Football! pic.twitter.com/rdtXP6IGTE— Patrick Stewart (@SirPatStew) January 31, 2014
Love it. I'm going to be sad when their show is over and they leave New York (although Sir Patrick is a neighbor of mine in Brooklyn).
Football! pic.twitter.com/rdtXP6IGTE— Patrick Stewart (@SirPatStew) January 31, 2014
Sydney FC said no to Manchester City millions
by Sebastian Hassett
City rocked the Australian football landscape on Thursday by claiming an 80 per cent stake in the expansion club, a deal that effectively transforms the A-League strugglers into one of nation's most powerful clubs. But the Heart were not City's first Australian choice and perhaps not even their second. Sydney FC chairman Scott Barlow revealed to Fairfax Media that he point-blank rejected the overtures of City's Abu Dhabi-based investors last year.
“It was flattering for us that Manchester City made an approach to us early last year to explore the possibility of buying into Sydney FC,” Barlow said. "They outlined their plans to create a network of clubs in the world's most iconic cities.
“Their primary focus at the time was New York but Sydney was very much on their radar. I conveyed that we were by no means motivated sellers and that we were very committed to Sydney FC.”
Barlow said Sydney FC owner David Traktovenko, who is Barlow's father-in-law, was only looking to increase his investment in the club in the years ahead. Clearly, Sydney are not threatened by the new arrivals. “Today's announcement I believe is a positive for Melbourne Heart and we welcome Manchester City's involvement on the A-League,” Barlow said.
"What we won't welcome is any attempt they make to introduce sky blue. There's only one sky blue club in the A-League, and that's Sydney."
Fairfax Media also understands City's owners were briefly considering a stake in the Western Sydney Wanderers. It is believed FFA chairman Frank Lowy was keen to talk City's owners into taking charge of the Wanderers when he heard of their desire to buy an Australian club.
However, the Citizens' global project is to target inner-city clubs, in keeping with the team's name. They have also purchased a new franchise for Major League Soccer, named New York City FC, who will debut in 2015.
Despite funding the club's overhaul from underachievers to global powerhouses, Sheikh Mansour is seldom spotted at Manchester City and is hardly expected to set foot inside AAMI Park.
But his in-laws might be impressed: one of Sheikh Mansour's two wives is a daughter of Godolphin owner Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, who has become obsessed with winning the Melbourne Cup.
While the $11.5 million takeover has secured Manchester City an 80 per cent stake, the new ownership group in charge of Melbourne Storm - led by Bart Campbell - have secured a 20 per cent.
The FFA sanctioned the deal on Wednesday night, claiming Hunter Sports Group's co-ownership of the Newcastle Knights and Newcastle Jets was proof the sports could co-exist. The NRL has also given the deal their blessing.
Central Coast Mariners coach Phil Moss, who was at Northern Spirit when Scottish club Rangers took over, said the deal would likely turn Heart into a contender.
“It obviously adds some glamour to the league and some profile,” he said. “What their motivations are for buying into the league will probably come out in the next few days and what they're looking to do and how the relationship will work. But certainly to have a brand like Manchester City come into the A-League shows just how far we've come. It's a real feather in the cap.”
"(Manchester City FC) outlined their plans to create a network of clubs in the world's most iconic cities."I would say that Sydney is a more iconic city than Melbourne, although Melbourne is the sporting center of Australia. I doubt many Americans could name a Melbourne landmark, while the Sydney Opera House remains a global symbol of the nation. I noticed that it's also included in the Sydney FC crest.
"(C)ertainly to have a brand like Manchester City come into the A-League shows just how far we've come. It's a real feather in the cap."That's precisely what MLS Commissioner Don Garber thinks.
"What we won't welcome is any attempt they make to introduce sky blue. There's only one sky blue club in the A-League, and that's Sydney."Indeed.
MANCHESTER CITY FOOTBALL CLUB TO ACQUIRE MELBOURNE HEART FC IN PARTNERSHIP WITH OWNERS OF MELBOURNE STORM
• Investment underscores growing profile of the Hyundai A-League and potential of football in Australia and throughout the region
1000hrs - 23 January 2014, Melbourne: A consortium led by Manchester City Football Club has acquired Melbourne Heart FC effective immediately. The consortium also includes the ownership group of the Melbourne Storm as minority shareholders with a 20 percent stake.
Ferran Soriano, CEO of Manchester City, said: "We are excited about the opportunity to make Melbourne Heart one of the most successful football clubs in Australia and throughout the region. We believe the strong sports culture of Melbourne combined with the football and commercial expertise within our consortium will make for a powerful combination both on and off the pitch".
