You would think a team that won the title twice in three years would have a team in a great financial situation. Unfortunately, not in MLS. Despite winning the MLS Cup in both 2001 and 2003, San Jose has traditionally been an MLS market that has disappointed investors.
There are many reasons San Jose has not done well attendance wise. Everything from the constant change of Investor Groups and Team Management to the Bay Area just not having enough people interested in attending MLS matches. Of course, that stadium is not a great facility but was it not only a couple of years ago that Don Garber was saying it were exactly what MLS needed after they did some renovations?
Sure seems like complete control of all revenues is the MLS business plan these days. Just look at all the additional events held at the HDC. It is a sad trade off, but if that is what it takes to provide good professional soccer in this country, I guess we have no choice.
Here is the problem, whatever the reason; San Jose’s attendance has been a disappointment. AEG are not going to support a money pit for long. After all, they did step in and save the club a couple years ago when the previous owners decided to bail.
Now that Chivas have a team in MLS, their arch rivals, Club America, want to do the same. Therefore, AEG offers to offload its money pit to the Mexican Club so they can move the team to Texas.
A group known as Soccer Silicon Valley was formed to make sure AEG did everything possible to keep the team in San Jose. This afternoon, they will hold a rally in Downtown San Jose to show support for the team. Good luck to them. It seem they have 30 days (until the end of the season?) to find a new local owner or a site for a new stadium (free land?) or the team will play in Texas next year regardless of AEG selling to Club America or not.
I have seen in before many times. It is sad that professional sports can do that. Bay Area folk I am sure are aware of how Al Davis cashed in on the Raiders move back to Oakland. Cities now seem to be fighting back. They are now making sure that any new stadium deal is not going to leave them with a huge overdraft.
So why does this have me thinking about Wimbledon? No, not the tennis, the team.
A little history, Wimbledon had been one of England’s top non-league (semi-pro) teams for as long as I can remember. They finally are elected to the league and promptly climbed to the top of the league. However, their rapid promotion to the top level of the English game brought problems with their stadium. Seems even in well establish leagues, they have stadiums not suitable for the business needs. So, they packed everything up and moved cross-town to share Selhurst Park with Crystal Palace while looking to improve Plough Lane (their old stadium) or another suitable site.
Things then got crazy and there was even talk about moving the team to Dublin (that’s in Ireland, not England for those of you geographically challenged). They eventually decided that the newest city in England was the best place to relocate (Milton Keynes was built on marshlands about 30 years ago). Milton Keynes had no team and is one of the fastest growing cities in the country. They were promptly relegated from the Premiership and started life in a new town at the bottom of the First Division. They now play their matches at the National (field) Hockey Stadium. Numerous improvements and stadium expansion were made to make it suitable for the newly renamed Milton Keynes Dons.
When the move was made official, the fans of Wimbledon decided their old club was not theirs any more. They decided to start their own club, back in Wimbledon. In just a few months, they had managed to put together a new club (AFC Wimbledon) and joined one of the local leagues. Of course, AFC Wimbledon had by far the best support and most money of anyone else in the league and they easily won promotion. The fans have bought the original stadium in Wimbledon and though they no longer see top-level games, they do have their local team back. They are climbing the lower levels of the English Football Pyramid and could be close to the actually league in a few years. Meanwhile, the Milton Keynes team is dropping just as quickly.
So, why does San Jose’s situation remind me of Wimbledon? Well, if MLS does not want anything to do with San Jose right now, why don’t Quake fans thumb their collective noses at MLS buy requesting that the team name and history (Cleveland Browns) stay in San Jose? Why not an A-League team?
With Soccer Silicon Valley in place, I am sure they could find the money needed for start up costs (the A-League start up costs are a great deal less than buying into MLS). True, the New Quakes would not be able to afford Landon and the other stars. However, you could make an argument that most of the current Quake roster is comprised of former A-League players and MLS cast offs already.
It’s not Spartan Stadium but I always thought the field at Santa Clara was decent. Improvements could be easily done there to use at least as a temporary location. It is just as close to downtown San Jose and it is a school with a rich soccer tradition. If done right, the place could be packed for games.
I am not saying that Quake fans should give up hope of keeping the MLS team in the Bay Area, but if the worst happens, there is a decent back-up plan available to keep professional soccer in the Bay and continue the history of the Quakes…Not to mention Open Cup games against LA.
The A-League does not have a salary cap. In theory there is nothing stopping the team, if they have the financal ability, to sign about anyone they can. It seems every spring there are players deciding to play either MLS for next to nothing or A-League for better money. San Jose should be able to build a team that could challege the A-Leagues best right away.
Anyway, it’s a thought.
By the way, Milton Keynes Dons are now saying their new stadium does not meet their needs and are looking to have a new one built. Some people are never happy.