Q&A (Part I) with Commissioner Garber: A small-market final, expansion, NYCFC & more
SI: How much of the league’s planned expansion is driven simply by the fact that you want to penetrate more large TV markets and that you want to collect expansion fee revenue? NYCFC, Orlando and Miami [with David Beckham's discounted buy-in] comes to around $200 million.
GARBER: Expansion drives a number of different values and benefits for Major League Soccer. The fees that come from the expansion team sale is last on the list.
SI: Where does that money go?
GARBER: It’s distributed to the owners, who are diluted by one share since we are a system of revenue sharing. If you have 19 people sharing in all national revenue and then you have 20…
SI: It doesn’t come out to that much money per owner. If you have $200 million divided by 20….
GARBER: It’s not that much money. It’s not nearly as much as what they’ll be diluted over time. So there is not any agenda to expand as a revenue stream whatsoever. I think it might have been for leagues in the past. I think it was one of the challenges in the original NASL. But it is not at all a driver of our strategy.
It is about expanding our geographic footprint, trying to have more and more people on a national level engaging in soccer generally and Major League Soccer specifically. It’s about diversity of thought around our board table and having more committed investors. It’s about more jobs for players and administrators and all those other things that make Major League Soccer more valuable.
SI: Speaking of footprint, where will NYCFC play in 2015?
GARBER: In a temporary facility, one that hasn’t been finalized yet.
SI: What are the options?
GARBER: A number of them. I can’t really go into any specifics. But they clearly have a number of different options.
SI: Why was a definitive stadium plan not a prerequisite for New York?
GARBER: It was, and then we were not able to finalize it in Queens. So they had a prerequisite and made a financial commitment to a soccer-specific stadium and that commitment will be the largest investment in a soccer stadium of any team in Major League Soccer. They are required to build a soccer stadium.
SI: The buzz is The Bronx…
GARBER: There are a number of different sites. There are multiple sites within The Bronx that they’re looking at. There are sites in Queens that they’re looking at. They’ll get it done. They are smart, focused, really a very, very capable sporting investor-operator group.
SI: They’re also very quiet. Orlando City is entering the league the same year and they’ve been everywhere. They’ve been public. They have a brand. I can’t tell you much about NYCFC and they’re kicking off at the same time. Is that a concern? Are they going to be playing catch-up? The next year is going to by quickly and they don’t seem to have much resonance or traction.
GARBER: I don’t know if it’s resonance or traction that’s the issue. They’re not out in front of it quite as much as an existing [USL Pro] team like Orlando City. [NYCFC] have a good plan. They’re very capable. They do have a brand. I’m sure you saw the ad that they did with their players bouncing around New York City. They’re going to be good. They’re smart. [Manchester City CEO] Ferran Soriano is one of the best sports executives in any sport in any country…
Some people go quiet — run silent, run deep. And when they’re ready to go, they go. When you’re running these things, everybody’s got a different approach, a different style. There isn’t one way to go about building a brand and building a business and sometimes the consumer – and you’d be a consumer because you’re a media consumer looking at the way things should be done – there isn’t just one way to do it.