Thursday, January 11, 2018

I Listened to Don Garber So You Don't Have To by Jake Steinberg

I Listened to Don Garber So You Don’t Have To

It’s cliché but true to suggest that you shouldn’t assume malice when incompetence is more likely. But sometimes you hear something so wrong-headed that you’d prefer it to be disingenuous. I finally got around to listening to DonGarber’s appearance on the Men In Blazers Podcast  and if these are his honest arguments in opposition to #ProRelForUSA, than soccer in this country has bigger issues than I would like to admit.

Let’s start with his first statement, which amounts to a denial of personal responsibility.

Don Garber: I don't think [promotion and relegation is] inevitable and I don't think it's got anything to do with me, Roger.

We know it’s not inevitable, that’s why some of us spend our time and energy fighting for it. Please don’t insult our intelligence: it might not be your decision entirely, but in addition to your position with MLS you serve on the board of USSF, the governing body of the sport in the US. As a member of the board of the organization that determines leagues’ divisional sanctioning, whether closed leagues are given divisional sanctions certainly has something to do with you. And you clearly have some influence over the game generally. If you oppose pro/rel, fine, happy to disagree with you. But let’s not start off by pretending you don’t share some of the blame for us not having it.

DG: It's got to do with whether or not you can continue to have owners and municipalities and sponsors and broadcasters invest in a league without knowing ultimately what teams are going to be in that league.

There’s a logical fallacy called a special pleading. It relies on asserting that there is something unique about a situation without substantiating why that situation is unique. It’s endemic to criticisms of pro/rel in the United States. In virtually every other country, owners, sponsors, broadcasters, and municipalities invest in leagues without knowing who will be in the league the next year. Why is the United States different? In addition, pro/rel provides more guidance for new investors. Teams start at the bottom, and garner investment as they prove themselves, rather than requiring huge start-up costs in unproven markets. To use the most pressing example, Austin, we don’t really know if MLS will succeed there. We have some limited data points about teams (the Aztex, UT-Austin) and market research. In a pro/rel universe, a low-level team can demonstrate it merits top-flight investment, rather than investors just risking it upfront. And don’t even get me started on the dishonesty embedded in that mention of municipalities.

DG: So in today's world the L.A. galaxy would be relegated down to the USL. Their designated players would they be sold would they go to Louisville or would they go to Cincinnati? And we have contract with those players they're members of a union. We have salary caps that are contingent upon our agreement with the union.

Look, anytime you hear someone putatively advocating on behalf of a group they are ordinarily adverse to, your bullshit detector should be going off. Don Garber doesn’t speak for the players’ union. The players’ union doesn’t want Don Garber speaking for them. The players can voice their own concerns, and not for nothing, but to the extent we have any data on this, players have usually supported pro/rel.

This also assumes that the salary cap MLS has put in place is a good thing. I’m not going to get into that much here, but Mr. Garber needs to show his work. Teams in danger of relegation everywhere in the world structure their contracts to reflect that reality. Why are US clubs different? Why are we supposed to be protecting the owners at the expense of players?

I’ll also note that earlier in this podcast, Garber derided Columbus’s attendance for being the worst in the league. But it’s a tragedy if some players wind up in Cincinnati? What is he talking about?

DG: It's not about Don Garber and a handful of owners deciding that there's no promotion relegation.

That’s true. It would be easier if you folks got behind it, but you’re not the ultimate decision-makers. We’re supposed to have an independent federation that holds leagues accountable, MLS attempts to influence the federation that notwithstanding.

DG: It requires a total change of Major League Soccer as it exists today. Which has done a reasonably good job and I think you'd acknowledge of building a viable professional league that millions and millions of fans can get excited about.

You’re right. It does require a total change in MLS. It would be a change for the better. And sure, MLS has done “a reasonably good job.” Time for it to do better. An MLS team is still yet to win the CONCACAF Champions League, lagging behind LigaMX. While MLS is important, it is not preordained to be the the top-flight league in the US, nor is the whole of soccer in the United States.

