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Friday, July 31, 2009

The commissioner's nose is growing

Peter Apanel -- a Portlander who likes the Paulson stadium deal even less than we do -- has been complaining by e-mail to whoever will listen that the commissioner of "major league" (by U.S. standards) soccer knowingly misled the city late last year in his sales pitch for a soccer-centric stadium. Apanel has noted that the commissioner was saying that his league would not expand beyond 18 teams in the foreseeable future, and so that if Portland didn't agree to the PGE Park renovation right away, its chances of having a franchise here were slim to none. But in fact, Apanel notes, the league is planning to expand to at least 20, and possibly 21, teams within three years. And Garber reportedly knew that when he spoke in Portland.

Apanel writes:

Yesterday I found an interesting bit of video on the city's website. It's from the first soccer task force meeting, held on December 9, 2008.

At 26:30, Merritt Paulson states, "If we miss the opportunity this round, it's unlikely Major League Soccer will ever come to Portland, given the league's goal of capping expansion."

Then, beginning at 37:30, and ending at 39:00, there's a discussion in which one member of the task force asks MLS Commissioner Don Garber why MLS has a cap set at 18 teams.

Garber replies that FIFA, MLS's governing body, has a "mandate" throughout the world which limits leagues to 18 teams. Garber goes on to suggest that an 18-team cap is really just focused on European leagues, implying that MLS might someday expand beyond 18 teams.

But then Garber adds, "We believe our success has been driven by a slow, strategic, careful plan." He then refers to the dangers of over-expansion, and says that MLS owners are focused on finding the right size. Garber says, "We believe that size is 18. Who knows what it will be 10 or 20 years from now? But for the next round it will be 18 -- limited to that for awhile."

Well, here it is, just seven months later, and look at where things now stand.

It turns out that the New York Times, on November 18, 2008 (three weeks before that first soccer task force meeting), quoted Garber as saying, "We'll have two new teams in 2011, and we'd like to add two more sometime thereafter, but there's no timetable."

Then on March 18 (two days before Garber announced that Portland had been selected as the 18th MLS franchise), Garber announced that MLS will be expanding to 20 teams in 2012.

But then on May 7, Garber announced that negotiations were being held with Montreal for that city to get an MLS franchise by as early as 2011.

So, what's going on here? It looks like everything that Garber said on that video in December was part of a bait-and-switch strategy aimed at pressuring the city into approving a deal.

The city council needs to start asking some hard questions about the credibility of Garber, and stability of Major League Soccer.

Apanel also sends along a couple of links from Canadian bloggers who howled back in December that Garber was not being candid. They are here and here. Be advised: Some of the language there is a little salty.

Comments (7)

Sort of the same way Sam Adams got elected. False pretenses. Nice.

There's a difference in being taken and wanting to be taken. Our city council has no desire to explore a deal as they would if it affected their futures. They should have a sign over their heads reading, "Please Lie to Us in a Competent Manner - Otherwise We'll Look Even Worse Later."

Maybe there could be a second sign: "If You Lie Now, It'll Save Us the Trouble of Lying For You."

Notice how Garber ran the same play on the team outside of Philly - "You better take this or we'll go to St. Louis" - that he ran here: "We're just this close to moving to Montreal."

It was obvious to anyone with any sense that we could have dictated the terms to MLS, kept both teams at PGE Park, and gone on with life.

I could make the comparison with Daddy Paulson's screaming there'd be martial law if he didn't receive and do certain things with the TARP money, but then changing to another use for the money as soon as it was finally passed.

But why stress during a heat wave bringing that up again?

To be fair to Garber there could have been a wishful plan to keep to 18 teams at some point, but they've had to shift into Ponzi scheme mode now that the TV money tanked.

If you think the shady side of this deal has seen the light, just wait. We're in for a soccer version of the SoWhat bio-tech jobs.

I've got a new favorite phrase, courtesy of the Canadian Soccer Blog:

"Wait, wait… what?!? An 18-team limit? Where the &*@!! did he pull that nugget of nonsense from? I guess he was banking on the people of Portland never having heard of the Premiership, La Liga, Serie A or Ligue 1, all of which have 20 teams in them. Bah, those are obscure leagues anyway, I'm sure FIFA/s never heard of them either."

Nugget of nonsense. Ha!

If you really want an eye-full, click on the second of the two hyperlinks marked "here." Then click on that article's "Reserve Squad -- Garber Just Kidding..." hyperlink. It's not about Portland, but it gives you an even better sense of what's going on behind the scenes at MLS. And this one's really, really salty!

"[I]t gives you an even better sense of what's going on behind the scenes at MLS."

I'm not sure whose sarcasm sensor is malfunctioning -- mine or yours. You're kidding, right?

The city council doesn't care about the truth, or the taxpayers of Portland! They are too busy cashing their checks into some secret bank account!
Like New Jersey it may take years, if ever, to prove it.
Where are the folks with the pitchforks at the city gates???

mls is a joke and will be gone in 5 years, but unfortuenly for PDX, by that time so will the beavers....

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