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Soccer leagues care more about money than fans

August 24, 2018 GMT

In the past two weeks weve seen La Liga announce a deal to bring league games to the United States. Weve also seen Columbus Crew owner Anthony Precourt strike a deal to move his team to Austin, Texas.

Two stories, two different leagues, united by a single thread: Soccer leagues dont care about their fans.

Begin with La Liga, which trumpeted a 15-year deal to bring one game per year to the U.S., much like the NFL playing a game in London every year. La Liga is so unconcerned about its fans that it regularly schedules games to start at 10:15 p.m. local time in Spain. Four upcoming matches will start Sunday and Monday evenings and end after midnight, all so that zero of the leagues matches overlap, thus making the TV broadcasting rights for the league more lucrative.

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The American games will be more of the same for Spanish fans, especially those of smaller Spanish clubs, which already end up hosting the sleep-defying 10 p.m. starts. Teams like Real Madrid are not going to give up lucrative homes game to play in the United States. Itll be the small, unknown teams Huesca, say, or Vallodolid that will get a home game taken away.

La Liga not only doesnt care about its fans, it also doesnt care about American soccer fans, whom the league will try to bilk with huge ticket prices. The players will hate it (theyre already talking about going on strike). The fans will loathe it. But La Ligas administrators will get to fly to Miami or New York and sit in suites with NFL owners and feel like big shots.

The barefaced gall it takes to move Spanish league games to America, though, pales compared to the brazen behavior of Columbus Crew owner Anthony Precourt. When Precourt bought the team in 2013, he thanked the sellers for having the trust in us to become the Crews new steward. At the same time, Precourt was secretly making deals with Major League Soccer to give him the chance to someday move to Austin, which hes on the verge of doing.

MLS pays plenty of lip service to its commitment to its fans, but this should make it clear: MLS does not care about soccer fans. It doesnt care about Crew fans who have put 22 years into supporting their team, who made Columbus the spiritual home of the U.S. mens national team. If business is slow in St. Pauldown the road, you can bet that it wont care about Minnesota United fans, either. In the same announcement that Precourt called himself a steward of the Crew, MLS commissioner Don Garber lauded his his commitment to joining our other owners in continuing to build the league and sport in North America.

Thats what administrators always say they want to build the league and grow the sport. Its funny, because as far as I can see, whether its MLS or La Liga, theyre only after one thing: short-term cash.

Writer Jon Marthaler gives you a recap of recent events and previews the week ahead. jmarthaler@gmail.com