DG: And by the way 3000 employees. 680 players. Five years ago this would be unthinkable.

So? Times change. MLS employees are only threatened to the extent that MLS can’t adopt to a pro/rel world. To say nothing of the fact that currently, lower-division teams operate on shoestring budgets, because they can’t move up, which limits the opportunities for them to drive interest in their clubs. What about the employment opportunities lost in the lower divisions? Players are certainly not threatened by a system likely to increase professionalism in soccer.

Look, I get that Don Garber represents the MLS, and is going to try to defend what he perceives as the interests of the MLS. That doesn’t make his arguments persuasive and it certainly doesn’t mean that his arguments carry any moral weight. Don Garber also serves on the USSF board, and even though his position as a professional council representative means he does, and should, represent MLS’s interests at the board level, board service generally comes with a responsibility to the greater mission of the organization, the promotion and health of soccer in the United States.

DG: So I understand there is a group of people who think it would be fun but this is about ensuring that soccer professionally could live for generations and the benefit is what? The final game would be exciting?

Ooh, a strawman! I was waiting for one of these. Yes, many of us think it would be fun. We also think it would be better for the game and would be the thing that would actually ensure that professional soccer would live for generations. What you appear to be concerned with is not the long-term viability of professional soccer in the US, but the continued control of professional soccer by the current MLS ownership contingent. I don’t care about that at all. And the last time I checked, sports were supposed to be fun.

Global soccer history shows that closed leagues are the leagues that fail, while open leagues tend to be sustainable and live for generations. Looking around the US Soccer landscape, MLS alone has lost multiple teams, had another move, and is about to see one of its most iconic clubs leave for another city. Meanwhile, it’s replaced those clubs largely with teams that proved themselves in lower-division leagues (Sounders, Timbers, Impact, Minnesota United) or by considering clubs in cities that have proven records of supporting lower-division teams (Sacramento, Cincinnati, Detroit). This doesn’t even address the many lower-division teams that have folded. Once again, Garber is relying on the argument that MLS is the whole of US club soccer, and even if we accept that dubious premise, his argument isn’t even right.

DG: Do they actually think that our teams are not trying hard? If they don't think that they're going to make MLS Cup?

No.I think the players are trying their hardest, but I’m not actually sure why, beyond professional pride. What incentive is there to win an end-of-season match between Colorado Rapids and DC United? Why shouldn’t players in those matches be more concerned with simply avoiding injury? This is without even addressing the evidence we have of tanking in other sports, since we have no reason to think it doesn’t or won’t happen in MLS if it remains a closed league.

DG: Do they think in the January or the summer window all of a sudden we're going to take apart our salary cap and a team that is in the bubble of the playoffs is all going to sudden spend 10 million dollars be exciting it's just not possible.

What are you babbling about now? Teams will build for a long-term future. The same way they do in virtually every other soccer league in the world. By the way, is this suggesting that teams in closed leagues don’t give up around the trade deadline? I’m pretty sure they do that in every closed league.

DG: But no it is not at all about my personal point of view Roger it's not just about our own point of view. It's about a structure.

This is true but meaningless. Of course it’s about a structure. We think there is a better structure that ought to be implemented.

-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.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

25 Open Pyramid myths and questions addressed

Here is a series of tweets that address (with links to articles) 25 of the most common myths and questions concerning an open pyramid with #ProRelForUSA.

Please if you are on social media and see these common Status Quo'ist questions/myths being used... share the appropriate response. There is no need to have a twitter scrap with anybody. The information is already out there.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

We can not open the pyramid tomorrow.

Pretty simple stuff here...

We've all seen it. There is this myth being put forth by Status Quo'ists that #ProRelForUSA advocates want the system to change TODAY! RIGHT NOW! NOW! NOW!

They consistently say "We aren't ready yet".

To make it perfectly clear reformists want a reasonable plan put in to place so that the pyramid can grow in to its final form several years down the line. Reasonable people can see that it will take time to make the radical system change from how the game is structured now to where it needs to be.

