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FRS Sports Network and Its Plans for the Future of Sports Coverage

The company hopes that its new brand and credibility strategy will deliver an outlet that fans will continue to trust.

Adam White

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FRS Sports Network is looking to double down on its quality journalism and big-name talent. (Photo via FRS Sports Network)

In an era of clickbait journalism and a race to the bottom when it comes to CPMs, FRS Sports Network is doubling down on a commitment to quality journalism behind the likes of Jon Heyman, Jon Rothstein, and Zach Harper.

Never heard of FRS Sports Network? Well, that’s okay, you’re probably not alone. FRS Sports Network is the evolution of FanRag Sports after the company decided it needed to head in a new direction under its new leadership after seeing itself grow from a small blog to a nationally recognized name in the sports media world.

“We brought on a new CEO, Craig Amazeen, and the goal of that move was to take us to the next level,” said Jaime Eisner, Managing Editor/Director of Content for FRS Sports Network. “We had to be more clear in our branding, we had to be more cohesive. This is what led to us changing the name from FanRag Sports to FRS Sports Network.”

“The name ‘FanRag’ was always a point of contention. As a site that produces quality content and quality journalism, having the words ‘fan’ and ‘rag’ in your name didn’t really exude journalistic excellence.”

Eisner, who has been with the company since 2014, has seen the different iterations of the brand and the evolution of the company, helping the brand pivot multiple times to where it finds itself today.

The biggest boost the brand got was when they were able to bring on Jon Heyman after he parted ways with CBS.

“We reached out to Heyman originally when he left CBS. At the time, he wasn’t interested in writing anywhere. A couple of months went by and he wrote an article that he published in full on his own Facebook page. At that point, we reached out again and let him know we were still interested and he took us up on a meeting.”

As Managing Editor/Director of Content, Jaime Eisner has big plans for FRS Sports Network (Photo via FRS Sports Network)

During that meeting, former director of content Tommy Stokke, Eisner and the FRS team were able to sell Heyman on their commitment to paying writers and quality content. Heyman took the sell and has been breaking news for the company ever since.

“He was really sold on our mission to create quality content and produce quality journalism and that all of our writers were paid,” said Eisner. “Bringing him on board launched us to a new level. It was the justifier for us. He gave us credibility. He made it okay to read FanRag Sports.”

As part of the launch of the new FRS Sports Network brand, the company also announced a multi-dimensional partnership with theScore that will see their content prominently featured in theScore’s app, a partnership that Eisner sees as beneficial for all parties involved.

“The Score has the ability, as they did on Thursday, to grab content from Jon Heyman and fill out their in-app MLB section with content people are interested in. To make their app as comprehensive as possible, it makes sense for them to partner with us to have that content. For us, it allows us to grab the high-quality features theScore produces and share them on our platforms. It is a win-win for everyone involved.”

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For any company, rebranding can be a massive undertaking that, if not done well, can alienate core customers. Luckily for FRS Sports Network, everything they did was well received across all of their platforms.

Paige Dimakos, Video Host & Director of Social Media for FRS Sports Network, sees FRS’ fresh digital content as a way to organically work with sponsors. (Photo via FRS Sports Network)

“From a social standpoint, it was overwhelmingly positive because putting the word fan and rag together has never really set well from a branding standpoint when you are trying to push out credible journalism,” said Paige Dimakos, Video Host & Director of Social Media. “From a branding standpoint, even just talking to people on social media, the logo has come across well and mostly an overwhelming understanding of why we did what we did.”

With any company, the next step after a rebrand usually involves diving deeper into how to continue to grow an audience and grow revenue. That’s where new CEO Craig Amazeen will have a lion share of the duty.

“The next year is all about guiding our content into the proper packaging. The content, the content packaging, and the niche content we are moving into is the next year,” said Amazeen. “Once we get past that, it becomes a technology and partner play. How do we evolve into all of the new areas of technology and also deliver high-level human talent, multi-faceted engagement, and traditional digital advertising opportunities for our partners.”

Only a week off of its facelift, the staff at FRS Sports Network sees a bright future ahead.

