The quasi dark side of RBNY fandom.
In case you have been living under a rock, MLS announced the 20th MLS team today, set to join the league in 2015, New York City Football Club. NYC FC is a joint venture between Manchester City of the Barclay’s Premier League, and the New York Yankees of Major League Baseball. Before I get into what I think this means for the Red Bulls, and to a lesser extent, the Cosmos, let me talk about what I think of the announcement.
If you have been following the MLS expansion talks in the last year, you would know of three teams that were widely considered to be the best choices for #20: the NY Cosmos, and Orlando City SC, and “NY FC”.
The Cosmos and MLS couldn’t come to an understanding, so they were dropped from consideration towards the end of 2012.
Depending on who you ask, Orlando City never stood a shot at #20, because Garber was so set on NY2. Personally, I thought Orlando City could’ve been a great addition. Yes, MLS didn’t have success with Tampa and Miami, but I think that was more because of the nature of those sport markets. Orlando has boasted an average attendance of 8,465 over their last two seasons in USL Pro, and is averaging 7,915 over 4 home games this year. While those aren’t great averages, those are good signs for a team in Florida where it’s hard to draw for anything outside of College Sports.
This brings us to what is now named New York City Football Club. Garber obviously wanted this to happen. Being in NYC (as much as RBNY is in the NY market, it’s not the city) will bring media attention to MLS. If you thought that Beckham & LA had a serious effect on MLS, wait until NYC FC manages to get their version of Beckham. Throw in the fact that the NY Yankees are part of this, who owns the YES Network, the team already has built in TV coverage. Some flashy signings is all this new team needs to land the type of coverage that RBNY desperately needs.
Brian Lewis from the NY Post points out an important fact about the Manchester City owner, and now part owner of NYC FC.
While MLS still has a tight salary cap, don’t be surprised to see it increased before 2015, specifically to allow for teams to spend more of their own money. There’s no way an owner like Sheikh Mansour would buy into MLS knowing that they aren’t going to be able to spend their money as they see fit. The rules won’t allow the same out of control spending that got the original NASL in trouble, but they will be changed to favor the wealthy more than they already do.
Where Will the Stadium Be?
For the past few years, MLS has focused on getting a stadium in Queens next to Citi Field. Given the recent push back from some local citizens and the Yankees being involved, is Queens the landing spot for the new team? In addition, where will the team play until a new stadium is built? I can’t imagine the Yankees giving up Yankee stadium for games due to what will be conflicts with MLB scheduling. Citi Field is absolutely out, as aside from the MLB schedule, there is no way that Fred Wilpon will let a Steinbrener owned team to use his facilities.
There aren’t many facilities in NYC that could host the team and provide 20,000+ seating at this point. The only two options that make sense are Red Bull Arena and MetLife Stadium. RBNY might allow use since they’ll get most, if not all, of the concessions, and a good amount of the gate receipts. MetLife could work, but after trying to get Soccer Specific Stadiums to be the norm for MLS, will Garber be OK with his new baby playing on turf in a football stadium, even if only temporarily?
Now, to look at what this announcement means for the Red Bulls:
The Red Bulls officially have until 2015 to garner as much attention and fans as possible before the new team shows up. RBNY hasn’t done well (or almost anything) in marketing the team. That needs to change today. No longer can the front office get by with just posters on the PATH train. The next year and a half needs to be a full blown media blitz in NY and NJ. Yes, New York is not priority number one (in terms of soccer) for Austria, but it should be. Red Bull wants this team to be a way to promote their products. Without ads, that doesn’t happen.
Of course, there is no better advertisement than winning a title. Petke and the players may not be getting pressured by the front office, but you can damn well put money on the front office feeling the heat. This franchise can’t afford any more playoff appearances without hardware.
