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Wherein FIFA president Sepp Blatter demonstrates his ignorance of MLS

Dec 30, 2012, 7:45 AM EDT

FIFA President Blatter speaks during a news conference following their executive committee meeting in Tokyo

At this point, does anyone take Sepp Blatter seriously? At this point, FIFA’s president is really is more cartoon than legitimate decision maker to be heard and respected.

FIFA’s wacky president is at it again, saying something that demonstrates how utterly out of touch he has become with the rest of us Earthlings.

This time Blatter has picked Major League Soccer for demonstrating his ignorance. He has reiterated, once again, that MLS must conform to the international soccer calendar for its own good.

What Blatter told Fox Soccer Channel’s Eric Wynalda in a series of interview outtakes:

It would be better for US Soccer, and specifically also for the [United States] national team. And the popularity inside the country.”

He’s wrong. Dead wrong – at least about the popularity part. There are a dozen reasons why Major League Soccer operates on its current timetable. As I’ve written over and over, it may not be the right call 20 years down the road, but it continues to be the right call in 2012.

Still, you may agree with Blatter on this point. If so, that’s fine. But hopefully you have better rationale. Here is his:

[MLS teams] have to play in summer because they are using the stadia of American football. And when they have their own stadium, they can change the calendar- they have to change the calendar.”

Now, in most eyes, the man has not a shred of credibility. Whatever he had left disappeared a few years ago when he said women’s soccer would find its popularity rising if they wore “tighter shorts.” Yes, he actually said that.

But if a shred or two still dangles in your eyes, consider this:

Two clubs in MLS continue to operate inside NFL stadiums, New England and Seattle. The Sounders would surely have gone another route by now, but the cooperative situation works great for them.

So, that’s two out of 19, Mr. Blatter.

Apparently, he’s not paying much attention. But why should that stop him from telling MLS what’s up?

(MORE: Soccer, the media, and where that all fits in the calendar debate)

(MORE: The weather, and how that fits in the calendar debate. It’s been snowing out, you know!)

  1. dfstell - Dec 30, 2012 at 8:09 AM

    Ahhh……he’s just angry that we won’t bribe him enough to get the World Cup when he knows we have the money.

  2. charliej11 - Dec 30, 2012 at 8:44 AM

    FIFA is a joke and the guy running it fits the same description. I wonder how many season tickets Seattle sells playing 1/2 of its games Nov through Feb. I am out and I have been soccer in the US biggest fan for over 35+ years.

    You are NOT correct in saying the Seattle plays in an NFL stadium……and no the Sounders would NOT have gone another route, we have loved going to the stadium for 13 or so years now….even when it was way too big a stadium for the 5k-10k of us fans.

    It was voted on as both and would NOT have passed with out the soccer vote,
    It was built for both and is the best soccer stadium in the US (actually the world),
    And it has been both since the first games played there, which were soccer exhibition games and SOUNDER’S games.

    • handsofsweed - Jan 1, 2013 at 12:50 AM

      Um, yeah. You play in The Seahawks stadium, dude. Don’t try and fool yourself.

      (Not knocking the MLS. Soccer is friggin’ awesome. Period.)

    • donjuego - Jan 1, 2013 at 1:29 AM

      I’ve been to two soccer games in Seattle. Seahawk’s stadium is NOT even close to a top-10 soccer stadium in the USA. A great crowd no doubt. But no way a great soccer stadium.

  3. charliej11 - Dec 30, 2012 at 8:56 AM

    I just read the FOX soccer article.

    It really boils down to that if MLS wants to get enough money to have the nat team players play here (they ALL play overseas now you know)…they have to attract fans to games in January instead of July….yeah that makes sense. That actually will bring peace to the Middle East too.

    At this point the US needs to win a World Cup, we would be the only country with enough power, who is not in bed with them, to tell FIFA they are done.

  4. tackledummy1505 - Dec 30, 2012 at 9:19 AM

    @charliej11- I agree with your last part being that if we win the World Cup we can tell FIFA to stuff it. I believe FIFA is corrupt and should be told to go take a hike, but the MLS has to be different than the rest of the world. For 2 reasons mainly, 1st is that the die hard soccer fan gets soccer all year round. It’s the only sport that does that for the American fan, which is great cause it promotes the sport more than anything. 2nd is soccer is the only sport in the world that hasn’t evolved or changed in like a 100 years. I see that being a problem with the sport in itself. You think of all the American sports that is played today and all the controversy that is surrounded by a sport and soccer is the biggest coin toss. Literally soccer is a game where you never know if your team is going to get the cards or not and how much it might affect that game. Could you imagine if football said, “No we are not going to review any of the plays and we are going to leave the call by the official as human error, because we believe in the tradition of the game.” I mean the season might look totally different for the NFL and people would be outraged over calls only diminishing the game even further. Maybe if baseball did the same thing, would the playoffs ended the same way it did, without replay? Now I’m not saying that soccer should have replay, but the game hasn’t changed and the calls on the field more than half the time is wishy washy. Funny thing is a hockey rink is half the size probably of a soccer field, yet soccer still relies on one ref to run up and down the field and make most of the calls. Yet hockey has 2 refs on both sides. Do calls get missed? Yes, but most of the calls made are legitimate, where as soccer its a give or take. Does anyone think the playoff game between Houston and Washington D.C. would’ve been different if there was 2 refs on both sides? I believe yes, but soccer believes in tradition and not evolving the sport to make it better and this is why FIFA is out dated, because they can’t let go of the past. Someone has to do it and why not the country that pisses off the rest of the world and has always been a rebel

    • handsofsweed - Jan 1, 2013 at 12:52 AM

      Slow clap. Building into a roaring crescendo of applause!

