SBD/November 30, 2012/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Garber Says Work As MLS Commissioner Not Done Yet; Ownership Not In His Future

Garber expects multiple offers on MLS' TV rights, which expire in '14
With the MLS Cup slated for Saturday, Commissioner Don Garber sat down with SI.com's Grant Wahl for a Q&A on the state of the league. Below is an excerpt from their conversation.

Q: What is the status of potential bidders for that expansion team in N.Y.?
Garber: We continue to reach out to the investment community to try to seek somebody who has the capacity to both buy the MLS expansion team and invest hundreds of millions of dollars in the stadium.

Q: Do you foresee yourself signing another contract as commissioner?
Garber: I don't think my work is done. But this has been an enormously difficult and taxing job. ... In the early days we were so focused on ensuring our viability, you almost felt like a fireman running from brushfire to brushfire and didn't have an opportunity to really think about a mid-term plan, let alone a long-term plan. Now we've put a number of things in place that gives us the opportunity to take a step back. ... We'll be launching soon on our rebranding of the league and tapping into the real supporters culture that exists. We are running full speed ahead at SUM with a private equity partner in Providence who's giving us a whole new level of strategic thinking and opportunity, particularly in the media space. The ownership group continues to expand and the new guys coming in have the same passion that the founders have and in many ways a renewed energy that's very empowering.

Q: Do you eventually want to be an owner or investor in this league?
Garber: No. I am an operator. I don't have the financial capacity to be an owner (laughs), and I think I am far more effective trying to think about how do we take this league to the next level?

Q: How do you get TV ratings higher?
Garber: I don't think there's a single answer to that. ... We feel good about our ratings on ESPN and NBC, two great partners who are producing our games at the same level of quality that they produce the NFL or any other program. ... We need to grow scale. We need to get more people to pay attention to our league nationally. ... We'll have multiple bidders on our TV rights when they come up in 2014, and end up with great partnerships with broadcasters who are getting more and more committed to the game.

Q: When does MLS start using goal-line technology?
Garber: I see no reason why we wouldn't continue to look at goal-line technology and find ways if it's affordable to utilize it within the league. At a half-million dollars a system for the handful of times it would be utilized, it's hard to imagine that's a good investment rather than perhaps putting money into other things that might truly improve the quality of our play. ... I would say if I were king (of world soccer) I would be an advocate for instant replay (SI.com, 11/29).

TAKING STOCK IN SEATTLE: In Seattle, Joshua Mayers, in regard to the Sounders, wondered, "Does the league's highest attendance produce the league's highest ticket revenue?" Sounders GM Adrian Hanauer said that "as far as he knows, the answer is yes -- though Toronto FC has been close due to higher average ticket prices." Hanauer: "We are certainly near the ... in the top third of franchises in terms of total revenue. I'm not going into details. ... We have had a solid business, but it's not like [Owner Joe Roth] or I are changing our lifestyles based on the cash that this business generates" (SEATTLETIMES.com, 11/29).
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