More on the popularity of bobbleheads in Southern California is here.
Much locally has been written about the sudden departure of AEG’s Tim Leiweke, but nothing substantive in the media from a soccer perspective until today’s column.
Love or revile Leiweke — and there’s little middle ground — there’s no doubt the hard-charging former Galaxy executive has made an indeliable mark on the local soccer landscape.
While we’re at it, here’s a fan perspective.
“I love Tim Leiweke,” Galaxy coach and general manager Bruce Arena said of the departure of the long-time president of Anschutz Entertainment Group, the Galaxy’s parent company. “I think he’s one of the best things to happen to me in my career. I’m going to miss Tim. I can speak for everyone in our organization — we care a lot about Tim and we certainly wish him the best.
“He’s been a phenomenal person to work with, a great leader, an inspiration. He’ll be missed.”
It remains to be seen how Leiweke’s successor, Dan Beckerman, continues the Galaxy’s efforts to remain a champion and lure top talent. But Beckerman is a longtime employee of AEG and is a known quantity to the Galaxy.
Arena doesn’t think that part of the Galaxy’s quest will change much.
“We don’t believe so,” Arena said. “We’ll have the same resources. It won’t be the same way (Leiweke) approached it. It can’t be. We can’t replicate Tim in terms of the way he does business, but it doesn’t mean we can’t do it as well if not better. That’s our charge and we’re going to have try to move forward.
“Dan’s a great guy. We’ve worked him throughout. Extremely bright, very supportive. A different kind of personality than Tim for sure, but obviously a very competent businessman and a person who works with the utmost integrity so we’re real pleased to continue to work with Dan.”
It’s hard to believe just how big a debacle Chivas USA has become for this market, this league and this sport.
Nevertheless, things appear to be coming to a head if we are to believe what MLS Commissioner Don Garber had to say this weekend.
Chivas USA is down to its last few loyal troops in the stands — the long-suffering likes of the Black Army and Union Ultras are still commendably hanging in there, even if few others are.
Fans who bought club seats at the HDC and get tickets to every event are unwilling to sit through Chivas USA games. You can get the best seats in the house for the game Sunday on Stubhub for as little as just over $10 apiece, so why anyone would want to buy a game ticket that starts at $17 this year directly from the club is beyond me.
And that’s not going to help the club’s sagging attendance at all.
For more read this week’s column here.
For possible solutions, read this column (sent to me by the folks at the Black Army) in the wake of the column’s publication. Worth trying or smacking of desperation?
Sound off in the column section below.
Galaxy Coach Bruce Area and Anshutz Entertainment Group Chief Executive Officer Tim Leiweke annoint Herbalife Chief Executive Officer Michael Johnson as the Galaxy’s new No. 10 at a press conference near Torrance today (Photo by Staff Photographer Robert Casillas).
The six-year Galaxy-Herbalife sponsorship deal will now extend through 2022, bringing in an MLS-record $44 million to the MLS club.
No wonder Tim Leiweke said today he expects the Galaxy to break even this year after wallowing in the red in 2011 as they invested in the DP likes of Robbie Keane atop the not inconsiderable salaries of Landon Donovan and David Beckham.
“Our goal is to be a break-even organization and that’s probably where we’re headed,” Leiweke said. “We’re not an organization that’s about trying to make as much money and trying to distribute as much money as we can. We tend to put our money right back into the club.
“We continue to put huge resources into Chris Klein and his (youth) academy, we continue to put a fair amount of resources into our training facility and we continue to spend more money in the league than anybody on designated players. What all that does is it allows us to continue that spending spree we’ve been on here.
“The Galaxy has to lead the pack and right now we have great respect for Seattle — they do a much better job on ticket sales than we do — and they have more capacity. They do a better job of season ticket sales — so do another half dozen clubs in the league. So we’ve fallen by the wayside on season tickets so what (new Galaxy head honcho) Chris McGowan and his team will do is make that a higher priority. We need to have a season ticket base for this team of 10,000 people and we need to be in a position where we don’t need to sell single tickets every game.
“We’re at the top of every revenue stream in Major League Soccer with the exception of a couple and one of them is season tickets. We need to be at the top because we do spend more than any other club in the league, so it’s a high priority. We weren’t dealing with it the right way and we brought in some fresh blood and experienced veterans who understand this marketplace.”
