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Update on Lysacek Dispute

Here is an interesting article by Phil Hersh that takes a look at the dispute Evan Lysacek has with the US Figure Skating Association.  It discusses Lysacek's recent switch from International Management Group (IMG) to Creative Artists Agency (CAA).

Although the article does not include newer interviews with Lysacek or any comment from CAA, Hersh speculates that the agency isn't as familiar with the skating world as IMG was, and that may have played a part in the inability to reach an appearance agreement with USFSA for the Grand Prix events.

But let's get back to the core issue, which Hamilton alluded to when he said, "the business of skating has changed."

One question is how well CAA understands that.  The agency has had minimal relationships with figure skating and figure skaters -- especially compared to IMG, which has been intimately involved with the sport (sometimes too intimately) for years.

Although Bezic's remark about financial gain was ridiculous (why shouldn't a skater with Lysacek's career record profit from it?), the business has changed so much that it would be hard for the U.S. federation to pay Lysacek anything near what it did Michelle Kwan, Tara Lipinski, Sarah Hughes, Kimmie Meissner, Sasha Cohen, Timothy Goebel and Michael Weiss from 1997 through 2005.

That major way the business has changed is in television revenue. 

In 2008, the USFS independent auditor's report said the net television revenue for the 07-08 fiscal year (the transition year to the NBC deal) was $231,000.  The numbers for 2009 and 2010, listed as "broadcasting and licensing," were $1.8 million and $2.4 million, respectively, with 90 percent of that coming from broadcasting.

Those numbers show encouraging growth but also make it abundantly clear that the federation doesn't have the funds it once did for skaters like Lysacek, no matter how much he deserves such largesse.  The federation says it now gives no skater or couple more than $50,000 a year, and that is for training expenses based on past performance.

Had he signed the standard current athlete agreement, Lysacek would have received $40,000 to fund his training and other expenses.  That is the maximum USFS gives to a singles skater in its "A" tier, for which just the two reigning national champions qualified this season.  Three ice dance couples qualified for team compensation up to $50,000.

Maybe Lysacek is asking for so little extra, relatively, that USFS seems silly not to give it to him.  (If that's the case, CAA should be making it for him.)  But if the federation gave Lysacek more, it would have to do the same at least for Davis and White, who were unbeaten last season.  And maybe reigning Grand Prix Final and U.S. champion Alissa Czisny, fifth at 2011 worlds, also would want more.

Hersh doesn't really take a side, writing that Lysacek and USFSA both need each other.

One part that stuck out in my mind is how Lysacek has been left to deal with the fallout on his own - with no visible support from his agency.  I really wish this had worked out another way - it would have been great to see Lysacek last week at Skate America.