Doing The Business
Let’s say you ran a small business. It doesn’t matter what industry, just a small business, a start-up, still young. You’re still trying to make it work, still losing money, still hoping you can find a committed local investor who will put some money into the thing.
So you work on this one project for a week or so, while doing all the other things you do on a regular basis to try to keep the lights on and the staff paid. Partially because of the work you put in on the project (and partly because of some luck), an asset drops in your lap. You don’t have a lot of assets drop in your lap, so this is a happy circumstance for you.
Now, you could probably make some money from this asset. Probably. You’d have a short window in which to do it, a small staff to make it happen (and they couldn’t just drop everything to make it happen, they’d still have to do all the things they normally do while trying to keep the lights on) and there’s no guarantee the reward would be worth the effort.
And then, out of the blue, a company (not a competitor) from another state offers you guaranteed money for the asset. You don’t have to do anything but say “Yes.” The asset has value to them, and they’re willing to make it worthwhile for you to relinquish it. Remember, this is an asset you’ve had for about 10 minutes, and that you acquired partially through a week of work and partially through luck.
And, all the while, the light bill is in the back of your mind. It has to be. When you run a small business, keeping the lights on and meeting payroll are always the priorities.
Now, maybe you’re a gutsy entrepreneur. Maybe you think there’s a great opportunity here and that if you and your staff work tremendously hard for another week and expend more marketing dollars (that are in short supply to begin with), maybe you can make it work. Maybe.
And then maybe the guy from corporate who’s been helping keep you afloat the last two years says, “Make the deal.” Or maybe he doesn’t have to because you’ve worked for this guy for two years now, and you know he wants you to make the deal.
So you make the deal.
Now, if the small business in question is the Minnesota Stars or Atlanta Silverbacks of the North American Soccer League, all bets are off. Those clubs, given the assets of home games against Major League Soccer clubs next week in the third round of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup, opted to make the deal. They’ll travel to Salt Lake City and Seattle, respectively, putting their teams at a bit of a competitive disadvantage, but paying the light bill.
Minnesota GM Djorn Buchholz told IMS Soccer News’ Brian Quarstad:
“We were presented with a business opportunity to change the venue of this match to Rio Tinto Stadium that we could not pass up. As we continue working to ensure the long-term viability of the Minnesota Stars FC, sometimes difficult decisions must be made, and this was one of them. But history has shown that Minnesota pro soccer teams have what it takes to go on the road and get a result, and we believe this team has just that.”
(A bit of spin at the end, there, but Buchholz’ point is exactly right. And kudos to Quarstad for tracking down the GM in the wee hours this morning.)
The Silverbacks, meanwhile, issued a statement Wednesday saying the Sounders had given then them the proverbial offer they couldn’t refuse, and then laid out exactly what the organization would do with the additional funds.
Predictably, the more vocal fans of the game didn’t take it well, alternately blasting the lower level clubs, the MLS clubs and, finally, the United States Soccer Federation for allowing such a thing to happen.
To which I say, “Really?”
US Soccer is in charge of overseeing and growing the game in this country. Recently, stabilizing and growing lower-division soccer has been something many of those same vocal fans have made their feelings known about. But in this case, they seem to think USSF should step in and deny those smaller clubs the right to use assets at their disposal to help stabilize and grow their businesses (as if restraint of trade is one of the things our national federation should be getting into). As if USSF should say, “No, smaller clubs, you can’t improve your financial situation. Not yours. We’ve been charged with stabilizing the lower divisions, but only in ways that pass muster with people on Twitter.”
After all, smaller clubs sell assets – players – to bigger clubs all the time and all around the world. Are those assets – which fans like and which could help sell you some tickets – off-limits now, too?
USSF Spokesman Neil Buethe shed some light on the process in an email today:
“Teams are provided the opportunity to come to any agreement to switch the home site of a game from one team to the other in the event that the two teams could meet.
Here is an example: Winner of Team A vs. Team B is to play winner of Team C vs. Team D in the Quarterfinals, with A vs. B winner pre-selected to host. Team C may negotiate a contingency agreement with Team A, Team B or both to have the Quarterfinal venue switched to its stadium, should Team C advance.
There is usually a week deadline to finalize such an agreement, but in certain cases that deadline could be extended.
Also, it should be understood that we only approve the change when the two teams have come to an agreement (provided the new host meets all the requirements). The details of the agreement are between the two parties involved and are not part of our consideration to approve the change.”
I get that some fans are upset (but, please, name for me one person who spent last night in a fetal position over this so I can mock them), but fans think like fans, not like business owners. Fans haven’t lost millions trying to stabilize a club and make it profitable. Fans always want to run clubs, but they only want to do the sexy things like pick the colors and design the badge and fire the coach and decide who plays left back. They’ve never had to make tough financial decisions in a public arena with emotional customers (and, no, I’m sorry, whatever emotional investment you’ve made pales in comparison to the actual money people lose in creating a team for your entertainment).
Seattle’s been buying home games for three years, but now, suddenly, it’s a problem? Two – TWO – of the seven lower-division teams that were set to host MLS teams
kept sold those games. There have only been four lower-division teams that have hosted MLS teams in the Open Cup in the last two years, and there are going to be five six next week! This tournament takes place every year in relative obscurity, and now all of a sudden fans are acting like Knights Templar, guarding the “sanctity” of the Open Cup like it’s the Holy Grail.
Suddenly, Open Cup third-round home games are an asset – that’s progress in and of itself, isn’t it? – and smart business people make good use of their assets. The US Open Cup is a tournament that loses money, featuring teams that lose money, in a country that has, historically, lost money on soccer. This was a chance for someone to make some money for once. I can’t find fault with them for that, or with USSF for letting it happen.