Monday, August 7, 2017

Why do people argue against #ProRelForUSA?

The internet is an awesome tool. The ability to find in depth information about any and every topic, keep up with family, watch funny cat videos... and argue about #ProRelForUSA.

Every time a positive article about opening the pyramid comes out a small group of very vocal anti-reform activists start their "it will never happen", "the owners will never agree to it", and the other standard status quo supporting Tweets and comment section activities.

I just want to know why?

We all know the system is broken. It is not delivering the results we want economically, developmentally, or socially. What makes you want to defend this system?

We know soccer is not going to go away if the system changes. Period.

People are still going to go to games.

Leagues are still going to exist.

Teams are still going to populate those leagues.

Soccer is still going to be on TV.

Kids are still going to be able to play on Saturday mornings.

Is fear really driving this side of the conversation? They aren't arguing for their version of change. They aren't arguing for a different set of big and bold reforms. They are arguing for a continuation of what we have now. Now I have read, just like I'm sure you have, all the nefarious "paid shill" comments that are often thrown about concerning media members who are supposedly on the take from MLS/SUM. I just don't believe that. At some point somebody would stop getting paid and they would write an expose about it. I feel that after 20+ years of buying off the media it would have happened by now. Without getting paid I just struggle to find any reason why regular people (not MLS owners) are so invested in defending the status quo other than fear of the unknown and what will happen after the change to an open pyramid.

From talking to hundreds of #ProRelForUSA activists over the last few years I think it is safe to say hope and positivity are driving the other side of the conversation. The hope that the United States can become a world soccer power and the positivity of thought needed to look for and support big and bold solutions, even ones that may be scary.

I for one am glad people like Ricardo Silva and Dennis Crowley are stepping up and attempting to make these big and bold reforms to the system. Am I worried that the transition may be bumpy? Sure... who wouldn't be? But what I am, is confident. Confident that in the long run this is what is necessary. That in the long run, this is going to lead our nation to being one of the best nations in the world at soccer with a vibrant league system existing in every community in the country. You just have to open your mind up to the possibilities out there... the big and bold ideas of radical change.

One side driven by the fear of change.

One side driven by a hope for a better future for this game we all love.

Continue to speak up for #ProRelForUSA. 88% of us want to see it. Don't let the 12% shout you down because they are scared of change.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Promotion Relegation and the Stadium Scam - Jake Steinberg Guest Post

(Note: Today's guest author Jake Steinberg wrote a great piece featured by the Economist make sure you READ IT HERE)

Promotion Relegation and the Stadium Scam             

Advocates for promotion and relegation in the United States spend a lot of time debunking speculative defenses of the existing order. One of the more common tropes is MLS simply won’t allow it to happen. I don’t have a ton of patience for that argument—for one thing, it’s self-fulfilling and thus uninteresting—but at least one part of it needs to be taken seriously. Because while pro/rel advocates can point to the fact that it’s not entirely MLS’s decision, it is obvious that pro/rel would be easier to achieve if MLS agreed to it.

    Others have pointed out reasons why MLS is unlikely to be a full-throated pro/rel backer but the point of this post is not to wade into the general morass of that question or to examine the ability or general willingness of monopolistic entities to give up control, but instead to highlight a particular reason why MLS fights against pro/rel, which also happens to be a very good argument in favor of an open system. MLS wants to expand its access to the lucrative stadium scam that the four major sports (1), particularly the NFL and MLB, have been running for years, and it can only do that if it remains a closed league. 

Everyone knows that stadiums (2) are a bad deal for municipalities. Teams usually trot out the same shill to defend their deals, but virtually every serious source that has addressed the topic has found that these deals are bad for cities. The owners, like all snake-oil salesmen, push grandiose promises about the benefits of a new stadium, and the motivated thinkers in the political class lap them up like homeopathic remedies, despite all available evidence. Even leaving aside the impropriety of handing massive tax breaks and subsidies to some of the richest people and entities in the world, heavily subsidized sports arenas are just, on balance, not good deals for their locations. 

It’s clear why a league and its owners want tax breaks and subsidies and it’s not a huge mystery why politicians keep giving them out: they want to keep their teams or attract teams from other cities. (3) Knowing this, teams demand increasingly lavish benefits from cities and threaten to pull up stakes and move somewhere else if they don’t get their way. This has most recently affected fans of the Oakland (soon-to-be Las Vegas) Raiders, (4) but it’s also been pulled by the St. Louis (formerly and currently Los Angeles) Rams, (5) Texas Rangers, and Milwaukee Bucks. (6)

Here’s the catch: this extortionist swindle only works if there is a credible threat to leave, and there is only a credible threat to leave when you artificially constrain the number of teams that have access to the top division. As long as cities are permanently frozen out of the top division absent expansion or taking a team from elsewhere, some of those cities will be willing to heavily subsidize the construction of stadiums. 

