Soccer Business Bits: Seattle Business, Stadium Architecture & Labor Issues

Before we get into it today, note that we will “business blog” the Final providing discussion of the broadcast, advertisements and other business aspects of the game on Monday morning.  Please check back for that.

Next week we will also have a chat with Soccernomics author Simon Kuper, but today we post a link to a Seattle Times article about the perceived economic benefits of the Sounders to downtown Seattle.  The article provides anecdotal evidence of increased economic activity resulting from the 15 Sounders’ home dates.  Such claims have long been disputed by economists, who believe that the there is little to no benefit from stadiums.  Nevertheless, on the eve of MLS Cup 2009, the article does show that local business in Seattle have bought into soccer as a financial plus.  A number of the people interviewed indicated that they were originally skeptical of soccer in Seattle, but have now embraced the team.

The Original Winger posts a great interview with Gino Rossetti of Rossetti Architecture.  Rossetti is the designer behind many of the new MLS soccer stadiums and he provides some great insights into the design process. There are some great tidbits about how designing a soccer stadium involves different factors from those of other sports (i.e. soccer fans only get up once per game at halftime) and how Red Bull Arena will change the soccer stadium playing field.  We recommend the story.

There have been a number of labor related stories popping up in the last few weeks, most regurgitating information about a potential strike (which is very premature).  However, with the Commissioner giving a number of interviews over the last few days, here is a link to some of his most recent comments on the issue. Based on comments in the story from Nat Borchers, guaranteed contracts will be a big subject of dispute.  The NFL is on the only other major sport without guaranteed contracts.

 

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MLS Contracts: Who owns David Beckham?

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If there is one thing the David Beckham situation has made abundantly clear, it’s that MLS does things differently.  During the negotiations with Milan, I’ve been repeatedly asked to explain the MLS contract system. In the traditional soccer model, players are owned by individual teams and transferred (i.e. sold)  when two clubs (and the subject player) agree.  Not so in MLS.

MLS operates as a “single entity” where teams are controlled by the League.  While the level of central control has lessened over the years, player contracts are still owned by Major League Soccer.  Thus, despite playing for the L.A.  Galaxy, Beckham’s contract is owned by the League.  Thus, to negotiate a transfer, both clubs, the player and MLS need to agree.

This obviously creates some conflicts.  Undoubtedly, David Beckham has enormously increased awareness of MLS worldwide.  Selling him now may not be in the best interest of the League and its owners, but very well might be in the best interest of the Galaxy on the field.  As of this writing, no deal has been done.  Galaxy owners AEG, have taken the party line with AEG President Tim Lewike stating, “I’m not sure they ever quite understood the magnitude of the losses the Galaxy and the league would have had to bear this season. They were very respectful discussions. We’re fine. There’s no issues here.”

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However, Lewike heads the business and not the soccer arm of AEG.  MLS teams are held to a tight salary cap, and head coach Bruce Arena would likely much prefer to dump Beckham and use the funds freed up under the salary cap, and transfer funds, to build a contender.  Instead, he may be left with an unhappy Beckham and another losing team.