MLS Strongarms Its Way into New York City
For a while, the New York Yankees and Manchester United agreed to sell each other's stuff.
As it transpired, the Red Devils really didn't need the Bronx Bombers' help to hawk their gear or boost their profile in Gotham City. But their blue-shirted Mancunian brethren did, and their sights were set much higher than scarves, kits, and ratings.
Forget the 'joined forces' spin. Manchester City has recruited the Yankees to help them push through a stadium deal in New York where they can plant the MLS expansion franchise that has just been awarded to this odd couple. The initiation fee was $100million, but either club could pull that sort of dosh out of its front pocket.
The Blues were purchased by Sheik Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan -- and no, you may not call him Manny -- a member of Abu Dhabi's ruling family. As the deputy prime minister of the United Arab Emirates, he has political sway in Abu Dhabi and environs. However, he doesn't have as much pull in Europe and even less in New York. And he has complications in both venues.
European football is subject to the Financial Fair Play policy, a rational dictum that seeks to curb irrational spending by clubs that often forces them into bankruptcy (see Leeds United, among the multitude of high-profile examples). One of the objectives is for clubs to "compete within their revenues," which in any other business would be discussed during the first day of an Economics 101 course. However, European football exists in a parallel universe.
It took four years for the Sheik to buy and build his way to the Premiership title in 2012. The cost has been mind-boggling, even by EuroFootball standards. With the implementation of the Financial Fair Play policy last season, City is now under pressure to create more revenues to justify its extravagance. An investment in more football operations would seem to be a shrewd political move, especially in a budding market such as the USA.
And what market has more potential for rapid revenue growth than New York City?
Enter the Yankees. More to the point, enter Randy Levine. The Yanks exec and former deputy mayor was the prime mover behind getting the New Yankee Stadium financed and built before anyone in authority totally grasped what was happening. Baseball and soccer aren't compatible co-habitants as stadium tenants; the turf issues can be significant. Thus, the House that was inspired by the House that Ruth Built can serve as a temporary home for the new MLS franchise, but that's about it.
Levine's skills are essential if a new soccer stadium is to be built. Politicians are still mindful of the Yankees' backroom deals that came to light in a harsh manner. A proposed site in Queens would have wiped out a popular public park. The UAE punishes homosexuality by death or chemical castration, positions that understandably don't play well in New York. In short, as popular as football is in sections of the metropolitan area, the thought of another stadium to support it is going to take some work to gain acceptance.
Still, somehow and somewhere, it will happen in New York City. The soon-to-be rival New York Red Bulls actually reside in New Jersey -- shades of owner Arte Moreno and his Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim! -- so the new franchise should be well placed to win the hearts and minds of actual New York football fans.
The Sheik has an agenda, the Yankees have a virtual no-lose revenue scenario, Levine has the insider access, and the MLS must be pinching itself.
Now all it needs is David Beckham to arrive on the scene as an owner. The stage is set for that, too.