The two most popular current plans on how to reform the pyramid both call for this (and if you Google search you'll find many many other plans that do the same thing).

Read the NISA plan here.

Read the SoccerReform plan here. 

No, "We aren't ready yet" if you want to use the straw-man argument that people want total system reform tomorrow. We ARE READY for a plan to be put in place. Yes, it will take years to implement it.

Continue to speak up for #ProRelForUSA! The tides are turning.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

New Haven Travel and Sunil Gulati

So there have been these long lasting rumors that Sunil Gulati and Chuck Blazer owned New Haven Travel and were using their positions in USSF and CONCACAF to funnel money to their own pockets... maybe even to launder money...

People have looked for information. They are still looking for information.

Brooke Tunstall even put a lot of it back out there on Twitter recently in this series of tweets.

When you Google New Haven Travel... you get next to no results. Which is amazing for a company that has been around for this long and so involved in soccer at a high level in this country that they sponsored an MLS Award in their name in 2008.

and on top of that were the official travel agency for the USSF and MLS...

Just weird that so many people think there is something to see here... there just is so little information about the company on the internet... they were involved in so much soccer "stuff"... nobody in soccer wants to go on record and speak about it.

You have anything you want to say about it? Comment section is where to do it...

Never forget what the American soccer media thought of Bruce Arena

Never forget what the US media thought about Bruce Arena...

and this final gem...

Now lets just look at what Bruce Arena said today during his FOX punditry debut.

We should also never forget this "wonderful" quotes from Bruce Arena.

Let's watch this awesome video of how we should all view Bruce Arena right now (and should have always viewed him.)

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

It will never happen!

Every day on social media and in the comments section you see them...

The "it'll never happen in the United States" status quo-ists.

The ones who don't have the vision to see what is possible. The ones that thing for some reason that change in American soccer is impossible, but... 

Man will never reach the moon regardless of all future scientific advances.
Dr. Lee DeForest, Father of Radio & Grandfather of Television

The bomb will never go off. I speak as an expert in explosives.
Admiral William Leahy, US Atomic Bomb Project

There is no likelihood man can ever tap the power of the atom.
Robert Millikan, Nobel Prize in Physics, 1923

Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons.
Popular Mechanics, forecasting the relentless march of science, 1949

I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.
Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943

I have travelled the length and breadth of this country and talked with the best people, and I can assure you that data processing is a fad that won’t last out the year.
The editor in charge of business books for Prentice Hall, 1957

But what … is it good for?
Engineer at the Advanced Computing Systems Division of IBM commenting on the microchip in 1968

640K ought to be enough for anybody.
Bill Gates, 1981

This ‘telephone’ has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us.
Western Union internal memo, 1876

The wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value. Who would pay for a message sent to nobody in particular?
David Sarnoff Associates in response to urgings for investment in the radio in the 1920s

The concept is interesting and well-formed, but in order to earn better than a ‘C’, the idea must be feasible.
A Yale University management professor in response to Fred Smith’s paper proposing reliable overnight delivery service (Smith went on to found Federal Express Corp.)

We don’t like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out.
Decca Recording Co. rejecting the Beatles, 1962

Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible.
Lord Kelvin, president Royal Society, 1895

If I had thought about it, I wouldn’t have done the experiment. The literature was full of examples that said you can’t do this.
Spencer Silver on the work that led to the unique adhesives for 3-M “Post-It” Notepads

Drill for oil? You mean drill into the ground to try and find oil? You’re crazy.
Drillers who Edwin L. Drake tried to enlist to his project to drill for oil, 1859

Stocks have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau.
Irving Fisher, Professor of Economics, Yale University, 1929

Airplanes are interesting toys but of no military value.
Marechal Ferdinand Foch, Professor of Strategy, Ecole Superieure de Guerre, Franice

#ProRelForUSA is going to be hard. Massive structural change is never easy. There are always entrenched parties who do not want to see change. There is going to be struggle.

One thing it isn't... it isn't impossible. When we decide to make it happen... it's going to happen. Keep speaking up.