“I have always believed that talent wins,” said Amazeen. “For me, the most important thing is to see how talented the team at FRS is. It’s small, but it is very talented and that’s why we are going to succeed.”

Adam is the Founder and CEO of Front Office Sports. A University of Miami Alum, Adam has worked for opendorse, the Fiesta Bowl, and the University of Miami Athletic Department. He can be reached at adam@frntofficesport.com.

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Meet the WNBA’s New Boss

Deloitte CEO Cathy Engelbert will become the first commissioner of the WNBA and the first woman to lead a Big Four professional services firm in the U.S.

Front Office Sports

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Photo Credit: Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

*This piece first appeared in the Front Office Sports Newsletter. Subscribe today and get the news before anyone else.

For the first time ever, the WNBA will have a commissioner. Before now, all of the league’s previous leaders like Val Ackerman and Lisa Borders were given the title of president. 

Cathy Engelbert, the current CEO of Deloitte, will take control of the role on July 17th and will report directly to Adam Silver. 

What should you know?

1. By the time she is done at Deloitte, Engelbert will have spent more time at the company (33 years) than the WNBA has been a league (23 years)

2. Engelbert is the first female to lead a Big Four professional services firm in the U.S.

3. She is the fifth person to lead the league after Val Ackerman (1997-2005), Donna Orender (2005-10), Laurel Richie (2011-15) and Lisa Borders (2016-2018)

4. Engelbert has spent the past four years in charge of Deloitte’s U.S. operation.

Basketball is in her blood…

Although she might be an accountant by trade, Engelbert is no stranger to the game of basketball. 

According to Bob Hille of Sporting News, she played at Lehigh for Hall of Fame coach Muffet McGraw and was a team captain as a senior. Her father Kurt also played and was drafted in 1957 by the Pistons.

What are they saying?

“Cathy is a world-class business leader with a deep connection to women’s basketball, which makes her the ideal person to lead the WNBA into its next phase of growth. The WNBA will benefit significantly from her more than 30 years of business and operational experience including revenue generation, sharp entrepreneurial instincts and proven management abilities.” – Adam Silver on the hiring of Engelbert

“I think that’s probably one of the reasons I was selected for this role, to come in and bring a business plan to build the WNBA into a real business and a thriving business, quite frankly.” – Engelbert to ESPN’s Mechelle Voepel

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Adam Silver Wants More Gender Diversity

The NBA commissioner states his desire to get more women into the sports industry. The NBA currently has a 31.6 percent ratio of women in team management.

Front Office Sports

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Photo Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

*This piece first appeared in the Front Office Sports Newsletter. Subscribe today and get the news before anyone else. 

If Adam Silver has his way, 50 percent of the new incoming NBA officials will be women.

That number applies to coaches too, Silver said speaking at the Economic Club of Washington.

How do the leagues stack up?

The following numbers, outside of MLB, come from 2018 reports put together by The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports (TIDES) at the University of Central Florida. MLB is the first league to have a report done on it this year.

1. NBA – 31.6% of team management are women / 37.2% of team professional admins are women

2. NFL – 22.1% of team senior admins are women / 35% of team professional admins are women

3. MLB – 28.6% of team senior admins are women / 26% of team professional admins are women

4. MLS – 26.5% of team senior admins are women / 31.6% of team professional admins are women

5. WNBA – 48.6% of team VPs and above are women / 58% of team managers to senior directors are women

6. NHL – No report done

Quotes from Silver… 

“It’s an area, frankly, where I’ve acknowledged that I’m not sure how it was that it remained so male-dominated for so long. Because it’s an area of the game where physically, certainly, there’s no benefit to being a man, as opposed to a woman, when it comes to refereeing.”

“The goal is going forward, it should be roughly 50-50 of new officials entering in the league. Same for coaches, by the way. We have a program, too. There’s no reason why women shouldn’t be coaching men’s basketball.”

That’s not all Silver wants to see change…

Silver, who has been adamant about getting rid of the one-and-done rule, provided some clarity as to when that might be achieved.

