I will admit. I am not an American football guy. Sure the super bowl is good entertainment but just because its Monday night doesn’t mean I have to watch Monday Night Football. I am always looking for something good to put on when Monday evenings come around. Tonight I turned to the internet. On the heels of NASL Twitter-gate last week between the NASL Commissioner Bill Peterson and the Tampa Bay Rowdies supporters group there was a “clear the air” call in show on Ultras Alive website and for me that’s all I needed to keep me away from Monday Night Football.
I’ve tried to avoid this topic for over a week now because I didn’t know all of the facts and I wasn’t really interested in the banter. But after listening to Commissioner Peterson as well as Charlie Cole from the Rowdies supporters I think I am convinced on one thing -> This NASL league is for real. Don’t let the banter of the last week ruin anyone’s impression of this league or where it is going. Read on if you want to know why.
Without further ado, here’s my narration of Bill Peterson’s interview. First of all the fact that the commissioner of any league, large or small, would put himself on air to be interviewed is to be commended.
The interview started with questions on why the league has a split schedule. Bill Peterson (“The Commish”) said that it allows for different flows with respect to a season. Sometimes you will get close races like in the spring when it came down to the last 5 minutes of a game to decide the champion and then there is this fall when things are not as close as at the moment. It allows for diversity in the same year – guess what, it’s working!
Next the interview moved onto the Supporters Summit (“The Summit”) that took place in Atlanta this past weekend. I touched upon this in one of my posts this weekend and well lets just say that with The Commish talking about it on air, I feel more comfortable talking about it here now. According to The Commish the purpose of the The Summit was two fold. First The Summit was a response to The Commish traveling to cities and listening to supporters groups desire to get together and talk to each other and the league in an organized forum. In doing so The Commish was not interested in getting involved with individual supporter group issues but rather to allow them to enjoy the time and have them learn how to get along. The second purpose of The Summit was to go over expectations that the NASL has for 2014. The thought here is that its pretty much too late to make any significant changes in 2013. Instead it was time to focus on 2014 and beyond.
And what about 2014 and beyond? The NASL has its sights set on being able to compete with anyone in the worlds in 3-4 years from today. Their process for doing this is to push the level of play and to put a focus on competition in the league and to eventually be a global league. Of course, this can’t be done overnight. The process as discussed by The Commish is for each team to work on their brand to the point where each team is the dominant team in their market. His formula for achieving this is to be relevant in the community. By being a part of the community and having a presence in the community he expects that team will achieve that relevance and in turn draw crowds to their respective stadiums. According to The Commish if each team can achieve this relevance in the community then the rest is just simple sports business. On this note, I commend the Cosmos for doing their soccer clinics earlier in the year, doing the recent blood drives and for always working with the various youth soccer programs in the area. These are all straight to Commissioner Peterson’s points.
The Commish sees sports business as taking the NASL brand globally to the point where NASL games are even broadcast globally. This would in turn generate revenue for the league that will in turn be used by the clubs to invest back in their teams and ultimately be a competitive league on the levels of other leagues. According to The Commish alot of professional soccer fans in the US are still undecided about the NASL. However if ultimately the league’s teams can compete with other leagues then these fans will flock to the NASL. To summarize, you have to succeed locally first with the hopes of competing globally. In MY opinion, I like his game plan. Do I think he can do this in 3-4 years? Well that might be a bit ambitious but at least he has a plan. The Cosmos are no question an indicator of whether this plan will work. How the team does attendance wise in 2014 will determine if his plan is working. There is no question that if the Cosmos can average at least 10,000 in 2014 that his plan is working. Think about it, if the fans come and the talent is improved and they can make some noise against some un-named MLS teams well you can fill in the blanks from here. It really should be no different in other markets.
Next in the interview came the big elephant in the room. The infamous tweet heard around the NASL.
Tweet to Charlie Cole – “Go Watch Another League!”
Some background – I will try to make this as simple as possible.
Last Sunday the Rowdies sent their supporters group (SG) to New York to attend the Rowdies @ Cosmos match. According to the Rowdies SG, their scarves were stolen and stadium security did nothing to stop the theft nor protect them as a SG in a visiting stadium. A complaint was filed with the league about the poor security at the stadium. According to the Rowdies SG, they never received an official response from the league other than a tweet on twitter from The Commish essentially saying “If you don’t like what is going on, go watch another league”. From that point, the Rowdies SG have asked for an apology from The Commish.
During the interview, The Commish started by reminding us that the the structure in the NASL puts the onus on the teams when it comes to what happens at a stadium. Team management is expected to step in to see what happened should something occur as what did during the Rowdies vs Cosmos match. Several calls were had between the NASL and Cosmos officials and by all means it seemed clear that changes would have to be implemented in the future not only at Shuart Stadium in NY but at all NASL venues. Further The Commish claims that several calls were made to the Rowdies SG with no response. The infamous tweet came as sort of a self defense response on the part of the Commish. In essence, the Rowdies SG called for The Commish to step down, called him unfit to run a league. The Commish took the pains to admit that changes needed to be made but that sometime you will not please everyone right away. While his words may have come off as tough, his thought process was “Hey if you’re going to give me heat, I’m going to fire back!” In my opinion, I’ve got to admit, I’ve never seen a professional league official respond like that in public, but who says one can’t? In my opinion, the league addressed what needs to change. MLB baseball has offended fans for years with many actions, so has the NFL. I’ve never seen apologies from them. Move on…work with the commish to make things better.
The Commish also talked about the Soccer Bowl in Atlanta in November. He sounded really excited for this event as he noted that league officials have been in Atlanta for weeks not getting the event ready.
His expectation is that the week of the Soccer Bowl should be a showcase for the two teams that will participate. There is a scheduled media day (Thursday), special events for the public as well as NASL partners on Friday. Additionally they have plans on bringing in extra seats for the event. Finally, here was my favorite announcement with respect Soccer Bowl, The Commish volunteered information about a broadcast deal being on the table and could be announced very shortly.
Finally the broadcast came to a close with Charlie Cole, head of the Rowdies SG attempting to defend themselves for the events of the last week. His claim -the NASL never reached out to them to have conversations about what happened which is contrary to what The Commish had already stated. It should be noted that while the supporters summit was this past Saturday, no member of the Rowdies SG group attended the summit. In my opinion this would have been a great forum for them to clear the air – guess that didn’t happen! The host of the show made it a point to mention to Mr. Cole how Flight 19, the supporters group of the Ft Lauderdale Strikers, had made a trip earlier in the year to NY to watch the Cosmos play the Strikers with no incidents occurring and how it was almost “a kum-ba-yah” moment in NY. Mr. Cole responded in what was one of the greatest Freudian slips that I can remember in some time by saying the following:
“The Borough Boys and Sagan’s Army were welcoming…The problems that occurred in NY were with a minority group of fans. I’m not sure if they are affiliated with the club or not”
OH BOY! Everyone knows that Cosmos Supporters are made up of three groups. Why oh why did you now commend all three at first and then you used the word “minority”? I can twist this the same way that the Rowdies SG wanted to twist what Mr Peterson was saying. Would that be right Cosmos Country? Enough on this.
You’ve heard Mr. Peterson’s plan for the league. Go watch the Cosmos march to Atlanta this year. In 2014, win or lose, make plans to come back to watch the Cosmos. Support a league who is led by a guy who is not pushed around by corporate dollars and is definitely not pushed around by supporters groups. Go watch the NASL!
If anyone feels that I have stated any of the above incorrectly, please feel free to contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks to all for taking the time to read this article!
Until next time: clap, clap, clap-clap-clap, clap-clap-clap-clap COMOS!