Bart Campbell, Chairman of the holding company Heart Consortium Group and Chairman of the Melbourne Storm NRL side, said: "Partnering with City to co-invest in Melbourne Heart will further strengthen the sporting landscape in one of the world's greatest cities and bring a range of new capabilities to AAMI Park. We are excited to be a part of this unique project. It is our shared ambition to replicate the model that City created with the New York Yankees around New York City FC and for both organisations to benefit as a result".
He added: "We are grateful to Peter Sidwell and his Board for creating a Club with such obvious strengths and potential."
Speaking on behalf of the exiting Board of Melbourne Heart FC, Chairman Peter Sidwell said, "The Board feels that with the successful establishment and evolution of the Club over the last four years, Melbourne Heart now stands on sound commercial and financial foundations. The Board feels that the next phase of the club's development can be most fully realised with this new investment and the associated benefits that the enthusiasm of the consortium will bring".
FFA CEO David Gallop said the acquisition of the Melbourne Heart licence was a huge vote of confidence in the future of the Hyundai A-League.
"Football has moved into the mainstream of Australian sport and is ideally placed to benefit from the boom in football across Asia," said Gallop.
"Manchester City and their Australian partners have made a strategic investment and I welcome them to our growing competition. It's another sign that the world is taking notice of Australian football.
"Manchester City and their partners will bring a high level of expertise in football and sports business matters and that can only strengthen the Melbourne Heart and the Hyundai A-League as a whole."
Regarding its plans for the Club, Ferran Soriano stated: "The first thing we must do is take the time to listen and learn and then to develop our strategy for strengthening the Club over time."
Out of respect for the coaching staff and the players in the middle of the A-League season, the new ownership group will not be making any major announcements until mid-2014.
Manchester City's investment in Melbourne Heart FC follows its establishment of New York City Football Club in May 2013, which will enter Major League Soccer in the United States in the 2015 season, and its establishment of Manchester City Women's Football Club, that will play in 2014.
In support of this expansion, City has significantly boosted its resources in scouting, coaching, human performance, football tactics and other football capabilities, most notably through its landmark City Football Academy (CFA) in Manchester, UK. Due to open in 2014, the CFA will transform the organisation's training and youth development capabilities and help it to attract the world's most promising footballers both now and in the future.
As one Bronx resident put it, "If they want to build it, fine. Use your own money."Can't say I really disagree with that. The team has sufficient capital that public funds, even tax incentives and city tax-exempt bonds, aren't needed to build the project. I'd be happier if more high-end properties were developed without public dollars, and this could be an excellent opportunity for the team to take a bold stand. They could generate a tremendous amount of local good will, not to mention national press.
He had some very interesting thoughts about what was presented last week. Among his major takeaways:
With an investment of more than $500 million, including a $100 million expansion fee and what will eventually be a soccer stadium costing up to $400 million, the new club being started by the owners of Manchester City and the New York Yankees is one more sign of MLS’s progress in recent years.
On a day when Toronto FC completed a stunning week of transfers to acquire Michael Bradley and Jermain Defoe, and on the day we learned MLS’s next TV contract (a deal shared by ESPN and Fox Sports) would be worth around $70 million a year, according to Sports Business Journal, it was another proud moment for MLS to see a home-grown player and coach like Kreis fit in perfectly on a podium with NYC FC sporting director Claudio Reyna, Manchester City CEO Ferran Soriano and City director of football Txiki Begiristain.
• Reyna is already pursuing Designated PlayersThis is excellent news. 2015 will be here before we know it, and the process of signing players will take much of that time. In the press conference, head coach Jason Kreis confirmed that NYCFC expects to sign three Designated Players; under my reading of the rule that third DP would cost them $250,000 in luxury taxes unless one is 23 years old or younger. Perhaps they're including young players in their search, or perhaps they're just counting on paying the relatively-minor one-time fee.
The U.S. Hall of Famer and All-Time Best XI midfielder told me that he and other club officials have already met with "more than 10" potential big-name signings, either with their agents or the players themselves. NYCFC will use the maximum allotment of three DPs, whose salaries are not limited by the league’s salary budget cap.
"We have to be very aggressive and active in an offensive mode with player recruitment and the player search," Reyna said. "Our approach, with Jason and I, is to go find the players we want to fit into how he wants to build the team. And not just the right people that are important on the field, but probably more important off the field. Toronto did a great job bringing Michael [Bradley] back. He’s the right guy, a top professional. Those are the kind of people we’re looking for." Reyna said he’s enjoying the DP search process.
