Just weeks after the announcement of Major League Ultimate, a new professional Ultimate league has been proposed to rival both USA Ultimate’s Triple Crown Tour, the American Ultimate Disc League, and the MLU, Ultiworld has learned.
Kevin Minderhout, the founder of NexGen, has presented a proposal to top club captains to start a new 18-team professional league. The proposal suggests that nearly all of this year’s Open Division Club Championships qualifiers — the Pro Flight and Elite Flight teams from USA Ultimate’s Triple Crown Tour — with the addition of Philadelphia’s Southpaw and Pittsburgh’s Oakland (and the exclusion of Palo Alto’s Boost Mobile) start their own professional league.
Teams would be the majority owners of the league, splitting 67% of the equity equally among them. The remaining 33% percent, Minderhout suggests, would be both used to purchase NexGen and all of its assets ($40,000 in fixed assets and between $20,000 and $40,000 in cash), and to do an initial $80,000 capital raise. Minderhout would take 25% of the league’s equity, and “propose[s his] appointment as the League’s first commissioner for a 5-year term drawing a salary of $25,000 per year deductible from any distributions [he] may receive as a result of [his] ownership share in the League.”
Minderhout wrote in the executive summary presented to the teams:
This proposal comes out of my dissatisfaction with the [Triple Crown Tour] and “pro” models and my belief that ultimate does not need to nor should strive to imitate today’s model of professional sport. We need true innovation that upholds the values of the community, meets the needs of players, meets the needs of fans and allows ultimate to evolve and grow without finding itself beholden to sponsors or profit as its driving motive.
“I think there’s a better way to make a product that’s more responsive to the ultimate community, to the spirit of the game that I started playing and that I really love,” Minderhout told Ultiworld. “It’s not that I’m against [USAU and the pro leagues]. If the teams don’t want to do this, that’s awesome. I’ll do what I can to be involved. I still want to film great ultimate, that’s still my goal…We don’t need to be validated by ESPN.”
The season would consist of nine regular season tournaments, each comprised of six teams and played in a round-robin format. This would give each team three games against Division rivals, two games against other Conference teams, and three games against teams from one other Division. Here is the suggested breakdown of the three Conferences and six Divisions:
|West Conference||North Conference||South Conference|
|NORTHWEST DIVISION||CENTRAL DIVISION||ATLANTIC DIVISION|
|Seattle Sockeye||Chicago Machine||Philadelphia Southpaw|
|Vancouver Furious George||Madison Club||Washington, D.C. Truck Stop|
|Portland Rhino||Minneapolis Sub Zero||New York PoNY|
|SOUTHWEST DIVISION||NORTHEAST DIVISION||SOUTHEAST DIVISION|
|San Francisco Revolver||Toronto GOAT||North Carolina Ring of Fire|
|Boulder Johnny Bravo||Boston Ironside||Atlanta Chain Lightning|
|Austin Doublewide||Pittsburgh Oakland||Columbus Madcow|
Tournaments would be scheduled to run from Friday night through Sunday night. Three games would be played each night in stadiums, with paid admission for fans ($10 for students, $12 for adults with multi-day discounts available). Saturday and Sunday would also have morning sessions, with standard play at a multi-field tournament site.
Minderhout writes, “The transition of elite open ultimate into the stadium environment will unequivocally mark a new era in making high‐level ultimate more accessible to the public….The unlocking of new revenue sources in form of ticket sales and broadcasting will allow the League to improve the quality of its offerings across the board, pay observers, critical event staff and will eventually lead to reduced cost burden for players.”
The league’s purchase of NexGen would allow for, according to the proposal, 81 streamed and on-demand games during the regular season, all available for purchase on the NGN Network.
All games would be observed and played under USAU rules, with some modifications (available below).
The playoffs would consist of the six Divisional champions and two wild-cards, selected by the best regular-season records in the league. Each round would be a best-of-three, with the third round, if necessary, played to seven points with no overtime. No games would overlap.
The proposal also argues for the creation of its own immersive media content. “The League will invest aggressively in a quality, professional media experience for fans,” writes Minderhout. “This begins with the hiring of a full time staff member to manage media platforms and equipping him or her with a $15,000 budget to create and contract the creation of exceptional original content. The League will lead major innovations in broadcast video, roster information, stat keeping, feature‐length journalism, expert columnists, event reporting and fantasy ultimate.”
Despite Minderhout’s insistence that this model would not “imitate today’s model of professional sport” or make Ultimate “beholden to sponsors or profit as its driving motive,” this is a professional sports league proposal that seeks to make money for its stakeholders.
Under his proposal, teams would have to agree to revenue sharing “from broadcast rights both local and national, league-wide sponsorships and the collective licensing of team marks.” Market analyses and budgets have been built out through 2017.
Additionally, any non-team investors’ shares would be subject to the following clause:
“If a non-team owner wishes to sell his or her shares the League has the right of first refusal to purchase shares at fair market value. If the League reaches a fair market value of $40,000,000 adjusted for inflation the League will have the option to purchase all outstanding shares from non-team owners at fair market value. This option exists in perpetuity until all shares are sold or the value of the League drops below the aforementioned value. Shares purchased by the League must be distributed evenly amongst all member teams and all voting rights associated with outstanding shares disappear.”
Teams would also have to agree to go public if they earned more than $2,000,000 in profit, with proceeds from the offering going towards the “construction of a team specific venue.”
Minderhout writes, “The underlying philosophy is that as ultimate grows people should be rewarded for their work in growing it, but once a sufficient reward has been achieved the ownership should be transferred in a manner that eventually leads to a community rather than privately owned sport.”
Minderhout is embarking on a cross-country road trip this month to speak with team captains of each of the 18 teams. The proposal reads:
When asked if he thought USA Ultimate would be upset by this proposal, Minderhout said, “If USA Ultimate is our governing body, and their mission is to support ultimate players, I don’t really think it’s damaging. If their mission is to be the exclusive provider of elite ultimate competition, then maybe.”
The full proposal can be found and downloaded below. We will have much more on this new professional league, its implications, the legal issues, and the impact on the pivotal 2013 Club seasons. If you are a team captain and have thoughts to share about the league, on-the-record or on background, please get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.