An open system changes this dynamic. If you have an open system, teams will invest in accordance with what their market can bear. (7) If supporters have a hope that their club can one day enter the top division, those fans aren’t likely to trade in their existing loyalties for a shiny new MLS club. (8) In other words, they won’t need to approve massive expenditures to lure a team from elsewhere if they can help build up an existing team in their own market, which would eliminate the threat to move. And taking away the threat to move means that those municipalities have a much better negotiating position against their existing teams. Simply, without the threat to move, teams would not be able to shake down cities for lucrative public expenditures. 

    The MLS apologists will say that this impedes the growth of the game, because it hinders investment in top-flight facilities. That is only true if you think that the burden of creating those facilities should be with the public fisc, rather than the owners and governing structures of US Soccer. Even to the extent that owners would pass along costs to supporters, it is far more equitable for those of us who either like soccer or who stand to profit from it to bear the majority of those costs. Moreover, shifting the burden of these costs onto owners in an open system would match stadium investment to a club’s ambition. 

    MLS  has already taken advantage of public financing for stadiums, like the white elephant of Bridgeview, Illinois, where the Chicago Fire play. The league wants more of this money. Don Garber has explicitly said as much, defending the closed league by asking: “What do you tell a municipality who invests in a public stadium and expects to have the revenue streams that come from being in the First Division?” That question is dishonest in two ways. First, it assumes that the municipality will see revenues from the stadium, which is demonstrably false, as stadiums tend to cost cities money and generate small or no extrinsic economic advantages, while owners capture whatever benefits there are. Second, it is question-begging, insofar as it presumes that leagues should be deciding which cities are worthy of a top-division club, rather than having the market determine what an appropriate level of investment would be for a given city. 

Garber’s argument makes another dubious assumption: that there will be the same level of interest in the lower divisions in an open system as there is now. It’s fair to point out that average division 2 attendance (especially when we leave out the occasional outliers on the high side, like FC Cincinnati, and the low end, like the MLS2 squads) wouldn’t justify stadium construction on the scale that a top-division league deserves. But is there anyone who seriously doubts that interest in the second division would be higher if there were promotion? 

    Franchises threatening to leave their homes unless the taxpayers buy them a shiny new stadium has become a familiar story. It’s also easy to understand why politicians and voters still fall for the threat; no one wants to lose their access to the highest level of play in the country. An open system would eliminate this threat and the lucrative subsidies teams can extract with it,  which is why MLS will continue to fight for its closed system.

-Jake Steinberg is the chairperson of San Francisco City FC's members' board. His work on soccer has also appeared on The Economist's Game Theory blog. He sporadically tweets, mostly about SF City but occasionally about basketball, law, and his dog under the handle @SFJoachim

1. Culturally, I think you could probably argue that soccer is already a bigger deal than hockey in much of the country. Regardless, when people use the phrase “big four” in reference to sports in the US, they typically exclude MLS. 

2. Yes, I know the plural of “stadium” should be “stadia.” Stop being so pretentious. 

3. You could make this story more complicated and talk about politicians reflecting constituent demand, wanting legacy projects, and simple corruption, but for our purposes, these all amount to the same thing, wanting their team to stay put or wanting to attract a team from another city. 

4. Ironically, Major League Baseball’s antitrust exemption has helped keep the A’s in Oakland

5. The Rams are a particularly egregious example, because they pulled this scam twice, once convincing St. Louis to build them a stadium, and then, while the citizens of St. Louis still owed millions on the stadium, moved back to Los Angeles when St. Louis refused to build them a new one. The Rams defended the move by claiming the team didn’t take public money in LA, conveniently omitting the millions in tax breaks they got. The Rams owner, Stan Kroenke, became the majority owner of Arsenal sometime after the club built Emirates Stadium with no public money. He also owns the Colorado Rapids and if you don’t think he intends to pull this again, then I have a soccer-specific stadium to sell you. 

6. These teams all made explicit threats to leave, but even teams that haven’t done that have the implicit threat that they will relocate. 

7. Public financing of stadiums occasionally happens in open systems, but it’s less frequent, and usually requires some other catalyst, like an Olympics hosting bid. Even then it can be controversial. West Ham’s stadium deal, which was a much better deal (at least on paper) for taxpayers than the typical American one, still led to a government inquiry and public outrage.

8. I don’t know that it is fair to blame fans, particularly less obsessive ones, for preferring the highest level of play available to them, even if I also think that pro/rel would raise that level of play across the country. That said, I hope the people of Detroit ignore Dan Gilbert’s latest insult to decency and continue supporting Detroit City FC.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Let's speculate about a #ProRelForUSA timeline

Since yesterdays $4B media rights offer from MP and Silva discussions about opening the American pyramid have been happening like never before. As can be expected with such a hot topic, sources are starting to leak more information about the deal.

As Bob Williams explains in this series of tweets...

He goes on to explain that of the $4B over 10 years he is being told that $80m per year could make its way to lower division teams and the inclusion of solidarity and parachute payments would be included in this new way to structure the American pyramid. 
His sources are also saying that the offer was most assuredly serious and that this offer is just the beginning of a path to an open pyramid not the final offer. One of the most intriguing pieces of these leaks to Mr. Williams is that teams from up and down the current pyramid are already showing interest in finding out more.

