I recently saw a Twitter conversation where a person accused the Louligans as a whole as being anti-MLS. While it’s silly to consider the opinions of a few to represent the entire group, it’s equally absurd to think we are anti-MLS. As MLS is Division One in the US, that’s the top of our odd pyramid. We of course want to represent our city with the best level of play we can. I’ll pass on the easy joke to make about the departed Rams being inferior on field.
There’s several things at play with the concern we have with the MLS2STL sentiment. These thoughts might help you to understand why we consider our stance to be a guarded, tempered level of expectation. St. Louis has been a soccer city for a hundred documented years. And this isn’t our first time of having the golden ring dangled by Don Garber.
First, I’d like you to read this article Brad dug up.
Nope, that’s not from this past week. It’s from almost SIX years ago. But so many of those statements are interchangeable with reports we’ve heard in the past few weeks. “MLS Commissioner Don Garber has indicated that it’s not “if” St. Louis lands a team, but “when.” “We would like St. Louis to be our next team,” Garber said. “We want a team in St. Louis.”
Stop me if you’ve heard that one before, right? It’s the standard Garber quote. We’re probably not the only ones to have heard it. We heard it six years ago, or six days ago, still the same words.
Now, yes, I’m the first to say, it’s a different landscape. Franchise fees aren’t $30 million anymore. And we don’t have an ownership group in place. There was a stadium plan with that group; now we’ve got….rumors.
Actually, that makes us worse off, doesn’t it? Crap. Um, let’s talk about the stadium stuff.
We have a bill that calls for a public vote on a tax to help pay for the stadium. But as a bill, it’ll have to go up to a vote. So to even get to a potential source of revenue, there has to be a vote by the House and Senate, representatives of the public. And if there’s an outcry to using public funds to build a stadium, that vote will fail. Then the governor has to approve. And if it does get through, the important line kicks in: a PUBLIC VOTE. Sadly, Stan Kroenke may have salted the earth for public funds and stadiums in St. Louis. The people of St. Louis see underfunded schools, a crumbling infrastructure, and have voiced a concern with giving free money to billionaires instead. And that’s not counting the “jilted lover” attitude many have taken after the Rams left, with the taste of a failed downtown stadium bid still left in their tears.
Which leads me to the second point: this is a CITY investment. MLS wants teams in downtown areas. And so should we; it’s the hub of the area. Downtown needs a kickstart like this would provide. (Please, for the love of God, stop with the Union Station stuff. Union Station is under renovation already. Inform yourselves before retweeting crap.). Downtown is central to Illinois crowds, to St. Charles, Jefferson County, and all in between. It’s got the great backdrop of the river and the Arch for the game shots.
So commenting on posts to build it in Earth City, Wentzville, etc. is just selfish, naive, foolishness. It won’t happen, and arguing otherwise leads people to think that the “white flight” rule is in effect. The “easier for families” argument isn’t for St. Louis area families: it’s for YOUR family. And, much like the team name, colors, or roster, we have absolutely no say in the matter. Very rich people will make the decisions based on very expensive research. It’s time to just move forward, knowing it’ll be downtown.
Ok. So let’s say that somehow, after all this, we have a stadium plan. MAYBE we have an ownership group as well lined up. Which, right now, there’s been no public declaration. I doubt that a billionaire would call me and say, “hey, Mitch, can I be on the pod and talk about buying an MLS team?” But super rich people do talk to each other, and when STLFC CEO Jim Kavanaugh says he hasn’t heard of anyone getting together, that’s usually pretty solid intel. Now, it could be an outside influence, or a single entity acting alone…but they’re still going to do the due diligence to make sure it’s an economically feasible plan.
(And, while we’re on the topic of podcasts and articles, let’s be realistic for a moment. 90% of what I’ve read the past two weeks has been rehashing the same comments and ideas. I couldn’t be happier for there to be this high of an interest in professional soccer in St. Louis. But for chrissakes let’s create original content? Only Lindsay Toler seems to be unique in her efforts to tell the truth and not write click bait. Between twitter accounts and bad toupee-wearing sportscasters with a lisp, there hasn’t been any actual news in weeks.)
So what can we do? Well, Don Garber has flat out told us: Support STLFC. They’re watching. I saw a post online that the Louligans had a “schtick” telling people that the only way to get a team was to go to STLFC games. That’s picking apart our message: we’ve taken our preaching straight from the Don’s mouth. If you want the best, you have to show you’re worthy.
Sacremento is 27 on the metro size list. We are #19. They’re ahead of us on the MLS list because Sacramento Republic is KILLING it with attendance. They average 11,500 at games, only 4000 off the worst MLS team (Colorado). We averaged 4800 in the same league, with a metro area 800,000 people larger. And the “compete with the Cardinals” excuse is weak. They have 81 games at home, STLFC has 15, almost all saturday nights. You can plan accordingly, plenty of opportunity to attend if you REALLY want to show we deserve top level soccer.
This is where we come in, what we keep advertising. We have to show there’s an interest in supporting soccer CONSISTENTLY. We’ve sold the big events at Busch and the Dome so well. But the MLS is SEVENTEEN home games a year, not Chelsea vs Manchester City once. That’s only two more home games than STLFC. Removing NYCFC, Atlanta, and Miami’s cash-heavy annointings, almost every other team in MLS expansion has been a lower division team that was successful with attendance. Minnesota, Orlando, Vancouver, Portland, Seattle. All were USL/NASL teams that were consistent performers. You don’t get a raise at work because you “deserve it”, or you come from an area with a successful history. You get promotions because you do the work, you earn it.
We’ve seen before that MLS doesn’t come through as promised when St. Louis jump through hoops and hits the marks they’re asked to achieve. What we can and need to do is make ourselves unable to be ignored. The bar-none, best way to do this is to over-deliver on attendance. Prepare ourselves for the opportunity to go to a riverfront stadium. Twitter accounts run from outside of the metro area are not “movements”. The residents of the area, marching to the stands, are concrete proof of movement. The movement of asses to stands says more than begging former players for retweets.
So instead of hoping and wishing for what we want, help us be the hot chick at the bar that all the rich guys want. They all see us and say “goddamn, that’s what I need!” Fill the stands at Saint Louis FC, help earn a place. It’s a lot more fun than sitting on the couch watching someone else’s team get what you want.