The EPL is taking advantage of the FIFA break to have a meeting on “the future of the game.” And given MLS Don Garber and Robert Kraft´s remarks to the “Brits and media, you´d think a salary cap or end of relegation/promotion was on the European horizon. Yes, I have written a piece on this before. But relax – this addendum-improvement will have no ostrich pictures.
There is an ugly side of American sports leagues. There is a hymn, a ballad, a chant. If you pull back the curtain, the salary caps and the absence of relegation hide an ugly thorn: the relocation, the separation, the split, the divorce. This is an ode to the most tragic of disappearances. I am not an aquarium American drinker, but I am trying to break your heart…
The possibility of developing history, establishing roots, and fermenting growth is a non-factor in the capitalist-dominated franchise system. Case in point: recently, the Columbus Crew, 2008 MLS Champion, do not fill their homefield for a playoff match. The reaction? Well-respected bloggers demand the team be upped and moved to another, more accommodating city.
Granted, the authors’ suggestion was partly tongue-in-cheek. But this humor obfuscates a canyon of a chasm in philosophical approaches – what if, instead of selling the naming rights to Stamford Bridge, Chelsea moved to Manchester, Liverpool, or even Glasgow? What if the Red Evils became Wakefield United? Did I just blow your mind?
The EPL relies upon horizontal commitment – a city stays with its club, regardless of the ring of the ladder. However, the US franchise model is a purely vertical commitment – the top flight stays top, but flies the coop when numbers don’t add up. The split is shady, desperate, bitter, and scars a city for generations.
The Brooklyn Dodgers. The Baltimore Colts. The Miami Fusion. The obituary list could go on and on – but would you light the candle before the unnamed franchise’s grave? Or am I just romanticizing the past at the expense of the present, while the EPL buries itself in debt. Would Hull City like to relocate to West London to boost its finances?
I know your response – the league and teams must turn a profit or they will cease to exist. No city should expect a birthright to a franchise in this 21st century era of globalization. The locality must compete or get left behind in the dust. Or do they?
The US is no ancient civilization, but rather a nascent nation of immigrants and immigrants’ children. For us, flight is the first option that springs to mind, even if it’s not the best. We associate geographic relocation with social mobility and opportunity. Gasoline is the juice of social justice. We crossed the great plains and survived harsh winters, all for the chance to sift through dirt in a mountain stream. Sound crazy?
It was. It is. And it will be. But as EPL hotshots meet for dinner and cocktails, giving lip service to MLS owners, the franchise model and relegation model inevitably must fuse. I don’t know how ugly that bastard child will be, but both sides should approach the other with a skeptical eye. The franchise model may be solvent, but the costs born by spurned municipalities & distraught fans cannot and should-not be ignored. A team without a sense of place or history is a vulture – and a vulture flies alone.