struck a chord with the fan base because of the players involved but only some of those players, the Russians, who have a high enough profile to capture that level of attention.
In conclusion--there aren't enough of those players to make the kind of difference you're suggesting but it's a fair point. The other key problem you have is any league structured your way devolves almost immediately into paintball's WWE, it has no legitimacy because its very organization appears on its face to be non-competitive at best or corrupt at worst.

Anonymous said...

I'd also add that what PBA is doing is adding value to the teams and players. When they collect stats on team wins and rosters over a period of 1-2 years, they can't just drop it all and start over.

In essence, I see the PBA building up content, which they can then go and sell. When that content has a history to it, it has more of a context. If the context gets blown away because all the teams and rosters got reorganized, you do still have player stats, which is a key foundation, but without it being linked to consistent teams it's not as valuable.

So whether or not PBA realizes it, it's compiling content that depends on a steady consistent base of teams, and making those teams more valuable. Perhaps if they go "big time" PBA will need these teams more than ever.

NewPro said...

@Mattys jibberish: Have you tried talking for 72 str8 hours, even the best would rehash comment after comment. Do you know any other sport where commentators are required to describe point after point, move after move, on the same field in the same venue for three days. Oh wait,Fill the dead time with commercials and give the PA guys a break. Wait a minute,if we do that, you complain about that repetition thing again with the same manufacturers running the same ads. Why not make more commercials, those are quick and easy..umm, no.Moolah required.

Like it or not, this is a pilot project to show some outside revenue sources that a quality product, worth a portion of their advertising budget, is being produced.This is paintballs chance to showcase a great product to non-industry sources....so suck it

Missy Q said...

u mad bro?

Baca Loco said...

NewPro
Seriously? 72 hours? What is this, a webcast or a fillibuster?
Nobody was disrespectful or even suggested somebody other than Matty should host the webcast. They expressed opinions about elements of the webcast that others can agree or disagree with but at a minimum feedback from the audience is usually considered worth some consideration.
One would almost think you're taking it personally. (Cue Missy.)

Anonymous said...

NewPro is just not used to people actually offering constructive suggestions, but as a "new pro" he is no doubt very good at offering up a lot of excuses for poor performance.

And in this case, I don't think Matty's performance is poor across the board.

NewPro talks about talking for 72 hours or something... nice. Except for the fact that I suggested the trite key to victory, which was something like, "believe in your teammates" should not be used. Matty (or someone) actually took time in advance to think that stuff up, and then edit the graphics to include it in the webcast. It's not like he just pulled it out of the air while he was thinking of what to say.

Now, there is no doubt, he could defend the usage of that "key" to victory. But I don't see how anyone with half a brain could actually suggest that you need this "key" to unlock victory on the field instead of something more important like... get Johnny in the snake, etc.

Even stuff like "stay out of the box" sounds like a nice key to victory. Except for the fact that a team could literally have all the "keys" Matty thinks up because they sound nice and still lose big time. Surely you can imagine a team believing in themselves, and staying out of the box, and still getting destroyed. What gives?!? I thought we had all the keys?!

The fact that some forethought was put into the banality suggests perhaps this kind of stuff is actually considered interesting, and if you practice and prepare for banality in advance, don't be surprised when it's the first tool you reach for when you're short on words.

This really might sound harsh. And to the degree that the useless trite is indeed trite, it is harsh. But if a lot of what you do is great, and a lot of what you do has potential, and some of the stuff you apparently enjoy, really sounds like crap... maybe you should accept the constructive criticism to cut the crap.

Everyone is a critic though, so I can see why it would be easy to brush these thoughts off.

Anonymous said...

I'd also suggest that maybe if doing a long webcast is so overwhelming that perhaps Matty could move over and let someone else in on the webcast. At the bare minimum it would make Matty look better when he gets back from his break!

NewPro said...

One more point good sir and ladies and yes, I'm steaming mad. Since everyone is concerned with the amt of $$$ the PSP throws at this project and actually after reading through the posts, there are quite a few arm chair managers/economists who feel this $$$ is being wasted. I have a question, Since I feel this is our best "professional" attempt at creating/launching a beast to showcase our sport to potential outside partners and Yes i realize there are always tweaks, glitches, room for improvement, etc but besides those minor issues, what would you do. OBV this money is not being pocketed, so we can't use the PSP is greedy excuse because there is actually an attempt to use revenue for something besides strippers, drugs and booze.

Still mad and presently stomping feet

Anonymous said...

I don't understand the anger.
I even reread all the posts to see if I was missing the big 'diss' that must have lit your fuse...

No-one said your baby was ugly dude. Everyone likes your baby and thinks it's the cutest baby ever.
Is it cruel to keep your baby away from the pool, or watch that it doesn't choke on a small toy? Of course not. I'm absolutely sure that everyone wants your baby to grow up strong and right.

Out of interest - your reference to booze, drugs and strippers - WTF are you talking about? I don't get it.

Missy Q said...

I think he was saying that the PSP usually spend a tom of money on Booze, Drugs and Strippers, but this time they are making an attempt to spend the cash somewhere else. Thats what his words say anyway..
I'd just like to say that if that's what the PSP usually spend their cash on, they do a fantastic job of keeping it quiet. No-ones ever let me know about one of those parties, and I normally merit an invite...

Baca Loco said...

Anon
NewPro just wants everyone to know those involved in the webcast aren't living the 'paintball lifestyle.' :)

Additionally PBAccess is the moneypit primarily funding the webcasts in cooperation with the PSP which means the principle funding isn't coming out of PSP coffers. FYI

NewPro said...

Loving the focus on the booze,strippers, cash, etc...Bad joke, maybe....just another way of saying wasting money, i'll be more precise next time. Bottom line, an excellent product has been developed to showcase our sport to possible outside partners, Howevvvverrrrr, I did err when I said the $$$ came solely out of the PSP's pockets. Since I have no firsthand knowledge and I'm not privy to any inside info, the opinions i express are simply from a fans perspective. Thank you for the correction, however, I do see the PSP and pbaccess as one in the same, sorry.Spitting mad, jesus I'm angry, I might actually have to get off the couch and yell at my neighbor

Missy Q said...

You mean your not involved with the webcast or PBA? And after 2 days you're still this mad bro?
You should use leeches, man. If you put them on your arteries you can 'bleed' yourself, which will bring down your blood pressure and also help with a multitude of other malais. Trust me on this.

And don't be hard on yourself with the 'bad joke' thing. It didn't come across as a joke at all, so you're in the clear.

Anonymous said...

Money PBA spends comes out of PSP's pockets one way or another. If Lane or Dave or Kee or whoever funds PBA puts 100k into PBA, that is 100k that they can't put into PSP if there is some issue that causes the PSP financial stress. And events of the last 5 years tells us that economic shocks can cause financial stress that send the top companies under (SP & Gardners)

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