    • donjuego - Jan 1, 2013 at 1:34 AM

      Respectfully, I cannot disagree with this post more. What makes soccer great is that it is not messed with. The impact of missed calls is way overblown. Anyone citing the Hou v DCU playoff game is making a mistake. That call was not near as clear cut as it is idiotically claimed to be.

  5. ndnut - Dec 30, 2012 at 9:27 AM

    Summer soccer=more fans/popularity than winter soccer. I’m okay with moving first kick go April and playing the playoffs after Thanksgiving, but there is no way regular season games can draw a crowd in December with a few exceptions (warm weather and Pacific NW).

  6. Randy Meeker - Dec 30, 2012 at 9:58 AM

    The only real reason to not move to an international schedule is that there are too many cold weather cities in the league and not enough warm weather cities. If we ever get to the point where we have teams in Phoenix, Atlanta, Miami, Tampa/Orlando, etc., then some creative scheduling could solve a lot of the weather issues.

    It’s a widely held opinion that soccer can’t compete with American football in the United States and Canada. I used to believe this as well before I looked at how attendance numbers compared in cities that had a MLS game on the same day in the same city as MLB, NBA, NHL, NCAA football and NFL. MLS attendance does better when competing against football than against any other sport. The league-wide average is 2.6% higher when competing with football, but is 1.8% lower when competing with baseball, 9.8% lower when competing with hockey and 13.1% lower when competing with basketball.

    • valiantdraws - Dec 30, 2012 at 12:44 PM

      Actually, MLS’s main concern when competing against NFL is in TV. That’s where the real money is.

  7. tylerbetts - Dec 30, 2012 at 10:13 AM

    Sweet! Sepp Blatter bashing. My favorite internet past time!

    First, Steve, you are right on. Blatter has zero credibility. One point you didn’t mention here was his statement about being disappointed that 18 years after hosting a World Cup, the US Domestic League isn’t one of the top leagues in the world. That there tells me the guy just does. not. get. it. Period.

    Do I think MLS should modify their calendar? Absolutely. Do I think they should do so now? Absolutely not. Do I think they should go to the European calendar? Absolutely not. I think we should get in line with the rest of our hemisphere and go with a Clausera/Apartura schedule. But, as you said, not right now. MLS has made some very smart moves along the way as it started with a very Americanized product and slowly made it less so. That was smart. If you just started the league and made it the US Premier League and copied England in every way, I have no doubt the league would have folded about 15 years ago. Instead, we’ve allowed the league to grow (and shrink) organically, and allowed the fans to becomes MLS fans.

    And, let’s be honest here – MLS is a different flavor than any other league. And that’s a GOOD thing. I can sit down and turn on the TV and if there is a random MLS game on, I can watch it. I love the flavor of our league. I can’t do that to an EPL game.

    And, while yes, in an ideal world every MLS might have their own stadium, that’s never going to happen. And, honestly, I’m not sure Seattle would be better off with their own stadium. But, hey, I guess this means Sepp is also disappointed in the EPL, since Wigan share a stadium with a rugby team. But, hey, again, let’s not have facts ruin Mr. Blatter’s day.

    The sport, as a whole, will be in much better hands when Blatter is out of office. Provided, of course, that he’s not just followed by someone cut from the exact same cloth.

    • Randy Meeker - Dec 30, 2012 at 10:31 AM

      There is almost zero support for the Sounders to get their own stadium, and that’s just among Sounders fans. There are so many advantages to sharing staff and facilities with the Seahawks that it’s just silly to think they need a place to call their own. Add to that the fact that they’re on pace to start selling out the entire stadium (67k capacity) by the end of the decade. I’d much rather go to games with 67,000 other loud fans than 45k or 50k. It creates a better atmosphere and looks better on TV. The drawbacks of sharing the stadium are limited and negligible. The turf degraded too much by the end of the 2011 season (really, by the beginning of that season) and we had to deal with some football markings for the first time in our four year history in MLS. The front office has indicating that they’re working to ensure that neither of those disadvantages happen again, and they have a pretty good track record of delivering on their promises to the fans.

      • tylerbetts - Dec 30, 2012 at 10:38 AM

        Yeah, that’s what I was getting at with the line about not being sure Seattel would be better off with their own stadium. I personally see the advantages they get and I 1) Live in Denver and 2) am far from a Seattle Supporter.

        Sometimes, a shared resources model works wonderfully for sports franchises. Seattle, I think, is the perfect example of that. To say that you NEED to have each team operating in their own SSS is foolhardy, at best. Seattle thrives, in part, because of their stadium arrangment.

