Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Seriously... what the hell are they thinking?

I am now going to take the sonic laser out on MLS, but bear with me, it's not what you might think.

I'm not going to criticize level of play, ownership structure, championship structure, Designated Players or even the insipid scheduling of games on FIFA dates without a postpone clause for teams that lose half their roster to international duties (John Carver already handled that last one just fine on his own).

No, I'm going to discuss a pair of befuddling recent stories that seem unrelated and then connect them. I'm going to do what I feel I have to do far too often in today's world: attack the suits.

The first issue directly involves no less than MLS deputy commissioner Ivan Gazidis, who recently had such a problem with one news story that he fired back in his public denial of said article with the following:

"I have no idea who the source is for this story, but it's absolute nonsense... It's difficult to respond to blog entries where unknown sources are referenced - and of course blogs are driven by hits, not necessarily by the same standards as print media."

Setting aside the unnecessary petulance (which screams "This guy is dangerous because he's onto something, so we must Shane Stant his ass"), these remarks are rather mind-boggling.

First of all, like myself, Ives Galarcep is a reporter who goes out on that extra limb to blog daily - a distinction that can't be lost on Gazidis, who I'd presume was well familiar with the ESPN scribe's work.

Furthermore, in his haste to lash back, he took an unnecessary larger scale pop at a whooooole lot of honest, hard-working, do it for nothing folks that enrich the league's fan experience - and yes, at times, news base - with blogs from every MLS city and beyond. What's more, many of these people are also professional reporters (some of whom you can find through links in NSC's Reading Room on the right).

More disturbing is a recent pair of incidents involving security personnel in Chicago and New York becoming overly aggressive with die-hard fans, with the former seeming racially motivated. Unless I'm mistaken, the league has not followed up on this in comment, much less action.

If you want to run a single entity set-up, fine - then player transfers aren't the only area to meddle. For a league so insistent on control, I can't even imagine why we haven't yet been inundated with support for these fans from the head office and resulting actions against potential criminal behavior by security detail members.

Where is the story about an investigation? Is there an investigation? Anything? Or are we just waiting until everyone forgets about it?

The most recent substantive report on the Chicago aftermath I could find is in Spanish, although this story reveals an extra slap - added restrictions for Fire fans at Toyota Park.

Perhaps they don't have a problem with allowing under-regulated oversized men in brightly-colored matching tee shirts to (at best) arbitrarily manhandle some of the most faithful paying customers they have, but I do - and I'm not even making a penny off gate receipts, merchandise sales and the like.

I mean, sheesh... if you can't protect the league's longtime supporters and you can't protect the fiscal bottom line (I told you this would get kooky), then what's your plan for growth? I doubt very highly that "Pay Good Money, Be Slapped Around For No Reason & Get The Hell Out" Night is a concept to launch the career of any marketing icons.

The bottom line I'm drawing from these two items? Stop summarily dismissing the people who've helped you get to where you are, MLS. And don't say you weren't warned.

Seriously... what the hell are they thinking?

- Greg Seltzer


Evan said...

Thank you for making this point and it is too bad that no one from the league office will read it, much less will anything change. The MLS is birdsh*t nuts if they think that things can continue to run like this and still and have any hope of turning into a respectable league. Every time I think that soccer in this country has turned a corner, the soccer leadership fails me and every other loyal fan. There have been major strides made in player development and popularizing the game, but to be honest the sport will continue to be second class as long as people like Gulati, Garber, Bradley, and their cronies are running things. There is no fresh blood or new thoughts; they all have the same mindset so when one gets fired 'they' replace him with a clone--its like ideological incest. I will know that we as a country are for real when they are gone.

As always, great stuff.

Michael said...

This is a management issue. MLS management has more than it can handle right now and it isn't handling the situation well. MLS shareholders would do well to take note that just as rosters are too thin to handle the quantity and quality of games teams have, so is MLS management too thin to handle all of the issues that have come up this year. MLS is reeling and they are spending most of the time putting out fires. This is because:

- Player economics are out of whack (Cooper, Goodson, salary cap)
- Scheduling is hopelessly screwed up (WC qualifying, Champions League, etc.)
- Attendance is up and that raises issues (more people to deal with, complaints, violence, parking, game experience)
- Owners have different commitment levels (e.g. AEG v Chivas)
- Expansion dilutes quality. Most want to see better American players, not more foreign players.
- Fans demand attention. They want quality that isn't there, and they want product consistency.
- Everyone wants a piece of US soccer revenue (see SUM Marketing)
- Beckham raised more interest than MLS can really handle - a 10-20% increase in interest in soccer requires at least some investment in the product.
- USL and MLS aren't integrated - without relegation/promotion/farm system their interests won't be aligned.

I am glas I am not in MLS management becuase I would probably go home at night and kick my dog. Nevermind whether these are even capable managers...I just think they have waay too much on their plate.