So, AEG’s Tim Leiweke came out yesterday in the LA Times and let the players have it a little.
Now, first off, as it relates specifically to AEG, rather than the MLS owners collectively, Grant Wahl rather rightly calls BS on Leiweke’s claims of losses.
That’s a fair point, but the larger point about the owners not exactly making tons of cash out of this league is a fair point as well. On a league-wide scale, these owners are losing money. While there are markets that might make money (Seattle, Toronto, LA), there are many that are not profitable like DC United, San Jose, and Houston (guessing there because the Dynamo don’t own the stadium).
That fact changes the traditional dynamic of rich owners pleading poverty to squeeze the union. Now maybe, based on that, it shouldn’t have been Leiweke making those statements. If it was coming from an owner waste-deep in red ink like Will Chang, I suspect it would be a bit more powerful. But, the overall point holds true. Most of these owners aren’t just milking vast profits off the backs of the players (yet).
I have noticed that this fact, and one’s ability to notice it, seems to correlate with a person’s proximity to a money-losing franchise. I think that’s why we have seen such vehement pro-union backing out of places like Toronto and Seattle, where their teams and thus the league in general are viewed as big roaring successes. Meanwhile, those of us sitting in Washington, San Jose, Dallas, and elsewhere see otherwise. I don’t think any DC fan can imagine Will Chang swimming in a cash vault Scrooge McDuck-style while his soccer team plays in a decrepit stadium that he doesn’t own and that actively keeps potential fans away. To us, viewing through the MLS franchise we see every week, it’s easy to sympathize with ownership. Sitting at RFK, watching 14,000 rattle around in a 50,000 seat stadium that literally crumbles around them, it’s easy to see that this is losing money.
While DC may serve as a dramatic example, the fact is that most MLS franchises are closer to DC in profit than they to Toronto or Seattle. That’s why, at least in broad terms, I continue to side with the owners.
But, additionally, as I’ve said throughout this whole process, a lot depends on what the actual deals on the table are. In short, it really depends on if the players are asking for complete and total free agency and accepting nothing else, or if the owners are refusing to budge on any form of controlled movement or compensation.
Until we know just what it is that is that the players are refusing, I think people should wait before declaring the season “over” or the league’s business structure a “disaster,” or the sport “doomed.”
For now, as it’s been for months now, all we can do is wait.