NYCFC announcement leaves more questions than answers — and that’s good for MLS By Steven Sandor Posted on May 22, 2013 5 0 539 Share on Facebook Share on Twitter MLS showed some media mastery in announcing the new New York City FC franchise Tuesday. By leaving us with as more questions than could possibly be answered in a conference call, the league has ensured that columnists and bloggers — even ones that don’t regularly cover soccer — will write the kind of speculative articles that every league PR person publicly berates but secretly loves. That’s because these sort of speculative articles keep the new franchise in the hearts and minds of New Yorkers — and that’s important, because the new team will start play in 2015 in a temporary venue, while it searches for a home. So many questions: What will NYCFC mean for the Red Bulls? Commissioner Don Garber said he hoped it would stoke a fierce rivalry in a city of 19 million. But it’s not like NYCFC is coming in as an upstart, looking to knock off a team with lots of history and trophies. What NYCFC is competing with is a team that doesn’t sell out its soccer palace that you’ll find out on the train to Newark Airport, a team that’s name is a brand, a team that’s devoid of championships. We could argue that the time is ripe for Red Bull to divorce itself from its stubborn marketing plan, putting its name on racing teams, sports teams, flying competitions and men parachuting to Earth from over 100,000 feet off the ground. Maybe the Red Bulls need to stop being Team Corporate and find something they never had as RBNY or the MetroStars — an identity. A logo. A look. A purpose. Right now, there’s only one pro team in New York that can use history to its advantage — and that team is the NASL’s Cosmos. The Yankees and Manchester City are partnering to make NYCFC a reality. Can Man City owner Sheikh Mansour and the Yankees brain trust exist in a league where restraint is preached and central control of contracts is vital to the business strategy? Yes, even with a rumoured $100 million expansion fee and no stadium in place, MLS is a relatively safe investment, because of the low, fixed labour costs. But, the Sheikh and the Yankees have never been ones to care too much about fiscal restraint. What colours will NYCFC wear? The landing page for the NYCFC site is sky blue. Manchester City wears sky blue. Enough with the pinstripes talk. What of the stadium plan? The reaction to the NYCFC deal was swift — from the Fairness Coalition of Queens, that is. The Coalition is a group of residents who don’t want New York to give away parkland for a stadium. And, with Man City’s involvement, things got a little nastier on the side of the residents who oppose a stadium plan for Queens-Corona Park. “We welcome Major League Soccer to New York City. We are pleased with their new willingness to consider other sites in New York,” read a statement from the Fairness Coalition’s Javier Valdes. “The proposal for a stadium inside the heart of Flushing Meadows-Corona Park is deeply flawed and would irrevocably damage a vital community resource. “We look forward to finding a more appropriate home for the team that does not sacrifice public parkland and that does not giveaway parkland to a documented human-rights abuser. Lets make this a development that all New Yorkers can be excited about.” That’s right, the coalition went there — discussing the Sheikh’s controversial ties to the United Arab Emirates’ regime, and its hardline policies on gays and lesbians and allegations that dissidents are tortured or are “disappeared.” The charges from certain members of the public against the Sheikh aren’t new, and they didn’t hurt him at all in England, a league which, frankly, needs all the capital it can get. But, the human-rights angle being used by the public in relation to a New York expansion team, and a partnership with the Yankees, is new. And we’ll see if the Fairness Coalition succeeds in making that part of the dialogue. But it needs to be said that Yankees president Randy Levine used to be deputy mayor and was later a key man in negotiating the deal for a new Yankee Stadium. The cynic will say that MLS couldn’t get the stadium done, so has now turned the dirty work over to the Yankees. But, truth is, the Yankees are far better equipped than MLS to negotiate terms for a new soccer stadium, anyway. For now, the focus is on a temporary stadium, Yankee Stadium or the Mets’ Citi Field being floated as options. Wait till the baseball-loving soccer haters get a hold of that. Wonderful. It’ll keep MLS in the news in New York – which, frankly, the Red Bulls weren’t doing.