Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Exemplifying why the MLS business plan doesn't work

While I typically refrain from commenting on -- or even watching -- Major League Soccer as it only adds to my aggravation with American soccer, I couldn't resist to comment on this most recent example illustrating why the MLS seems destined for failure.

Columbus Crew President & General Manager Mark McCullers recently posted on the the club's official blog (the Black & Gold Standard):

"We have respectfully requested that the chants including profanity, most importantly GTFO, cease. . .
"During our highest attended game of the year, with the opportunity to impress people that might attend more Crew games at Crew stadium, we instead left a negative impression with unnecessary chanting of unacceptable profanity. . .
"We have received numerous complaints from fans, and now have indications from sponsors that they are reconsidering their financial support because they cannot be associated with an environment that includes this behavior. . .
"We must identify and deal with those who insist on perpetuating this behavior, which explains the increased security measures."

Essentially, McCullen is claiming that the use of profanity by the Nordecke (the supposed "supporter" group of the Crew) is resulting in complaints from other fans, a general lack of enjoyment for fans at the matches, and is, most importantly in McCullen's eyes, having financial repercussion via lost endorsements. In the future, the use of profanity by fans, seemingly, will result in an ejection from the stadium.

The Columbus Crew is currently managed by the Hunt Sports Group -- who also manages F.C. Dallas and the Kansas City Wizards. While the Crew are currently in first place eastern conference table, they're hardly the staple for successful football in America.

In August, Forbes compiled an assessment of MLS franchises. Based on total team worth, the Hunt Sports Group's teams are, as follows: F.C. Dallas (#4 with $39 million value and a $0.5 million operating income), the Columbus Crew (#12 with $23 million value and a -$4.5 million operating income), and the Kansas City Wizards (#13 with $22 million value and a -$2.9 million operating income).

The Hunt Sports Group business plan doesn't work. . .

In this instance, the Columbus Crew administration is trying to appeal to another segment of football fans (soccer moms and their small children) through this new anti-profanity direction. Though I've often criticized it, the, for lack of a better term, "hooligan" culture is the general fan base for football. Whereas violence and hate is not condoned, the use of unifying chants (even those involving indecency) are a vital element of the fan culture.

While I'm often quick to condemn unruly behavior on behalf of footballers and football fans, profanity hardly seems to be tabooish these days -- unless you're a science defying christian conservative.

The Chicago Cubs remain one of the most nationally popular MLB franchises (often viewed as a sensitive, respectable, welcoming team -- I mean "Cubs"), yet I learned at an early age that the bleachers weren't acceptable for children, or the god-fearing.

Aside from the general idiocy of anti-profanity measures at a football match, how can a financially struggling club, in sincerity and in good business, attempt to alienate its strongest faction of supporters. This is the equivalent of telling Ohio State fans that they can no longer wear "Muck Fichigan" t-shirts.

For the MLS to succeed, they need to develop a the football fan culture (minus the violence) that characterizes European football. Football is a culture of beer, of indecency, of celebration, of remorse, of cruelty. It is a ballet for the masses (the non status quo). NASCAR is the most attended sport in America (don't get me started on how embarrassing this is to America) and I hardly think that profanity is banned on track grounds.

Ultimately, football's appeal revolves around the unparalleled relationship that fans develop with their clubs (also international squads). The ability to develop a seemingly sincere bond with the shadow of a footballer (club) is the catalyst for fiscal success in football.

This all comes from me, the guy that made the cheerleader girlfriend of a then high school Duke University basketball star cry during a game due to my excessive chanting concerning her adulterous behavior during the summer -- all of which I've never felt remorse over, my team won.


1 comment:

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