Seven things to take away from the new D. C. United ownership deal.
Here are, I think, the major points, good and bad, to take away from the Ownership press conference:
- Meet the Money. Victor MacFarlane impressed me in his debut as the man who ultimately controls the purse strings. He sounded confident and powerful without appearing slick and hucksterish (See: Checketts, David). It is a bonus point that he has the name of a soap opera patriarch. Even if his primary interest is in the development, he sounds like a good partner for Kevin Payne as they consider DC United moving forward as a business. Let's not forget that, despite all the talk of championships and community involvement, it will still be a business. That's not a bad thing, but if you're expecting open spending on DP acquisitions, I doubt it. Still, as the face of the ownership operations, MacFarlane seems like the exact kind of personality you'd want. He'll spend when it is prudent and would provide a decent return on investment. Add the fact that the guy seems networked out the kazoo, and you say I was fairly wowed.
- The Stadium Deal Still Needs Work. While Adrian Fenty and the other DC City Council members were a nice addition in lending their support right now, you can tell that this deal isn't done. The issue of public financing, even if the city doesn't spend a single cent on construction costs, will be an issue. If the city were to pony up for infrastructure improvements, parking, or even just the land swap itself, you can imagine that Tom Sherwood and all will try and nail Fenty for apparent hypocracy considering Fenty's opposition to the Nationals stadium deal. While I think all of this can be overcome, it is still politically sensitive. The good thing to take away is that DC United's actions, until now, have laid a solid political groundwork to this point. That could still change. If a week is a long time in politics, how long is it until 2009?
- It's Good to Have Character. It's Sometimes Better to Have Characters. The Sports Bog has already mentioned this, but Brian Davis could be fun. I don't think that his occasional odd pronouncement will cause political harm, but he's enjoyable to listen to. He's like a Crazy uncle. A rich, crazy uncle. Crazy Uncle Moneybags.
- Eleanor Holmes Norton. If there's one poltician who seems most aligned with DC United and seeing a truly big picture, it is she. We have no better friend than her.
- The Past is Prologue. A new ownership group was a goal, but it was also a prerequisite for so many other things. Now that it is here, we must remember that it was not an end unto itself. The Stadium, new player signings, expansion of the youth academy system, development of front office, scouting operations, community outreach -- all of these become more accessible, and all are important in shaping the next decade of D.C. United.
- Minority Majority Owners. This topic dominated much of the comments, and I'm pleased it has occurred. Would I have been satisfied with a bunch of rich, white men running the team? Well, probably. But the fact that we have multi-cultural ownership is reassuring, if simply because our fan base is also so diverse. I think they'll be more willing to foster that atmosphere. I would hate for MLS to look like one thing on the pitch and another in the stands (as the NBA is frequently criticized for.) Even though there isn't a Latino ownership stake, just the diversity of the ownership will, I think, help maintain all relations with traditional minorities. Gravy, pure gravy.
- Brand Recognition / AEG ROI. One of the phrases tossed around was "the DC United brand." I like hearing this because it recognizes that the brand has value to a large degree due to on-field success, and maintaining that brand investment requires some respect to tradition and to excellence on the field. The fact that the sale price moved from $25M to $33M in a year must make AEG feel great, and a large part of that is the recognition that D.C. United probably is the best branded team in the league. Now, you can shoot all of that to hell, but it makes more sense to preserve it. I'm not convinced that establishing DC internationally will follow, as was suggested by various people, but maintaining the brand in North America is worth a great deal to me.