So Toronto FC fired their interim manager Chris Cummins today, on the heels of a 5-0 meltdown in a must-win match against woeful New York. That’s a reasonable move, and one that I suspect most TFC fans welcome. But whichever English or Scottish league washout that Mo recruits (and you can bet your bottom dollar that it’ll be a Brit), will face the same problem that Cummins and his predecessor John Carver faced. That problem?
I could try and put this politely for Toronto fans but instead let me explain it simply. Everyone in MLS thinks Johnston is an idiot when it comes to personnel. His record of erm, “success,” with NY and so far in Toronto is fairly obvious.
But here’s the biggest problem, and the problem that should haunt TFC fans far more than their insipid complaints about Major League Soccer’s rules and structure. I don’t think your owners give one iota of a crap whether your team wins or not, as long as 25,000 red-clad lunatics keep filling the seats. Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (MLSE), which owns the Maple Leafs, Raptors, and TFC, is currently under the majority ownership of the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan. You read that right; a pension fund for Ontario’s public school teachers owns three of Toronto’s professional sports franchises.
Here’s the big problem with that. The trustees of the pension plan have no reason to care whatsoever that TFC isn’t winning. As long as the seats are filled, the beer gets sold, and the media rights fees increase, it simply isn’t in the plan’s basic interest whatsoever to risk even a minute extra bit of its shareholders’ holdings in pursuit of silverware. That’s why Mo can probably consider his seat one of the safest in Major League Soccer. As long as the team makes money and he tells MLSE management what they want to hear, TFC’s legions of fans will likely be stuck with mediocre soccer in front of them for long while. Unlike with individual owners, the pension fund doesn’t have to win in order for it to be a success for itself or its shareholders. A pension fund won’t be mad that Toronto missed the playoffs. A pension fund won’t dream of lifting silverware in the way that an individual owner does.
If that sounds nauseatingly familiar to Toronto fans, it’s because it’s the exact same problem that has befallen the city’s beloved Maple Leafs for decades. As long as fans continue to fill the seats night-after-night, there simply is no reason for the pension fund to take the risk, as minimal as it might be, to put a championship-winning team out there. I just got done reading Leafs Abomination, by Toronto sportswriters Dave Feschuk and Michael Grange. The chapters on MLSE and the pension fund should be required reading for every Toronto FC fan. It doesn’t make one terribly optimistic about TFC’s future on-field performance.