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MLS commissioner Don Garber to ESPN: “no chance” Chivas USA to be contracted or moved

Dec 9, 2013, 3:59 PM EDT


Outside of Southern California, there are two kinds of MLS fans when it comes to how they regard Chivas USA: those who have wondered why MLS doesn’t just cut bait and move this laggard, and those who will get around to wondering about it sooner or later.

Remember, not so long ago, when some MLS well-wishers got so giddy about the possibility of David Beckham purchasing Chivas USA – although it turned out to be no possibility at all?  Yes, wishful thinking prevails.

Welp, about that long-hoped for move or sale or shut-down or whatever: it’s not happening.

I write this periodically, that MLS is committed to making this thing work out. The “why” remains something of a mystery. After all, the entire Chivas USA thing has been a drag on the league for years, mediocre in its best moments and a complete embarrassment during others.

But for two years now, MLS commissioner Don Garber or other league higher-ups have steadfastly delivered the same message: the ONLY option is working to make Chivas USA better, to create more relevancy in the local market, to keep prodding for independent stadium solutions and to keep hoping the club gets itself sorted out from a competitive standpoint.

Consider the message delivered yet again, this time via Q&A with ESPNFC writer Jeff Carlisle.  Garber told Carlisle that there is, in fact, a plan. But he doesn’t want to talk about the plan – which makes you believe this alleged plan is about like my personal plan to corner the lucrative soybean market. That is to say, we’re still working on it.

What Garber told Carlisle when asked directly if there was any scenario that would see the club move or fold?

Absolutely not. There is no chance that club is going to be contracted, and no chance that club is being moved.

That certainly sounds definitive, doesn’t it?

Then again, expect the questions to keep coming. Probably around the first of March, as the next crowd of 4,000 or so files into the StubHub Center to watch the facility’s renter tenant.

  1. kirielson - Dec 9, 2013 at 4:01 PM

    He wants a major owner to buy them out, that’s why. LA needs two teams like NYC, the problem is that the ownership is horrendous.

  2. creek0512 - Dec 9, 2013 at 4:10 PM

    LA does not “need” two teams.

  3. dfstell - Dec 9, 2013 at 4:39 PM

    A couple of thoughts

    1). Of course they will not contract of move the franchise. Most of the league’s revenue comes from expansion fees. They aren’t going to set a precedent that MLS is in the habit of seizing teams that it doesn’t feel are well-run. That’s the sort of thing that scares prospective owners.

    2). The league’s whole mantra about their model is that they try to limit any team’s ECONOMIC advantages so that clubs win/lose based on management skill. If MLS wants to tout how that model produces clubs like RSL, they really have to let Chivas flounder due to poor management.

    3). The current expansion drive probably makes it harder to get new ownership for Chivas. If I were a wealthy person who wanted to own an MLS club, would I rather try to buy this “distressed” team in LA from a kinda loony owner OR would I rather go make friends with Beckham & Co. in Miami? Or just buy into another one of the shiny, fresh, new teams somewhere else? Once expansion stops, then owners might have to try to buy Chivas. Also, MLS isn’t going to want Chivas sold for $25MM when they want to charge Atlanta $75MM. So, they need to make sure that Chivas isn’t sold in the interim.

    • joeyt360 - Dec 9, 2013 at 5:48 PM

      It’s most definitely not true that “most of the league’s revenue comes from expansion fees” (which they got zero of this season). But it is true that MLS and all other leagues are deep into defending franchise values, and playing repo man because they decided ur doin it wrong is not the best way to defend franchise values.

      • dfstell - Dec 9, 2013 at 6:18 PM

        Well…zero this year, but their TV deal is so paltry that one expansion fee is worth more than their entire contract with NBC. That’s my point. Expansion is their best revenue source right now (which makes it kinda a Ponzi scheme).

