Why NYCFC Was Launched at the Right Time

The process of club-building outweigh any perceived disadvantages of playing temporarily in Yankee Stadium
by Nick Chavez   |   Monday, May 19, 2014

Blue City – column on New York City FC (NYCFC) & the NYC area soccer scene.

After the announcement that New York City FC will temporarily play its home matches at Yankee Stadium, it might be assumed that Major League Soccer rushed too quickly to launch the expansion NYCFC.

As Fox Sports’ Leander Shaerlaekens asked, “But you wonder…if all involved parties wouldn’t be better served holding off on this round of expansion until all the (soccer-specific) stadiums were built and ready to exploit to the fullest?”

MLS could also be accused of breaking their own rules by allowing NYCFC to come in without a stadium deal already finalized, as the league claimed that this was “unfair.” Some skeptics are convinced that it was a poor choice for the future prosperity of MLS.

While some of these concerns certainly have some validity, there are definitely reasons as to why Major League Soccer has absolutely chosen wisely in pulling the trigger with the NYCFC launch when they did.

You don’t tell an ownership partnership like the New York Yankees and City Football Group to “wait” to invest in MLS

When the extremely wealthy ownership partnership of 2 of the biggest brands in the world of sports, City Football Group and the New York Yankees, unify to put the force of their resources, prestige and brand power together to launch an ambitious football club in New York City, MLS must not miss this opportunity.

When they pay $100 million just for the right to launch a franchise in New York City, and promise to build a stadium in the City, who else would you trust to get this done and in a timely manner than this power-partnership? Having this investment team involved, especially in New York City, is a no-brainer for MLS and you must strike while the iron is hot, while they’re still interested and showing as much commitment as they have been to MLS and New York Soccer.

MLS needed an immediate, strong presence in New York City to get the most of recently negotiated TV deal.

MLS, though growing rapidly in popularity and national footprint, still puts up modest numbers in ratings, and in some markets, in attendance as well. MLS needs better TV ratings to increase the revenue they earn as league, revenue that is dwarfed by the major 4 team sports leagues in the US and Canada. Nothing holds MLS back more than its lack of TV ratings and the immense amount of money higher ratings commands, of which they are deprived.

This is an opportunity that simply can’t be passed up for a league looking to continue to develop into one of the best soccer leagues in the world in the coming decade. Only with that money can they really afford to sign some of the best talent in the world more regularly, and in their prime. With that extra revenue, they can also increase their efforts in marketing and youth academy development, all increasing the awareness and profile of the league, the ties to community and improvement of product of MLS and US Soccer.  

As such, and when considering their new TV deal (MLS is now earning roughly triple what they were earning before) and the approaching collective bargaining agreement with players, MLS had to get a presence in the media capital of the world and the biggest city in the US, New York City, to strengthen their negotiating position. This is a city with an estimated 8.4 million residents, with 19.9 million people living in its metro area.

MLS really needed to plant its flag there, and Red Bull New York clearly hasn’t been the solution they’ve hoped for in this regard. Realistically, it was always hard to expect NYC residents to get emotionally attached to a team who plays its home matches in Harrison, New Jersey and is named and branded after an energy drink company.

New York City FC offers something very different. Now with the resources, pull and prestige of the Yankees and Manchester City suddenly in their corner, it must have been an easy decision. In order to get the notoriously hard-to-impress New York City sports market to take notice, believe in, and get emotionally attached to New York City FC, MLS absolutely needs partners like the Yankees and the football professionals and unrivaled resources of Manchester City to help guide this franchise through the choppy waters of the congested New York sports market.

Beginning the essential processes of development of supporter culture, front office/brand building, and roster gelling sooner rather than later

Instead of waiting the 2-4 years it was likely to take to secure a stadium deal and build an entire soccer specific stadium in NYC, it makes sense to get the process of actually running a club and beginning to engender the emotional attachment and presence with the local community now.

The independent NYCFC Supporter’s group has already started to grow

rapidly and organize, and is now in the stages of electing officers and implementing more organized objectives. They get to begin the task of getting the message out to others, recruiting fellow believers in New York City FC soccer, creating songs and chants to sing, begin their rivalry with other MLS sides, and set up a presence on the internet, all of which they have already done and continue to do.

On the athletic side, NYCFC coach Jason Kreis gets to start immediately on building his squad, working with Claudio Reyna and their staff to carefully select players to sign and draft, and come 2015, begin to implement their philosophy of play and get this new team of players that have never played together to gel, which anyone who knows the game, can take a number of seasons. Beginning this process sooner rather than later can allow NYCFC to hit the ground running when finally beginning play in their new, yet-to-be-built soccer specific stadium.

On the business side, it gives New York City FC’s highly-rated front office professionals a chance to immediately develop their business and marketing plan and implement it, and to take advantage of the services that the innovative marketing firm Droga5 provide, all the while building anticipation for the club in New York City, and continuing to establish its brand. These are all things that any football club would want to begin immediately. To be sure, getting a head start on these aspects of the club can only benefit NYCFC rather than waiting to begin all of this from scratch a couple years later when a stadium is finally built.

MLS has the right and duty to adapt accordingly to take full advantage unforeseen opportunities that will benefit the league

Rules should be put in place to ensure the best possible outcome and advantages for MLS as a league, and MLS has acted accordingly in its expansion decisions. MLS shouldn’t have to restrict itself to self-imposed rules just for the sake of adhering to them, when opportunities arise that will greatly benefit the league, but require for MLS to tweak their previously hoped for standards a bit. Critics would do well to remember that Garber and the owners rightfully make the rules, and if they choose to change their rules to adapt to unforeseen opportunities that can help MLS, it is their right and duty to do so.

In today’s extremely competitive and congested sports market, both nationally and internationally, MLS must do everything it can to ensure that it continues to grow and begins to really thrive.

In the critics’ defense, of course playing your soccer in a baseball stadium isn’t ideal, even if it’s the most famous, iconic, state of the art baseball stadium in the world, accessible to all of NYC, in a location known by all. Of course it would be better if NYCFC began play in their own soccer-specific stadium, but at what heavy costs with the club and owners waiting a number of years for that to happen?

All things considered, is it really more beneficial to postpone everything mentioned above just to get that stadium built first?

“It’s not easy,” NYCFC’s Chief Business Officer Pernetti admitted when asked about securing a soccer specific stadium built within NYC limits. “But when we move into our own stadium, whenever that may be, it’s going to be spectacular and worth the wait.”

It is hard to argue with Pernetti’s assessment, and even harder to dispute that this spectacular SSS wouldn’t be better served being filled with a supporter section, team and front office that already have a number of years of operation and development under their belts.

When wanting to accomplish objectives, reason dictates that it is wise to make the best use of your time by accomplishing whatever you can for the time being, and finish the rest of your objectives as soon as it becomes possible. Why should these MLS expansion situations be any different? 


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This is the longest-running column focused on the only team representing the 5 Boroughs in world football: New York City FC. Long may its supporters continue to make history.