Whew! And I think I only asked one question (well, OK, maybe two).
For more on today’s news conference, check out my news — not sports story, folks — here.
Yes, you read that right.
Southern California’s own Landon Donovan, a Redlands native, is ranked three places higher than global superstar and part-time underwear model David Beckham on the just released Bloomberg Businessweek Power 100 list of the most powerful professional athletes in American sports.
Donovan checks in at No. 55, while his teammate Beckham is at No. 58.
Of the only other soccer players listed, incidentally, Hermosa Beach resident and U.S. Women’s National Team striker Abby Wambach checks in at No. 79, while “Dancing with Stars” contestant and national team goalkeeper Hope Solo is at No. 88.
The list, in case you’re wondering, is half based on athletic performance and 50 percent on intangibles such as name awareness, appeal and overall popularity.
So why did Donovan beat out Becks?
“While, as expected, David Beckham did very well with his off-field numbers largely due to his endorsement earnings, his on-field performance brought his overall score down,” said David Newman, vice president of analytics for Atlanta-based CSE, which conducted the study of more than 3,00 athletes. “Meanwhile London Donovan performed statistically better on-field while playing for the Galaxy, Everton and the U.S. national team during the 2011 Gold Cup. This ultimately pushed Donovan ahead of Beckham overall.”
Put another way: Play better Beckham.
And last year was statistically the best of his five years in MLS.
See the entire Power 100 here.
Clearing up a few odds and ends before the weekend (that would have posted hours sooner had our soon-to-be-replaced blogging software not freaked out):
*Galaxy midfielder Michael Stephens, Chivas USA’s Jorge Villafaa (formerly Flores) and UCLA midfielder Kelyn Rowe were named today to the U-23 camp set for Sunday through Jan. 25 at Carson’s Home Depot Center and in Costa Rica. All but four of the 22-player roster, including Rowe, were in the December U-23 camp in Florida. Full roster, camp details here.
*The increasingly unimportant MLS Combine, a precursor to the increasingly unimportant MLS Draft, is under way in Florida.
*Chivas USA President Jose Domene tweeted this morning that a new player signing was imminent.
The club has also released four players who won’t be missed: starting midfielder midfielder Marcos Mondaini; defender Michael Umana, a second time wash-out in MLS after featuring for Steve Sampson’s Galaxy back in 2005; striker and noted braggart Victor Estupin, who boasted he would score 25-plus MLS goals and ended up with one; and third choice goalkeeper Sergio Arias.
*Former Chivas USA coach Thomas Rongen has joined Toronto as Academy director, the club announced today.
*Toronto also announced today that tickets for the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal against the Galaxy will go on sale next Friday. Tickets start at $29. Anyone making the trek from LA?
*Hermosa Beach native Dan Tobias has joined the South Bay Force as director of coaching for the club’s girls program. The Mira Costa High grad and was a two-time PAC-10 Coach of the Year at the University of Arizona during a seven-year tenure at the school.
*Glasgow Rangers manager Ally McCoist said the club turned down an inadequate offer from French club Sochaux for midfielder Maurice Edu of Fontana.
McCoist was quoted by the Associated Press as saying the bid, which he didn’t disclose, “was so far away that I would be very surprised if they came back in.”
Sochaux is already home to American forward Charlie Davies, who spent last year on loan with D.C. United.
“I can tell you that I want Maurice Edu to sign a new contract rather than go anywhere,” McCoist said.
*There’s yet more on the scandals involving FIFA and CONCACAF today:
ZURICH (AP) — FIFA says former vice president Jack Warner peddled “inaccuracies and falsehoods” when he claimed last month that he got World Cup television rights for $1 in exchange for supporting Sepp Blatter’s presidential campaigns.
FIFA confirms that Warner received Caribbean broadcasting rights for $1, though from 1986 and not — as Warner claimed — from 1998 when Blatter was first electe d.
FIFA says the deals had “nothing to do” with Blatter’s election campaigns.
FIFA says World Cup rights were often sold until 1998 for nominal sums to maximize coverage in developing nations, and provide soccer bodies with extra revenue from selling on rights to broadcasters.
The governing body says Warner was expected to raise money for the Caribbean Football Union.