Not that RBNY will be on YES, but the question is what does the second team mean for RBNY’s current TV deal with MSG? Does it make it more valuable since MSG would now have a second network to compete against? Or does the value go down due to who will be watching what team? The current deal expires after the 2014 season, just in time for MSG to reevaluate what will happen. SNY is not really an option either since they only have one channel and are the TV home for the Mets. With MSG being the Red Bulls best bet for TV coverage, they won’t have a lot of leverage in negotiations. I imagine that, at least for the first contract after 2014, Red Bulls will see a small increase in money, if any, largely due to the team playing in the boroughs. I also see it as no more than another 3 years, maybe even less.
English Language Radio Deal
This might not be a big point to some people, but it’s something the Red Bulls need to get done. They currently have a Spanish language radio deal with ESPN Deportes 1050 AM. Getting a deal with an English speaking station will not only get their product out there, but force radio coverage outside of games. Why doesn’t WFAN of ESPN Radio not cover the team? Not enough people would listen. However, if the team could get a regular radio broadcast of games, those stations might be forced to take another look.
Fight for Players
Up until now, RBNY has pretty much had a monopoly on acquiring local players. That will obviously change with NYC FC building up their academy system. On top of that, the Red Bulls will have to fight with a club that can match (and probably outspend) them in the DP market. RBNY will still be able to land some big fish, but expect them to be more of the 2nd tier type of players (Keane vs. Beckham).
Media Attention (Part 2)
Obviously, the new team is going to garner a lot of attention, and why wouldn’t it? It’ll be NY’s shinny new toy in 2015, and everyone loves shinny new toys. The Red Bulls already have to fight for media attention from traditional press. They get plenty of it from “new media” (like this site), but that doesn’t help the team. The demographics that consume new media already follow the team and MLS. Yes, the fans the team has now will translate to more fans down the road, but that’s not what the team needs right now. They need the slightly older demographic, the (generally) 40+ year old crowd. Those people are at Jets, Giants, Yankees, Knicks, Nets, Rangers, Islanders, and Devils games. They grew up with those teams, and why would they leave? The teams needs coverage to expose the older generation(s) to the sport and hook them while they have the time.
The Red Bulls will have to fight to stay relevant after 2015. NYC FC will start out with a flash, and as long as RBNY can stay in the limelight during that (and rack up wins), they might have a chance of not be relegated to a Chivas USA status. Honestly though, I don’t see RBNY being able to hold out when a second team, especially one backed by the Yankees, starts playing. The best course of action for the team might be the one most people suggest, re-brand to the NJ Red Bulls and embrace the Garden State 100%.
Lastly, what does this news mean for the NY Cosmos? They are set to start playing in the NASL in August, joining the league for the fall season. The ownership group is really ambitious with plans for a 25,000 seat stadium of their own in Belmont, a stadium that no other Division 2 or lower team would have planned. Now, the owners have made it known that they don’t plan on going into MLS. The long term view seems to be to pump the NASL up, ala the old American Football League, which was eventually merged with the NFL. The Cosmos owners want to be able to spend their money also, and the NASL doesn’t have rules limiting salary, so they see this as a great opportunity for them.
The issues that I see facing them are in competing against 2 MLS teams in 2015. Right now they can serve an area of NY that is, in many people’s opinion, too far away from Red Bull Arena. They should be able to get a decent showing, maybe average 10,000, but probably won’t draw big crowds as there are no big names in the NASL. However, when 2015 rolls around, and you have 2 teams, one of which could see young Manchester City players on its bench, the outlook isn’t so good.
Can the Cosmos brand really hold up in the second division? So much of the history that people associate with the team come from it being in the top level of US Soccer. I don’t think that the brand will be able to survive 10 years of being in the 2nd tier of US Soccer, especially with teams like the Red Bulls and NYC FC fighting for attention in a crowded NY sports market, with big names on the rosters.
Obviously, what I am saying in this post is mostly speculation and my opinions. I have no crystal ball that will tell me how this will all play out. I could be completely wrong, and NYC FC could be what the NY market need to get on board the soccer bandwagon. Maybe I’m right and both RBNY & the Cosmos will suffer at the hands of Don Garber’s pet project. All I know is that both the Red Bulls & Cosmos have until 2015 to get their portion of the NY Soccer Market. After that, it will take a lot more than it does now to be seen.