According to the commissioner, the 2022 NBA Draft will likely be the first one since the 2005 NBA Draft to allow high school players to go straight into the league rather than playing a season in college first.

Citing “active discussions” with the NBPA, Silver noted that they are still “a few years away.”

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“I Thought This Was a Good Deal”: AAF Vendors Speak Out

Amidst the spring football league’s collapse, countless vendors are still waiting to get paid for services rendered.

Robert Silverman

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Ultimately, it was the little things that best told the story of how dire things had gotten for the Alliance of American Football (AAF), an ex-team social media manager said. Starting in Week Five, social media managers no longer traveled with the team for road games. Even before, they’d doubled up on hotel rooms. The final bit of penny-pinching was the most bizarre: For the eighth and final AAF game, social was told Getty’s photographers would not be in attendance. Instead they would have to rely on “generic images,” making the job vastly more difficult.

Less than a week later, on April 2, the chaotic, short-lived lifespan of the spring professional football league, launched in March 2018 by filmmaker Charlie Ebersol, the son of venerated TV producer Dick Ebersol, came to an abrupt end. A little over two weeks after that, the AAF filed for bankruptcy, as first reported by Front Office Sports.

In the aftermath, stories like the social media manager’s have become ubiquitous. A  former player was sent a medical bill for treatment received during training camp. Scores of others reportedly had to cover their own airfare or were sent four-figure bills for hotel rooms. There was the class-action lawsuit filed by two players, claiming that ownership misled them about the league’s long-term fiscal solvency. Founders pointed fingers at one another after the debt-ridden league came crashing down. All manner of now ex-employees, from team officials to players,  learned they were out of a job thanks to social media.

The league’s bankruptcy filing revealed that $48.3 million was still owed to a variety of creditors against a $11.3 million in concrete assets, a scant $536,160.68 of which remained in the league’s bank accounts. Moreover, the AAF informed the thousands of creditors that any attempts to recoup their losses would be pointless right now, because, per Sports Business Journal, its coffers are entirely bare… “If it later appears that assets are available to pay creditors, the clerk will send you another notice telling you that you may file a proof of claim and stating the deadline,” the filing states.

But like the social media manager, many of those selfsame creditors began to suspect the AAF was on rocky financial ground long before the league officially pulled the plug.

Shortly after Tom Dundon, the majority owner of the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes, who built his financial empire on the backs of subprime auto loans, bought a majority share of the financially-strapped league, he started to cut corners, looking to pare down expenses by any means necessary according to a report by Sports Illustrated. “As soon as Dundon took over, our f——— expense reports were getting approved out of Dallas,” where Dundon Capital Partners’ office is located, a former mid-level AAF employee told the magazine. (Dundon did not respond to multiple requests for comment sent via the Carolina Hurricanes. The form to contact Dundon Capital Partners on their website was removed at some point in the past few months )

With the AAF bleeding millions each and every week it remained in existence, per USA Today, Dundon deemed it necessary to scrimp and save wherever possible including on the margins. So vendors—companies that supplied locker room supplies, traveling equipment and more—were approached hat in hand and offered less than the full amount owed by the AAF.

READ MORE: AAF Files for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy 

While AAF officials served as the point of contact, two sources involved with the negotiations told Front Office Sports that the debt-clearing plan was conceived and ordered by Dundon’s financial team. If that meant exploiting AAF officials’ pre-existing relationships with vendors and playing on the faith placed in the league, so be it. As one former AAF official told Front Office Sports, it was “just a shit situation.”

Some of the companies did take the lowball offers, but others refused to accept less, insisting on full payment. It didn’t matter. Both paths led to vendors getting stiffed by the AAF. Dundon’s financial team kept stalling, promising the equivalent of “the check’s in the mail,” right up until the moment when the AAF closed its doors for good.

Now those vendors have been reduced to poring over the bankruptcy filings. They know all too well that, despite being out five or six figures, they’re way at the back of the line, trailing giant conglomerates like MGM and Aramark which are owed millions. And they’re not happy about it.

“I definitely feel scammed,” one vendor said.

(more…)

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