New faces lift MLS; Beijing buzz absent – for a reason

A sports league is only as strong as its owners and MLS has certainly gotten stronger and smarter over the past few months. Commissioner Don Garber deserves credit for landing successful managers from both Real Salt Lake and Orlando City SC, two franchises that needed new and stable control and direction.

Landing David Blitzer, Ryan Smith, Dwyane Wade and Arctos Sports Partners to take over Real Salt Lake, Rio Tinto Stadium and related properties for $400 million is a masterstroke from Garber because he’s getting an all-star team that’s there for the right reasons. . Don’t overlook what Blitzer brings to the table – he has a history and understanding of sports ownership and he is one of the most valued owners I know in the sport. From the 76ers, the Devils, Crystal Palace, now Real Salt Lake and soon to be the Guardians, he’s becoming one of the most connected and connected owners in all of sport. He sees the tremendous opportunities these sporting assets possess, as well as their future value. What separates Blitzer from the rest is simply the person he is – a quality, approachable character. He doesn’t take himself too seriously and keeps a circle around him of all walks of life, which surely helps him keep his feet on the ground. I love pairing him with Smith, a native of Utah, who in a short time has proven himself to be a forward-thinking leader who truly believes in the powerful role a sports organization can play in a community. Smith has bold ambitions to use the sport to amplify Utah’s business and lifestyle, and he successfully recruited Wade, who took all the right steps to become a team owner. Combine these three with Arctos’ solid strategic advice, Ian Charles and Doc O’Connor, and you could see Real Salt Lake become one of the top organizations in MLS.

This move builds on Garber’s accomplishment last August when he brought the Wilf Family as majority owners of Orlando City SC and Orlando Pride of the NWSL. The family, owners of the Vikings since 2005, have always been interested in MLS, as they first sought to own a team in the Twin Cities, but lost to Bill McGuire. He then became a minority owner in Nashville SC before becoming the main owner in Orlando.

In two dynamic moves in six months, Garber has secured financially savvy, well-resourced and capable operators who understand the sports business and the complexities of team ownership. He bolstered two of the league’s weakest franchises, while negotiating a critical media rights deal. All business partners look to the stability and strength of league ownership – and in a story that shouldn’t be overlooked – MLS quickly became more compelling, more powerful and instantly more viable.

Winter Olympic Games start in less than three weeks. You’re forgiven if you had no idea, because you’re not alone – promotion has been almost non-existent, and it even feels like NBC has backed down from its constant hype machine. Due to the challenges surrounding Beijing, this will be the first Olympics since 2008 that Sports Business Journal will not send a reporter in person. The lack of enthusiasm is unfortunate, but understandable. There are simply too many headwinds. Yes, there is time. Sponsors said they simply couldn’t run around Beijing because they didn’t have enough track to plan effectively, coming less than six months after Tokyo. Beyond the timing, the brands, and probably NBC, want to avoid social, cultural and political headaches around China. Sponsors can’t win unless they’re unusually willing to put principles before profit as WTA president Steve Simon and the WTA apparently do. The International Olympic Committee won’t help them navigate it, as it has a blind spot when it comes to China, seeing it as a financial lifeline, and the IOC is unwilling to take a public stand against them. . So my sense is that stakeholders know they just have to lay low and ride it out while looking forward to the potential and promise of Paris. This will be the real test of whether the Olympic movement can move beyond two of the toughest Olympic environments – Tokyo and Beijing – that we have ever seen.

Erik Bacharach joined SBJ as a staff reporter, primarily covering baseball. He is about to complete his Masters in Sports Management at Columbia University. He worked as a Titans writer for The Tennessean, where he covered the team’s run to the 2020 AFC Championship Game, the 2019 NFL Draft in Nashville, and the early seasons of the Mike Vrabel Tennessee era. Prior to that, he covered Middle Tennessee State athletics and covered high school sports for the Opelika-Auburn News and Newsday. Erik, a Long Island native, will be based in New York and can be reached at [email protected] Please send him a message and introduce yourself.

Abraham Madkour can be contacted at [email protected]

Melvin B. Baillie