Thursday, March 19, 2009

Timing is Kind of Weird Isnt it?

I think it was just last week I wrote an entry basically saying no one really cares about soccer in North America. Which is why this article really caught me off guard. . In a time when every article you hear and read talks about financial hardship then you have a North American city forking out money for a sports franchise in what amounts to the 5th most popular team sport in America .
Some of you may know that this is the same city I have lived in for about 95% of the 80's and 90's so I know something about the city. It might shock you to know that I also know something about pro soccer.
Back in my high school days, the Whitecaps were huge. It was not unusual for me to take the bus to the Pacific Coliseum, Empire Stadium or Nat Bailey by myself from money earned from delivering papers and buy a ticket at the window and watch a game. CFL Football, NASL soccer, AAA Baseball and NHL Hockey . That's what we had. Then MLB baseball, NFL football, NCAA football and NBA basketball on TV , I really wonder when did I have time to pass my classes.
Go here for more on the history of soccer in Vancouver.
It may not be the same tradition as the NFL has in Green Bay but it's a soccer tradition better than almost anywhere in North America.
Still having only found this out tonight I wonder why they think this will fly. In this time when even the mighty NFL is cutting back on their workers and even the grand old institution known as NFL films. Soccer will expand?? People are cutting back on spending on luxuries and even necessities and soccer will expand? No one cares if Beckham stays or goes and soccer will expand? Well they the league and the Vancouver ownership committee have faith and courage so good luck to them. They will need it.

Vancouver’s Fab Four introduce newest MLS franchise

Vancouver Sun

March 18, 2009

Parties involved in Vancouver Whitecaps FC entering the Major Soccer League pose with a ball during a ceremony in Vancouver, British Columbia March 18, 2009. They are (L to R) - MSL Commissioner Don Garber, BC Premier Gordon Campbell, team executive committee Jeff Mallet, Whitecaps President Bob Lenarduzzi and Mayor Gregor Robertson.

Parties involved in Vancouver Whitecaps FC entering the Major Soccer League pose with a ball during a ceremony in Vancouver, British Columbia March 18, 2009. They are (L to R) - MSL Commissioner Don Garber, BC Premier Gordon Campbell, team executive committee Jeff Mallet, Whitecaps President Bob Lenarduzzi and Mayor Gregor Robertson.
Photograph by: Andy Clark, Reuters

VANCOUVER — It was 43 years ago this month that the London Evening Standard published a Maureen Cleave interview with John Lennon, in which the musician declared the Beatles “more popular than Jesus.” A heavy statement, no doubt, but one that when taken in context proved true at the time.

A longtime fan of the Fab Four, Vancouver Whitecaps co-owner Jeff Mallett may or may not have known about the anniversary prior to Wednesday’s press conference to announce that Vancouver would be home to a Major League Soccer franchise, starting in 2011.

Either way, it didn’t stop the former Yahoo chief executive officer from comparing the Whitecaps’ all-star cast of owners to one of the greatest rock and roll bands of all time.

Sure, it’s a bit of an exaggeration — with Mallett and Co. a few albums shy of the billion records the Beatles have sold — but considering the excitement of the day, the analogy was forgivable. Also pretty funny, especially Mallett’s self-deprecating reference to himself as the Ringo of the four-man ownership group that also includes Greg Kerfoot, Steve Luczo and Steve Nash.

The owners paid MLS a $35-million franchise fee. That’s down from the original price of $40 million, but higher than the $30 million the Seattle Sounders doled out two years ago. Toronto FC, which joined North America’s premier soccer loop in 2007, paid $10 million.

“Greg’s sort of our John Lennon; he’s the quiet genius in the group — always has a vision, always remains a big believer in what is possible,” Mallett said to a chorus of laughter.

“Steve Luczo, who I don’t think anyone in the room has had a chance to meet, he’s sort of our George Harrison. You don’t necessarily see him there, but if he’s not, it’s not a band.

“And Steve Nash, who was texting me like a little kid last night saying ‘Is it done yet? Are we there? Is it going to happen?’ . . . Steve is sort of the Paul McCartney, he’s the cool one in the group.

“That leaves Ringo for me, which is the steady drum beat in the back.”

Kerfoot, who has owned the Whitecaps for the past six years, is an enigma of sorts. The Vancouver native shies away from any public exposure and wasn’t even at the well-attended morning announcement at the Westin Bayshore. Mallett and Nash joined the fray in July, while Luczo got on board just prior to the October deadline for expansion bids to be submitted to the league.

Mallett, a former national team player, is an icon of the Internet technology boom that lit up stock markets from the mid-to-late 1990s. The North Vancouver native was one of the first 12 employees at Yahoo! Inc. and helped transform the fledgling company into a billion-dollar business with 4,000 workers before he left in 2002. His personal worth was estimated to be $142 million in 2002, but just as important are his business connections and understanding of professional sports. The 43-year-old is well known to the MLS and is also a part-owner of Major League Baseball’s San Francisco Giants.

Luczo is chairman of Seagate Technology, the world’s largest hard-drive manufacturer, and a man who moves in interesting circles. He’s part of a Silicon Valley group that owns about one-third of the Boston Celtics, and he also owns a large chunk of the National Lacrosse League’s San Jose Stealth. Luczo, who was not at the announcement, surfs, snowboards and mountain bikes and is a songwriter and co-founder of a music company that develops San Francisco artists.

Nash needs no introduction. The two-time NBA Most Valuable Player lists soccer as his first love and brings a global identity to the club. He and Mallett are co-owners of the Women’s Professional Soccer League, which enters its first season of play later this month.

While Vancouver’s bid outshone those of the four remaining cities — the Whitecaps’ soccer history, commitment to growing the game and soccer infrastructure was second to none — the team’s ownership group was just as important to the MLS when making its decision.

“They love the game and represent a new breed of ownership,” said MLS commissioner Don Garber. “It’s a very passionate soccer market and an ownership group that gets the game.”

Not to be forgotten is the band’s manager.

Playing the part of Brian Epstein is Whitecaps president Bob Lenarduzzi, who has worked tirelessly on behalf of his employers to make their MLS dream a reality.

Lenarduzzi was left to explain why the Whitecaps name was left off of the team’s MLS logos, which was displayed prominently throughout the room. There’s a chance the club could go with a different name for 2011.

“There is a lot of things we need to make decisions on,” said Lenarduzzi, who is a big proponent of keeping the historic moniker. “The Whitecaps name has a lot of equity. There may be people out there that think it may need to be something other than that.”

Like sponsors, perhaps.

Season tickets for the 2011 season will be capped at 16,500, and Lenarduzzi said the team expects to sell out based on similar scenarios in Toronto and Seattle.

The defending United Soccer Leagues First Division Whitecaps will move from Swangard Stadium to a renovated BC Place in 2011. The planned improvements include new seating, concessions, restrooms, a new artificial turf playing surface and the first retractable roof among MLS teams.

Vancouver Sun
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