This was obviously a play by Ricardo Silva to make the best case scenario happen. Unite the entire pyramid under one umbrella, MLS included. This would also be the end of Co-D2 and the future Co-D3 sanctioned leagues during this creation of one unified pyramid. This bid was dismissed out of hand by MLS

So what possibly is next? 

Before we get to that, let's think back to everything that has already happened. 

1. NPSL begins public discussions of creating a full season league. 
5. NISA league is created. 
7. MP and Silva make $4B bid for media rights to a fully restructured American pyramid. 

Thats where we are today. So now lets do the fun part and speculate about the future for a minute... 

8. NISA releases teams for it's inaugural season.
9. USASA releases D4/5/6 standards and multiple state associations create D5/6 state leagues. 
10. USSF funded DoublePASS development system audit is released that supports claims that an Open Pyramid will help immensely with player development long term. This would be another huge public relations win for the open pyramid movement.
11. Alternate D1/2/3/4/5/6 pyramid is officially mentioned by stakeholders.
12. NASL, NISA, USASA, and USSF begin official work and hammer out the details for a new D6 > D1 open pyramid structure. 
13. A plethora of USL and PDL club owners express interest in participating in new structure. 
14. MP and Silva offers media rights deal to new Alternate Open US Pyramid and US Open Cup. 
15. Media rights offer is extended to USSF to include USMNT, USWNT and USYNT media rights when their current deal with SUM expires as well. 

An infusion of cash (even one not as large as the $4B offered to a pyramid that includes MLS) like what is possible in this scenario radically changes soccer in this country.

A question that needs answered right now is have we gotten through these first 7 steps randomly or is there discussions by many of the stakeholders trying to create this alternate pyramid?

I don't know for sure... but it sure seems that with some collaboration these next 8 can happen and happen much more quickly than many assume.

I would love to hear your opinion on this speculation in the comments or on social media. Make sure you continue to tag all of your open pyramid conversations with the #ProRelForUSA hashtag on all your social media platforms (yesterday was a HUGE day on Twitter for its use by the way!!!).

Monday, July 24, 2017

Interesting MLS quote about the $4B media rights #ProRelForUSA offer

Multiple reports have circulated today stating that MLS has turned down a $4B media rights offer from Ricardo Silva's international media company MP & Silva that included a stipulation that #ProRelForUSA was started in the United States.


READ HERE - Sports Business Daily



MLS Executive VP of Communications is quoted by Jeff Carlisle of ESPN as saying:

This quote says something very intriguing to me. MLS deals directly with its broadcast partners because it, for various reasons, is "required for a successful partnership".

Why does USSF not directly deal with its broadcast partners but use the MLS subsidiary company Soccer United Marketing (SUM) to negotiate its broadcast deals? We've asked questions before about USSF offering a subsidy to MLS that it does not to other leagues in the US pyramid. Today we have MLS coming out and stating that not negotiating directly with your broadcast partners is just plain old bad business.

Maybe it is time for our American soccer media to really start to ask the tough questions about this USSF/MLS/SUM relationship.

Even MLS is now on record saying that they think its crazy to use an intermediary to negotiate a media deal.

Let us know in the comment section or on social media what you think about this media rights deal offer and MLS's response to it. Make sure you tag all of your conversations with the #ProRelForUSA hashtag!

Friday, July 21, 2017

NPSL playoff fan engagement poll

Yesterday our friends at Supporter Groups for Promotion and Relegation ran a poll asking about fan engagement concerning the NPSL playoffs and promotion to NISA.

Very simply.

Would you pay more attention to NSPL playoff matches if NISA promotion was on the line?

The results (while unscientific) show that many people would pay even more attention to the matches during the playoffs if more than a trophy was on the line. This results goes hand in hand with what many people have speculated about fan involvement in lower division soccer and #ProRelForUSA.

If the clubs are playing to move up the pyramid... a vast majority of fans will care more and pay more attention to these games "that matter" not just the fans of the specific club playing for the trophy.

Polling data like this suggests that it is in the best interests of lower division club owners to put their league loyalty aside and create a unified pyramid of regional leagues featuring #ProRelForUSA. The more engaged fans of lower division soccer are... the better off everybody in lower division soccer will be. As the saying goes, "A rising tide lifts all boats".

Would love to hear your opinion in the comments or on social media. Make sure you tag the conversation with the #ProRelForUSA hashtag!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

What anti-#ProRelForUSA topic has not been debunked?

In the over 100 posts that I've been writing this blog I've touched on quite a few topics...

We've seen some of them be shared enough that they've nearly stopped several items from being used as arguments against the opening of the pyramid. We've seen huge growth of those advocating for an opening of the pyramid. We've even had the pleasure of having a sitting USSF Board member comment on one of our articles on Facebook and in a podcast interview.

Now I need your help though. NO... this is not a post begging for money. I just need your help in continuing to keep writing about the topics that most often pop up.

During your discussions online and in person what topic do you hear the most often that you have not seen addressed by either this blog or by another site?

Hit the comments up and let me know what you would like to see written about!

Continue to use the #ProRelForUSA hashtag on all your social media platforms. Join one of the several Facebook Promotion and Relegation groups out there and follow some of our favorite Twitter people.