Owner Of EPL Club Manchester City Reportedly In Talks To Buy N.Y. MLS Franchise
EPL club Manchester City Owner Sheik Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan, a member of the Abu Dhabi royal family, has “entered final negotiations to purchase” an MLS franchise “to be situated in Queens,” according to sources cited by Longman & Belson of the N.Y. TIMES. The sources said that prospective owner is “willing to pay" a $100M expansion fee for the league’s 20th team, "which could be called New York City F.C. and begin play” in ’16. The figure would “more than double” the expansion fee of $40M paid by the Impact in ’12. Sources said that a deal for a privately-financed, $340M stadium in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, which “would hold 25,000 spectators and could be expanded to 35,000, could be completed in several weeks.” Sources said that MLS “wants to make the announcement before May 25, when Manchester City is scheduled to play an exhibition at Yankee Stadium against” EPL club Chelsea. For MLS, an affiliation with Man City ownership would “broaden the global footprint of the sport." Univ. of Michigan sports management professor Stefan Szymanski said that the franchise “could help develop young players for Manchester City, while Sheik Mansour positions himself in the event MLS takes off in terms of attracting a wider television audience, offering larger salaries and becoming more appealing to soccer fans in the United States who now prefer the international game.” A source said that MLS “would have been more wary of Arab ownership if a New York team were being bought by the Qatari royal family," which has shown support for terrorist group Hamas (N.Y. TIMES, 4/29).
GEORGIA ON THEIR MIND? In Atlanta, Wenk & Saporta write "conversation is kicking around again" about an MLS team in the city. Both the Falcons and MLS "confirmed they are in contact regularly." However, "no formal meetings are scheduled so far." Falcons President & CEO Rich McKay in a statement said, “We are trying to facilitate that happening by configuring a new stadium to accommodate the requirements of professional soccer.” MLS Exec VP/Communications Dan Courtemanche said that it "remains possible for Atlanta to get an MLS team in time for the opening day of the new Falcons stadium," slated for '17. Wenk & Saporta note Atlanta is the "largest television market in the country without an MLS team." Atlanta "already is home" to the NASL Silverbacks. It is "possible that the Silverbacks could be essentially 'promoted' to an MLS team, which could prove easier than starting from scratch." However, Silverbacks Chair & Minority Owner Boris Jerkunica said that the team "isn’t very interested in becoming part of MLS." Courtemanche added that "there have been no discussions between MLS and the Silverbacks" (ATLANTA BUSINESS CHRONICLE, 4/26 issue).