SBD/November 11, 2011/Franchises

Garber Supports Relocation Of DC United If Club Is Unable To Improve Lease

Garber is frustrated by club’s unsuccessful efforts to work with city on new stadium plan
MLS Commissioner Don Garber Thursday said that he "would support the relocation of DC United if the club isn’t able to improve the terms of its lease at RFK Stadium and make progress toward building a new facility in the city," according to Steven Goff of the WASHINGTON POST. During his annual state-of-the-league address, Garber said he is "'very concerned' and 'continually frustrated' by United’s unsuccessful efforts to work with the city on a new stadium plan." Garber: "I am concerned about where this team will be in 2012." United has "taken a serious look at moving to Baltimore, which has proposed constructing a stadium in the Westport neighborhood, near the city’s baseball and football stadiums." Sources said that the club "has had preliminary talks with the University of Maryland about playing at Byrd Stadium until a new stadium is built in the Washington or Baltimore area." Until a "long-term solution is reached, United is seeking more favorable terms in its lease with EventsDC, which operates RFK." DC United President & CEO Kevin Payne claims the club "has about $1 million more in expenses than the average MLS team and collects about $1.85 million less in revenue." Garber said, "If they can’t get a new and improved lease in DC, and they've got to move to another facility in the region, I will be supportive of that, and in fact will help them do that" (WASHINGTON POST, 11/11).

STATE OF THE LEAGUE: Garber Thursday said that MLS will "go to an unbalanced 34-game schedule next year and there is 'a very strong possibility' next year's MLS Cup will be played at the site of the team that wins the Supporters Shield for best regular-season record." He added that MLS merchandise sales "increased 35 percent this year, when the league's regular-season attendance rose 7 percent to a record 17,872." The league's average viewers for telecasts on ESPN and ESPN2 "rose 16 percent to 311,000," and viewers on Fox Soccer "increased 26 percent to an average of 70,000." For Spanish-language broadcasts on Telefutura, viewers "increased 10 percent to an average of 233,000." Meanwhile, Garber said that there has been "no progress toward finding a venue in New York that would enable the league to add a second team in the area, but that MLS had hired a fulltime person to work on the project and had retained three consultants." He added that he "anticipates the league will resume talks with the Wilpon family after litigation filed by the trustee seeking to recover money for the victims of the Bernard Madoff Ponzi scheme is resolved." Garber mentioned that Las Vegas and Detroit are "possibilities for future expansion and said that although a Florida group was interested, no potential ownership in Miami has emerged" (AP, 11/10). USA TODAY's Beau Dure notes during his address, Garber also discussed Galaxy MF David Beckham. Garber: "David has delivered for us on all aspects of our expectations. MLS wouldn't be what it is today if David didn't decide to come." Beckham is "in the last season of a five-year contract with Los Angeles, which will play Houston in the MLS Cup final Nov. 20 at home." Garber "hopes Beckham will return but couldn't say he was sure that a new deal will be made" (USA TODAY, 11/11).
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