        New England, on the other hand …

      • Randy Meeker - Dec 30, 2012 at 10:54 AM

        New England needs its own stadium at the very least, preferably in Boston. They probably could use a re-branding as well. I have a pipe dream of rebranding them as the namesake of their original NASL team, the Boston Beacons. They had a pretty cool logo that I think would translate well to modern day MLS. They only lasted a year, but the second MLS team was the Minutemen, which is probably too close to the Revolution/Patriots theme. The Rovers existed before the NASL and the beacons, but they might be seen as a Celtics knockoff. I think they need their own identity that isn’t seen as the bastard child of one of the existing pro teams in Boston.

      • valiantdraws - Dec 30, 2012 at 12:50 PM

        Seattle’s success at Century Link is very much because of Century Link. That stadium is unlike any other in the NFL, and unlike any other in top flight soccer around the world. If Seattle had a copy of Gillette Stadium or any other for that matter, it just wouldn’t be the same.

        Also, sharing that stadium with the Seahawks is a non issue, in that the ownership is clearly dedicated to both teams. Poor New England…the Krafts could give a damn.

    • centrocampistadeleste - Jan 1, 2013 at 8:02 AM

      You ´re right, just don´t try to copy European leagues, there´s nothing exciting, unless you´re a fan of some of few big clubs. Competitions in South and Central America are much more unpredictable, games are not ruled by tactics and fan support is so massive. Even smaller clubs could win, just look at Arsenal Sarandí in Argentina, Huachipato in Chile or Tijuana in Mexico. It won´t happen in Europe.

  8. krazymunky - Dec 30, 2012 at 11:57 AM

    Technically 3 teams use ‘football’ stadiums since the Vancouver Whitecaps are sharing BC Place with the BC Lions of the CFL

    • dhagentj - Dec 30, 2012 at 1:32 PM

      And Portland shares theirs with college football, as do others. HDC gets used for everything. Bridgeview is also busy.

      • Steve Davis - Dec 30, 2012 at 7:35 PM

        Well, other teams also have some kind of cooperative agreement with American football, like Houston’s BBVA, where one of the local colleges use the Dynamo ground as their home field. But in these cases the MLS team has primary control of the dates, and that’s what we’re really talking about here.

      • dhagentj - Dec 30, 2012 at 10:24 PM

        The Seahawks have clearly made serious scheduling concessions to accommodate the Sounders. They went three weeks without a home game this year, while the Sounders were making their playoff run. Rather unusual.

  9. valiantdraws - Dec 30, 2012 at 12:56 PM

    That Boston Beacons logo is one of the worst I’ve ever seen. I am so sick of logos with Telstar balls that I could spit. That logo literally looks like the local water utility’s logo.

    Ya know, I never thought “Revolution” was a bad name. Boston Revolution is a good name if they can move. Or just Revolution FC or Revolution. Too bad Arsenal has that crest, because a cannon would be perfect, what with the guns of Ticonderoga and all. Embracing the revolutionary roots of Boston would be perfect, much like Union has done.

  10. mvktr2 - Dec 30, 2012 at 3:46 PM

    Blatter seems as informed about soccer as I am about basketball.

    Problem with that is I’m not claiming to be the head of a world governing body over basketball.

  11. @C_Tobin - Dec 30, 2012 at 10:09 PM

    The worst thing is Blatter’s presumption that the World Cup in 1994 failed to grow soccer in the United States.

    Success can and should be measured by more than just the domestic league. While I think MLS is growing and will enter the broader public conscience soon why is that the measuring stick in Sepp’s mind?

    The USA pays more to Sepp’s FIFA for World Cup broadcasting rights than any country. Read that again. The USA pays more than ANY country in the world to broadcast the World Cup.

    The EPL rights just went to NBC for $250M for three years. Clearly soccer is alive and thriving in America. The domestic league is very well attended (Seattle might be somewhat of an outlier but you can not ignore the average 40k+ attendance in 2012) and the only factor that legitimizes MLS criticism is the lacking TV ratings.

    Blatter criticizing the growth of American soccer since the 1994 World Cup while collecting literally a BILLION dollars for future World Cup TV rights in the US is laughable. Remember watching the 1990 World Cup on TV in the US?

  12. drewvt6 - Dec 31, 2012 at 12:01 AM

    People, we have to take Blatter with a grain of salt. Don’t forget he’s the one who thinks Qatar (smaller than CT, hotter than Death Valley, lower gdp than greater LA) is a better option for a WC than the United States.

  13. schmutzdeck - Dec 31, 2012 at 2:22 PM

    I see the USWNT did pretty good without those skin tight, form fitting outfits Sepp was recommending.

    I’m not going to lose a lot of sleep over what this guy says.

  14. deepcynic - Dec 31, 2012 at 3:52 PM

    Steve, please do not turn soccer writing in the United States into a British tabloid game. You can see where it has left England’s national team. Why resort to calling Sepp Blatter names? It is everything but journalistic integrity.

    Publish the transcript of the interview and allow me to make a decision. It is lame and dishonest to go on such a tirade with excerpts. Please do not insult the readers’ intelligence.

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