"It's a lot of fun, to be honest," he explained. "I get to travel and watch games and meet with players and their reps. Every week there’s a new name being thrown at us."
• The other parts of building NYCFC are moving forwardI've written before that de Blasio is almost certainly going to require NYCFC to start from scratch in its dealings with the city, a minor if expected setback. I still believe that the proposed Bronx location will go ahead, if that's what the club really wants, but likely with a diminished city contribution.
Reyna said the team hopes to have an announcement by the end of the month on the location of its training facility/team offices, which will be in New York State but not in the five boroughs of NYC. (Westchester seems a real possibility.)
What’s more, Soriano revealed a team badge is coming in the next few weeks, as is the announcement of the team's temporary stadium host. (The odds-on favorite is Yankee Stadium.)
As for the permanent stadium the team plans to build, Soriano said NYCFC is looking at several sites in the Bronx and elsewhere in the city. The news lately on the stadium front hasn’t been great. Michael Bloomberg was a supporter of providing city support for a stadium, but that doesn't appear to be the case so far with new NYC mayor Bill de Blasio.
"We are going to be patient," Soriano said. "We need the community to say, 'We want you here,' because we're going to be here for years and years. So if it takes more time, we'll take more time. We'll talk, we'll listen. We're looking forward to talking to new elected officials. We're optimistic, first because we’re going to play elsewhere [temporarily], so we're not going to rush. And secondly because we’re not going to do anything that is not perfect."
• NYCFC is positioning itself to cater to the local soccer fans who may not have embraced MLS yetThis is perhaps the most exciting news of all to me, since it perfectly sums up my own situation. I've been a follower of the Beautiful Game for decades, but have had no interest in MLS. If the MetroStars in the early 1990s had expressed the slightest interest in building a soccer culture in the city, I would have eagerly jumped on board. Instead, they made it quite clear that their hearts were firmly on the west side of the Hudson, and many of us wrote them off as a result.
Soriano is an intriguing guy, a former FC Barcelona executive who said he first tried to be part of an MLS startup in New York with Barça in 2005. He tried again with Barça in Miami later in the decade and, after moving to Man City, has now done the deal with NYCFC, which is his baby. Soriano has spent a lot of time in the city mingling with soccer fans and going to soccer bars.
"There are savvy fans here, more than people think," he said. "I've seen it. You go to a bar, you watch a Premier League or Champions League game, and these American fans understand soccer. They understand the difference between excellent soccer, good soccer and bad soccer. They’re just waiting for somebody to offer good soccer [here]. This is what we want to do."
New York City Football Club Head Coach Jason Kreis answers a question at a press conference held to introduce him to the media, Friday, January 10, 2014, in New York. Ray Stubblebine/Insider Images for New York City Football Club
Manchester City Football Club Director of Football Txiki Begiristain speaks at a press conference to introduce New York City Football Club Head Coach Jason Kreis, left, Friday, January 10, 2014, in New York. Ray Stubblebine/Insider Images for New York City Football Club
Ferran Soriano, CEO of New York City Football Club and Manchester City FC, left, speaks next to NYCFC Head Coach Jason Kreis at a press conference to introduce Kreis, Friday, January 10, 2014, in New York. Ray Stubblebine/Insider Images for New York City Football Club
New York City Football Club Sporting Director Claudio Reyna, left, reacts with new Head Coach Jason Kreis after a press conference to introduce Kreis, Friday, January 10, 2014, in New York. Ray Stubblebine/Insider Images for New York City Football Club
"We're building a top class club, that's going to be rooted in New York, that will use City resources around the world. There's no marketing trick here, it's just playing good soccer. We can do that in New York, and that will attract fans."
"We will have an academy. Also important that we find good partners that have been doing it for a long time."From Director of Football Operations Claudio Reyna:
"We want to make sure that this team has a New York feel. This is the greatest city in the world."
"Maybe one day, yes, it will be one of the premier clubs in the world. We're very excited about what #NYCFC can become."
"It was very important for me to get an American coach, and an American coach who had a great understanding of the league.... We're going to do everything it takes to make sure he has the right players. We're going to look all over the US, we need domestic talent first. And we're going to look all over internationally."And, of course, from Kreis himself:
"I'm quite certain that we will sign 3 Designated Players. I'm also certain that they will be the right people."
"The opportunity is in front of us, and we fully intend to reach out and take it."I hear an echo of his personal motto "Audentes Fortuna Juvat", or "Fortune favors the bold", in that last quote. There's a lot for fans to look forward to.