SBD/May 23, 2013/Franchises

Claudio Reyna Becomes NYC FC's First Employee; Questions Remain For MLS Club

Reyna spent four seasons with Manchester City from '03-07
It will come as “no surprise to Yankees fans or to followers of MLS" that former Red Bulls and EPL club Manchester City MF Claudio Reyna was named New York City FC's Football Dir, but the appointment has “raised eyebrows, not least since it means handing Reyna responsibility for building a competitive team from scratch, despite having never previously served as a team executive at any level or in any capacity,” according to Jonathan Clegg of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. Reyna in some respects is “an obvious choice to lead the team.” A New Jersey native, he “captained the U.S. national team at two World Cups ... and most recently served as U.S. Soccer's youth technical director” (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 5/23). ESPN FC’s Roger Bennett wrote Reyna was “one of a handful of men who would have fit the bill, but none could be more perfect.” Reyna said, "This is the area I grew up in but when I take a step back and remember where the sport was when I came of age when, frankly, it was not relevant at any level, and look where it is now -- big youth to pros for men and women -- I realize New York City FC is going to add one huge level onto all the work done by so many people over the past four decades." Still, the “jump from being a creative midfielder for Manchester City to helping them build a club from scratch is a huge one.” Reyna admitted the task is "daunting." Reyna also hinted “at what he hopes may be some of New York FC's perceived advantages.” He said, "Every player I ever met during my career loves New York City. We hope we can attract non-Designated Players of quality who want to spend time in the city and in MLS and experience the growth of our club" (ESPNFC.com, 5/22).

HOUSE HUNTING: In N.Y., Ken Belson notes the “next and far larger task will be to find a new home for the team, which expects to begin playing in 2015 at Yankee Stadium, Citi Field or another temporary home.” MLS and N.Y. Mayor Michael Bloomberg said that a “roughly 10-acre area in the eastern end of Flushing Meadows-Corona Park is an ideal site for a stadium.” Yankees President Randy Levine, who is the club’s point person in the partnership with Man City, said that both clubs would “assess the proposed site for the stadium in Queens, but look elsewhere if needed, including at locations not previously considered and at private property.” Levine added that the Mets, who have “demanded a hefty share of parking revenue for use of the lots at Citi Field, are not an impediment to reaching a deal for a stadium” (N.Y. TIMES, 5/23).

OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS: GOAL.com’s Kyle McCarthy wrote the “mooted" $100M deal to create NYC FC "combines limitless resources with political capital, a mixture that will prove helpful as this new club attempts to build a stadium and captivate a city.” MLS in its “pursuit of general acceptance in a still skeptical landscape veers toward the unseemly at times, but it is not one iota misplaced here.” The right club in N.Y. can “aid those endeavors significantly and plot an improved and more expansive course for the future.” McCarthy: “For better or for worse, the Red Bulls have failed in their attempts to chart that path over the past few years. The absentee owners in Austria still plunge ample funds into their advertisement-cum-soccer club to capture attention and receive a return on their investment, but their considerable expenditures cannot fix the location of the stadium (a hindrance to city dwellers who shudder at the thought of taking the PATH out to Harrison), the seemingly perpetual mismanagement or the star-crossed history of a team still yet to lift its first significant title.” NYC FC must “take advantage of its inherent strengths -- its operating and political capital, plus its ties to one of the strongest sides in England -- to hit the ground running and vanquish any thoughts of potentially catastrophic failure or underachievement.” Hurdles, miscalculations and missteps “often prove costly in the competitive New York environment” (GOAL.com, 5/22).

QUESTIONS REMAIN: In N.Y., Brian Lewis wrote there is “no doubt the Bombers know the city and Manchester City knows the game; but the marriage leaves a host of questions unanswered, both athletic and ethical.” Lewis wondered, “Will Manchester City and the big-spending Bombers be able to build a winner in the salary-cap MLS? With Manchester City owner Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan’s notoriously poor human rights record, will the league be judged by the company it keeps?” Levine said of Mansour, “Before we get involved with any partner, we make sure they understand we have zero tolerance (for bigotry). We’re confident” (NYPOST.com, 5/22). In N.Y., Joe Anuta writes the odds that NYC FC "will scrap plans for a stadium in Flushing Meadows Corona Park are more likely than official announcements have indicated.” MLS has spent “more than a year" and nearly $2M on lobbyists to "lay the groundwork for a 13-acre stadium proposed on top of a non-working fountain in the park, which was touted by the Bloomberg administration but met with vehement opposition by Queens parks groups” (Queens TIMES LEDGER, 5/23).

DOUBLE TROUBLE? MLS Commissioner Don Garber yesterday said that the rivalry between the Red Bulls and NYC FC will "benefit the league.” Garber said, “We're going to have a good thing going on: Two teams trying to be the king of the New York region.” He added, “It will make everyone work harder. We'll have some challenges as we always do, but we have challenges every day. This is one we'll turn into an opportunity.” Red Bulls coach Mike Petke said that he is “excited to face ‘a true rival’ when the club takes the field in 2015.” Petke said, "They’re the new guys coming in and I’m looking forward to smashing them in 2015, to be honest with you" (NJ.com, 5/22). However, in Columbus, Michael Arace writes a new MLS franchise in “America’s largest market can only add to MLS’ legitimacy -- if it works, and that’s is not a lead-pipe cinch.” NYC FC might be “well-funded by a collection of smart sportsmen, but the bid came together only when the Yankees signed on last week,” and club officials have “much yet to calculate” (COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 5/23).

BEHIND THE SCENES: AM LAW DAILY’s Brian Baxter reported Levine, Yankees COO Lonn Trost and Yankees Senior VP & CFO Anthony Bruno “took the lead on behalf of the team in the negotiations” that brought about NYC FC. Herrick, Feinstein LLP Chair Irvin Kishner also is “advising the Yankees on the agreement with Man City.” Akin Gump partner Trey Muldrow III also “advised the Yankees," while a team of lawyers from Shearman & Sterling “advised Mansour and his Abu Dhabi investment group.” Paul Hastings LLP real estate attorney Martin Edelman has “taken the lead counseling Man City.” Fried Frank LLP attorneys Stephen Lefkowitz, Richard Leland, and Tal Golomb, Jacob Feldman and David Gest are “leading a team from the firm advising MLS on all aspects of the project, with a particular focus on obtaining the land use and environmental approvals necessary for building on city parkland.” Proskauer Rose, a “longtime legal adviser” to MLS, has been counseling the league “on its expansion efforts and move into Manhattan" through attorneys Jonathan Oram, Alan Parnes, Jennifer Paine and Bradley Shron (AMERICANLAWYER.com, 5/22).

STILL NEED TO CONVERT SOME: WFAN-AM's Mike Francesa made it clear he was not that enthusiastic about the Yankees-Man City MLS partnership during his show Tuesday. Following a promo for YES Network's coverage of yesterday's press conference, Francesa asked, "The Yankees have a press conference tomorrow at 10:00 about what? ... Is that that Manchester United thing?! Oh, who cares! Oh my god, the last thing I care about is the Yankees owning a soccer team. I couldn't care less. I don’t care what team it is, where it is, I could care less what soccer team they own. That doesn’t interest me. You couldn’t get me involved in that if my life depended on it. I couldn’t care less!" ("Francesa," WFAN-AM, 5/21).
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