*Finally, if you only watch one game this weekend, I recommend the Manchester derby in the FA Cup third round that’s set to air locally at 5 a.m. Sunday on Fox Soccer.
Enjoy what is shaping up to be another stunning winter weekend in Southern California.
Big guns: Aging stars like, from left, Robert Pires, retired Brazilian striker Ronaldo (well, OK maybe it’s a little late for him) and Chelsea’s Didier Drogba, seen here at a charity game in Hamburg, Germany today, may have less motivation to take MLS money now that China’s newly rich have jumped in the game (AP Photo).
I thought the following column was worth running, given how it sorta dovetails with my weekly piece that ran today.
Who knew a bunch of Commies would flaunt their cash like this anyway?
Here’s AP Sports Columnist John Leicester with more:
PARIS (AP) — With more than 100 billionaires and counting, it was only a matter of time before China’s financial muscle started making dents on world soccer, following in the designer-clad footsteps of moguls from the Middle East and Russia.
This, after all, is a sport happy to be a play thing for those with money to burn, with players who don’t give two hoots who signs their paycheck — just so long as it has lots of zeros on it.
But becoming wealthy enough to buy the twilight years of a fading star like Nicolas Anelka, who is moving from Chelsea in the English Premier League to Shanghai Shenhua in the Chinese Super League, is not the same thing as spending wisely on Chinese stars of tomorrow. Anelka will deliver to Shanghai that thing craved by many rich owners in sports — attention.
Yet such glamor buys, alone, aren’t going to help China unearth an Anelka of its own in decades to come or stop it from being, on a per capita basis, arguably the most underachieving soccer nation on the planet. The next World Cup in 2014 will take place without China, which again failed to qualify.
Anelka is making Chinese soccer noticed outside China. But, if being talked about is all that comes of this, then China won’t be much closer to becoming a respected soccer nation or fielding a homegrown 11 of top-notch players in the foreseeable future.
“This is just the beginning. Every transfer window from now on you will expect to see more 30-plus world stars, or previous world stars, starting to take big salary payments for a couple of years in China,” said Rowan Simons, a Beijing-based expert on soccer in China and author of “Bamboo Goalposts,” which recounts his efforts to help grass roots soccer take hold there.
“It’s egos, isn’t it? Egos of very rich men. And soccer is a very obvious — you see this all
over the world — place to splash cash. It’s toys for very rich boys,” Simons said in a phone interview. It’s “massive games going on with huge amounts of money that are linked into politics and the egos of oligarchs while having absolutely zero effect on the health of the game of football in China.”
Forget the $300,000 Anelka will reportedly pocket each week. Don’t dwell on the $10 million that another club, Guangzhou Evergrande, splurged in July to sign Dario Conca from Fluminense, smashing China’s transfer record and making the Argentine reportedly the third-highest paid player in the world. Such sums are like a garage of expensive sports cars — nice to look at but not, ultimately, terribly useful in getting you from A to B when faced with challenging, steep and bumpy terrain.
No, the most eye-grabbing figure from China these days is 7,000. That, says the China Daily, is the number of players aged under 18 that the Chinese Football Association had on its books at the end of last year. Just 7,000, from among 1.3 billion people. In the early 1990s, the total used to be 650,000, the newspaper says. Furthermore, it notes that Japan, with a population one-tenth that of China’s, now has 70 times more registered youth players.
Anelka hasn’t played for France since he was sent home from the 2010 World Cup, in disgrace for telling coach Raymond Domenech in no uncertain terms what he could do with his tactics.
At Chelsea, new manager Andre Villas-Boas didn’t appear to have much further use for the 32-year-old striker.
But Anelka will be the biggest name Chinese soccer has ever seen — which, in itself, is a measure of how far behind the sport is there. His renown should lure the curious to Shanghai’s Hongkou Stadium, where Shenhua plays with one-third or two-thirds of the 30,000-odd seats often empty.
Which is all very nice for Anelka and for Zhu Jun, the 45-year-old businessman who bought Shenhua in 2007 having made his fortune in computing and online gaming. But where are the hordes of soccer-mad youngsters that China will need if it is to become something more than merely the next Klondike for soon-to-be retirees from overseas?
