SBD/March 1, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Don Garber Discusses MLS As He Prepares For 12th Season As Commissioner

Garber believes MLS has earned more coverage than it gets on ESPN
Don Garber is entering his 12th full season as MLS Commissioner, and he may have "more influence on the fate of the global game in its final frontier than any other American," according to Brian Straus of FANHOUSE.com. As MLS "continues to grow, with 18 teams planning to play this year and a 19th coming aboard in 2012, there are no signs his influence is on the wane." Garber last week chatted with Straus for an extensive interview, excerpts of which are below:

Q: It seems like ESPN, which does so much to shape the opinions of sports fans in this country, continues to give the league short shrift in its promotion and on SportsCenter. I know you ask them for more. What do they say in response?
Garber: They say SportsCenter is independent of the programming group and its value to the sports industry is its role in shaping opinion about sports. And it's done that earning the respect of sports fans and media for almost a generation. As such, we need to earn a position of editorial support. I believe we have earned a lot more than we've been getting from ESPN. ... The decisions that are made there (SportsCenter) are not made by John Skipper. This sport can't have a bigger supporter and stronger cheerleader than John Skipper. They're made by editorial guys who are looking at video, the coordinating producer, who's making a decision.

Q: In terms of creating a soccer nation, obviously the World Cup bid occupied a lot of your energy, your time, perhaps resources. First, how much did the bid, the whole process, cost the league and SUM?
Garber: Millions of dollars. Many many millions of dollars in financial support, resources, the time commitment. ... But I'd do the same thing again, and maybe we would have provided more. I don't regret anything that we've done, whether it was the financial contributions that we made, whether it was the office space we provided, the time our staff spent.

Q: Your name is attached to pretty much everything MLS does, and a lot of writers and fans seem to believe that you are the driving force behind every decision made. ... You're not an investor in this league, so it's hard for me to imagine that you have more say than Phil Anschutz, Stan Kroenke and the guys with the money. How does it work?
Garber: I'm the public face of the league. It's hard to have 18 individual people be the public face of the league collectively. ... Major League Soccer is a corporation. It's an LLC. So while the league operates no differently than any other league, for the most part, I'm the CEO of the company and I answer to a board of directors. That's no different than Roger Goodell, or Gary Bettman or David Stern, who answer to their board of governors (AOLNEWS.com, 2/25).
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