How Drew Carey plans to save U.S. pro soccer: Fans, you pick the crappy GM

i-99a473fd4be1cfb66a699e1f884102e1-0000043723_20071011155423.jpg

Drew Caray, who in July, 2007 admitted on an episode of “Late Show With David Letterman” that he was “gay for” David Beckham (linked here) after watching his Major League Soccer debut with the Galaxy a year ago, has new ideas about what he can do to promote the league as owner of the expansion Seattle Sounders.

That is, if the price is right.

By RACHEL COHEN
AP Sports Writer

Visiting the museum at FC Barcelona’s stadium a couple years ago, comedian Drew Carey heard the tour guide say something about the fans voting for a new team president.

Once he learned how regular people can join the club and have a say in how it’s run, Carey’s reaction was one only a wealthy celebrity could have.

“Right away, I thought, ‘I would love to own a team back in the States just to bring this idea to the United States,’” the host of “The Price Is Right” recalled Monday. “As soon as I got done with that, I started looking into how much is it to buy a soccer team. They told me, and I thought, ‘Oh, I could afford that.’

“Then they said, ‘Well, you also need a stadium deal.’ And I didn’t have a spare $100 million in my pocket.”

Carey did share a lawyer with Hollywood producer Joe Roth, who was leading an ownership group for a new Major League Soccer franchise in Seattle. The lawyer set up a lunch meeting between the two, and Carey bought a minority stake in the team.

Carey also got his wish: Sounders FC fans will be able to vote to fire the club’s general manager.

“I don’t know why anybody would not want this for their team. I think it’s the greatest idea,” said Carey, who still sounds more like a typical frustrated sports fan than a part-owner of a professional team.

“You vote for a president; you vote for mayor. I don’t know why you shouldn’t be able to vote for the general manager of your local sports team.”

i-13a3f402c8c4f8b174b76ee2fa86840c-1210987146.jpg

The Sounders play their inaugural game at home Thursday against the New York Red Bulls. All season ticket holders are automatically members of the “Alliance”; other fans will be able to join for $125 annually. Every four years, starting in November 2012, Alliance members will vote on whether to retain the GM.

They can force a vote sooner if more than 20 percent of members sign an online petition. The team’s Web site helps members communicate with one another should they want to organize such a revolt.

“Not only are we letting them burn down the castle, but we’re giving them pitchforks and torches to do it,” Carey said cheerily, a Sounders FC scarf draped around his neck.

The Sounders’ first GM, by the way, is Adrian Hanauer, who’s also a part-owner. He was previously an owner and GM for Seattle’s entry — also called the Sounders — in the lower-level United Soccer League.

Speaking of the Sounders name, it was the subject of the first fan mutiny of sorts. The current ownership group decided not to include it among the possibilities for the new franchise. But when fans went to vote online, Sounders won through a write-in campaign.

The city has embraced the expansion club in a way you wouldn’t expect when Americans and soccer are involved. More than 20,000 season tickets have been sold, and Carey likes to think that the team’s fan-empowering policies have something to do with it.

Especially since Seattle sports fans recently endured a very unpleasant experience with a team ownership group.

“Here comes this evil NBA owner who takes the SuperSonics, screws the city with this duplicitous deal he put together and takes them to Oklahoma,” Carey said. “The whole city hates this guy. One of their major sports is gone now. And we come in like, ‘Hey, is yo man not treatin’ you right? Come and see us.’”

“I was so happy when it was going on,” he added. “I felt bad they were losing their NBA team. But all I could think of was, ‘Wow, this is going to be really good for us, the way this guy’s treating everybody, because we’re going to look like Prince Charming coming in.’”

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email