      • joeyt360 - Dec 10, 2013 at 10:40 AM

        Ticket revenue is the main source of income in the league, no expansion or TV. Expansion revenue isn’t second, either, that’s national sponsorships. SUM-related promotional revenues are likely third, and merchandise fourth.

        The expansion revenue is only worth about the same as the annuity value of splitting up the TV contract amongst one more investor. If those new teams weren’t bringing in new revenues in the first three categories, the league wouldn’t be doing it.

    • talgrath - Dec 9, 2013 at 7:43 PM

      1. Not true. From what we can tell from league finances, the majority of revenue comes from ticket sales. Butts in seats. Remember, that $100 million franchise fee for NYCFC (Orlando paid less than that) is divided up 19 times, coming to a bit over $5 million a team; all of the MLS teams are are spending over $2 million a year on players alone, factor in coaches and other staff, stadium expenses and the rest and franchise fees are nowhere close to even paying for a single season of expenses. No doubt franchise fees for new franchises is a factor in not wanting to shut down a team or take them over right now.

      2. I think that’s a very minor point, and the team being bad isn’t the complain from fans. The complaint from fans is the fact that the owner seems to be using Chivas USA as the training squad for his Chivas Guadalajara club, Jorge Vergara doesn’t seem to be invested in making the MLS franchise successful in any form. The racism charges leveled against the club do not help matters either.

      3. This is certainly true. A major factor here is that Vergara owns the franchise, much like owning stock the only way MLS can force him out is to show that he is doing something illegal or egregiously immoral to harm the MLS brand or they need to show that MLS is propping the team up financially. People like to refer to the Fusion for reference of a similar situation, but the Fusion’s problem wasn’t poor performance it was that the ownership couldn’t keep the team funded, MLS was hemorrhaging money on both Miami and Tampa Bay, keeping them afloat. Vergara has piles of cash, he’s worth approximately $1.5 billion so he can afford to fund the entire team every year without a single fan showing up; the only way for MLS to get rid of him is to show he hurts the MLS brand; the racism lawsuit might do that, we’ll have to wait and see.

  4. pecorasc - Dec 9, 2013 at 4:40 PM

    Must be that lucrative tv deal they don’t have.

  5. bobinkc - Dec 9, 2013 at 6:28 PM

    Maybe, just maybe, I have an idea that might work and fix the Chivas problem. Tell Garber he has one year to find a buyer for the Goats or he has to find another buyer for himself. I would think the owners group would only be willing to put up his bull about Chivas for so long.

    Of course, the Goats do make a kinda handy win for everyone if you don’t go nuts and put your twelve-year-olds in against them.

  6. tonyinquakeland - Dec 9, 2013 at 6:56 PM

    No doubt the league is concerned about the massive inconvenience that would be suffered by Chivas USA fans in the event of a relocation. I suggest that if the team is moved within Southern California, MLS can offer their current season ticket holders a ride to home games.

    A Prius should do it.

  7. hildezero - Dec 9, 2013 at 8:02 PM

    The “why” is because Don Garber doesn’t want to admit that he messed up by letting Chivas be an expansion club. That’s “why” he’s trying to revive the goat. Garber needs to admit it and move on from this.

  8. overtherepermanently - Dec 9, 2013 at 8:34 PM

    Newflash – Don Garber sold testicles in 2005. Currently on display in Guadalajara.

    • overtherepermanently - Dec 10, 2013 at 12:15 PM

      I take that back. I love the Don, and I think he really manned up in admitting that he was wrong in the recent SI article. Still, he needs to fix this club, and rebranding, whether in LA or out of it, is mandatory.

  9. miket333 - Dec 10, 2013 at 3:36 PM

    Garber is an idiot. Why the hell would they schedule a Sounders at Timbers game on the same day as the WC final? Or any MLS games for that matter?

  10. alan42013 - Dec 14, 2013 at 1:48 PM

    The modern-day version of Toronto Metros-Croatia as far as branding goes. Only Toronto Croatia handled it far better than Vergara.

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