Well, when I was based in China a decade ago and, most recently, traveled there for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, they either seemed to prefer basketball, to watch broadcasts of the English Premier League and other foreign leagues, or were too focused on cramming for exams to play soccer. Corruption and match-fixing were so rampant that bribed referees even had their own nickname — “black whistles” — something that also turned fans away.
“It’s kind of one of those love affairs where the partner kept on cheating on you and cheating on you and you kept on forgiving them and they kept on cheating on you,” Terry Rhoads, a former Nike executive who runs Zou Marketing, a Shanghai-based sports consultancy focused on the China market, said in a phone interview. “It got to the point where the Chinese soccer fan … is very jaded. They have just been abused in the relationship for 15 years.”
Anelka’s move is another signal that Chinese soccer is bouncing back, having hit bottom. Rhoads likened money coming from Chinese tycoons as “the beginnings of an arms race” and said he’s advising clients “that Chinese soccer now is a buy.” The government coaxed Wang Jianlin, a real estate tycoon who turned his back on Chinese soccer a decade ago, to help out this July with a $77 million, 3-year-investment, some of it to sponsor youth leagues and to send young players overseas.
One of Wang’s goals, a yardstick by which he says he will measure whether his company’s money has been well spent, is to get more teenagers playing.
“If China’s soccer population increases to 700,000 or 800,000 in three years, then our
cooperation will be successful,” the China Daily quoted him as saying.
Now that, not throwing money at must-have trophy players from overseas, sounds like a goal really worth having.
John Leicester is an international sports columnist for The Associated Press.
How many bribery allegations can a Chuck Blazer chuck? The American soccer bureaucrat has announced his resignation from the region’s governing body of soccer (AP Photo).
Of course, since Chuck Blazer, the second in command at CONCACAF made the bribery allegations he, too, has come under scrutiny for his offshore bank accounts (which are not mentioned in this story by Associated Press Sports Writer Ronald Blum):
NEW YORK (AP) — Chuck Blazer is resigning as the No. 2 official of CONCACAF in December, a half-year after going public with bribery accusations against his then-boss.
The 66-year-old American has been secretary general of the Confederation of North and Central American and Caribbean Football since 1990. He said in May that CONCACAF president Jack Warner and Asian confederation head Mohamed bin Hammam attempted to bribe Caribbean delegates $40,000 each to vote for Bin Hammam in the FIFA presidential election. Warner’s acting successor then tried to fire Blazer, setting off more disciplinary proceedings.
“I’ve been running a governing body long enough. We’ve been through a little bit of a
stagnation period,” Blazer said Friday in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. “I want to do something entrepreneurial. It was the right time. I wanted to give them notice to let them start to look for somebody.”
After Blazer made the bribery charges, Bin Hammam withdrew from the election, leaving Sepp Blatter to run unopposed for a fourth term. Warner resigned all his football posts in June, and FIFA imposed a lifetime ban on Bin Hammam, who was head of the Asian confederation and is contesting the penalty.
In the fallout, acting CONCACAF president Lisle Austin attempted to fire Blazer but the
group’s executive committee said Austin lacked the authority. FIFA then suspended Austin, who went to court in his native Bahamas and called FIFA a “corrupt cabal of arrogance and cronyism.”
Blazer said he will retain his post on the FIFA executive committee. He was elected to
football’s most powerful body in 1997, and his current term runs through mid-2013. He said it was too early to determine whether he will run for re-election to the FIFA post.
As for the future, Blazer said he would consider taking a club post. He would not comment on the possibility that he could join one of the groups bidding for Major League Soccer’s 20th team, which MLS would like to place in the New York area as a rival to the Red Bulls.
A group that includes Terry Byrne, a friend of Galaxy star David Beckham, bought
the rights to the name of the old North American Soccer League Cosmos team and hired Eric Cantona and Cobi Jones.
During two decades with CONCACAF, Blazer moved its headquarters from Guatemala City to New York; started the Gold Cup tournament, which has been played every two years since 1991; and launched the CONCACAF Champions League.
Blazer’s successor at CONCACAF will be chosen by CONCACAF’s executive committee, which includes U.S. Soccer Federation president Sunil Gulati, Alfredo Hawit of Honduras, Justino Compean of Mexico, Horace Burrell of Jamaica and Ariel Alvarado of Panama.
CONCACAF is to meet Friday in Miami to fill Warner’s spot on the FIFA executive committee.