SBD/May 22, 2013/Franchises

Man City Owners To Take Similar Approach With MLS Venture Of NYC FC

Manchester City Owner Sheikh Mansour and his Abu Dhabi-based group will take a “similar approach” in its handling of MLS expansion team New York City FC as it did with the EPL club, but on “a smaller scale to reflect the structural differences between European and American soccer,” according to a source cited by Martin Rogers of YAHOO SPORTS. Mansour bought Man City in ’08 and “set about furnishing the squad with some of the best, most expensive players in the world, turning a team mired in mediocrity for years into one of the EPL's signature members.” The source said, "This is not some little side project. It is an important part of building the brand of Manchester City Football Club and in that sense it is crucial that the new team represents the overall message in the right way.” The source added, “MLS obviously has some salary cap restrictions that we don't have in England but expect some major signings. … The blueprint can be expected to be a combination of big names, high-quality imports, a strong core of experienced American players, plus an efficient development system to build future talent." MLS yesterday announced NYC FC, a partnership between Man City and the Yankees, will begin play in '15 as the league's 20th team. Rogers reported “serious talks between City and the MLS hierarchy have been ongoing for several months, but the addition of the Yankees to the deal was a more recent development” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 5/21).

TALE OF TWO CITIES: SI.com’s Grant Wahl wrote, “In theory, the Yankees' affiliation will help provide additional clout to get the deal done for a new stadium for this team.” But there “will be questions.” The Yankees “used to have an affiliation with Manchester United, City's rival, but that deal didn't bring about anything of substance.” The Yankees on paper will “have a much bigger role in this project, but we'll have to wait and see how their influence is used.” Still, this marks the “biggest MLS announcement since David Beckham signed” with the Galaxy in January ’07 (SI.com, 5/21). In N.Y., Filip Bondy notes the partnership “represents a new sports model that makes great business sense, yet might not be embraced here with the same enthusiasm expressed by team officials.” If Man City “intends to use this club as a way station for second-tier, transfer players from the parent side, it will quickly discover that New Yorkers have little patience for Triple-A sports franchises at any venue.” Bondy writes, “Hopefully, after a lot of work, [Man City CEO Ferran] Soriano will build a solid MLS club independent of the English team -- not a feeder system.” He will “need to prove that quickly to a relatively sophisticated fan base around here, always a hard sell” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 5/22). Soriano said that he “may look at the idea of recruiting marquee names" such as Beckham to "help build a following for the new team” (London INDEPENDENT, 5/22).

THE BLUEPRINT: In N.Y., Brian Lewis noted MLS Commissioner Don Garber has “longed for a second team" in N.Y. Garber said, “From a league perspective, this is a project we had as part of the original business plan in 1996. It was always part of the plan to have two teams in New York, and we’ve worked on and off on it for 18 years.” Despite “inconsistent attendance by the Red Bulls, Garber pointed out that there are 19 million people in the area, and more than enough of them can be converted from fandom of some other non-MLS soccer team to provide a great rivalry with the Red Bulls, one that will help lift the league” (NYPOST.com, 5/21). Former MLS Commissioner Doug Logan said that MLS' original plan “called for the New York MetroStars -- which became the Red Bulls in 2006 -- to cater to fans in New Jersey, while the second New York team would serve fans in Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island.” MLS Union CEO & Managing Partner Nick Sakiewicz, who was MetroStars President from ‘00-05, said that N.Y.'s soccer market is “big enough for that plan to still work.” Sakiewicz said, "The vast majority of license plates in (the MetroStars) parking lot were from New Jersey. It was tough for fans in western Long Island or Queens to get to our games" (USA TODAY, 5/22). 

HOW 'BOUT THEM APPLES? The WALL STREET JOURNAL’s Robinson & Clegg note MLS officials hope a rivalry between the Red Bulls and NYC FC “will energize the area's fans, as has been the case in the Northwest, where grudge matches between” the Timbers and Sounders are “invariably sellouts.” Garber said, "I very much believe that the Red Bulls will be even more committed to the league and embrace this as an idea that will allow them and NYC FC to break through the clutter of over a dozen professional sports teams" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 5/22). ESPN FC’s Jason Davis wrote under the header, “Garber’s Legacy Rests On New York City FC.” A franchise within the city limits of N.Y. has “long been Garber’s overriding goal,” and it will be Garber who “will take the blame if it fails.” The plan “predates his MLS involvement, but the recent push for New York rests squarely on his shoulders” (ESPNFC.com, 5/21). In N.Y., George Vecsey notes the awarding of the “vital” 20th MLS team to N.Y. “touches off a search for a soft spot to land, potentially in the shrinking acres of land available to the working people of Queens.” MLS up to now has “done just about everything right since its inception in 1996.” But putting “a stadium, concrete access, traffic jams, plus another set of users into the parkland could be the league’s first major unredeemable act” (N.Y. TIMES, 5/22).

THE PRICE IS RIGHT: NBCSPORTS.com’s Steve Davis wrote a N.Y. expansion team was a “strategic choice all about dollars and good financial sense,” and what that “ultimately means is TV contracts.” That and “greater media awareness, too, which helps drive sponsorships and, ultimately, further enhanced TV contracts.” A MLS expansion fee “beyond the Big Apple runs about" $40M. Garber almost two years ago “set the NYC expansion price" at $100M. Davis wrote, “You don’t need much of a calculator to see about $60 million reasons why current owners would prefer this ordering of expansion, right?” (NBCSPORTS.com, 5/21).

SPACED OUT: The N.Y. DAILY NEWS' Bondy notes the NASL N.Y. Cosmos “appear to have lost their bet.” NASL officials “gambled there would be no second MLS team established here, because there would be no stadium built in Queens.” Now there will be a second team, and the Cosmos are “thereby relegated to third-banana status, and hopefully will survive despite such a fate” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 5/22).
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