Read the room, boys

The NoImpact and MLS are failing the fans

Ideally, I’d like to keep Fridays a little looser over here. A sort of Friday Funday post to end each week, but today there are two news stories that need a little more attention.

The first: The Montreal NoImpact re-branded today, as expected. Also, as expected, it was a terrible, cynical and hopelessly Modern Football exercise that far too many fans just rolled with.

I’m not sure why so many people just blindly accept what their sports teams hand them, but I will continue to scream from the rooftops that they shouldn’t be so passive.

Accuse me of being reactionary if you like, but it isn’t as big a jump as you think between ‘shut up we’ll call the team what we want,’ to ‘shut up we’ll move the team where we want.’

The latter is the extreme end of the same problem – ownership of professional sports teams forgetting what industry they work in and breaking the Social Contract they have with fans that allows them to matter.

To literally matter.

Seriously, the only reason 22 men in short pants chasing a ball around a field matters is because fans make a conscious decision to care about what happens. They only make that choice because they convince themselves that they are a part of the collective effort being undertook by the home team. They permit the club to represent them and, as such, the club becomes an extension of the fans and the city.

So, when ownership ignores the wishes of their most loyal fans, it’s an affront to that very arrangement. They are breaking the Social Contract and they can only do that so many times before fans start to walk away.

What I saw from the NoImpact today was dismissive, condescending and arrogant. “I know you like the name,” Joey Saputo said directly to the Ultras and other hardcore fans, “but to make an Impact the Impact has to retire.”

Says who, Joey? Says who?

I’m not opposed to any and all re-branding in sports. It can be done well. It can be done in cooperation with fans and, although you can’t likely ever get 100% buy in with any change, you can get a lot more buy in if you actually try to treat the fans as equal partners in the exchange.

The NoImpact failed miserably on that front today.

Speaking of not reading the room, I had the misfortune of participating in duelling press conferences between the MLSPA and MLS this week as they look to hammer out an agreement to play the 2021 season.

We talked about both in detail on SoccerToday, but the tl;dr is this: It’s a mess. The players don’t trust the owners and the owners seem only interested in gaining fan support for a potential lock-out by crying poor.

MLSPA executive director Bob Foose asked out loud whether MLS was re-opening the negotiations out of necessity or opportunity. It was clear that he thought it was the latter and that the players are not willing to give up any more.

Foose also said that the players have been asking the league to give them a start date for the season since before MLS Cup, only to be given the run-around.

If the season is to start the same date it has the last couple years, the players will need to report to camp on…checks notes…today. They are required to report 6-weeks before the start of a season.

Whoops. Putting aside the whole CCL problem – and we don’t yet know when the CCL will start, but one can assume that Concacaf will work with one of its biggest partners in MLS here – I’d circle Feb 19 on your calendar. If players report that day, then an April 4 start would be possible.

Skipping March makes all kinds of sense. Skipping much more makes it hard to fit in a full season AND World Cup qualifying (which, I’ll remind you, is supposed to start in March).

Yeah.

Anyway, this story is far from over and we’ll be all over it on SoccerToday and on this space.

That’s it ‘till next week. Talk to you on Monday!

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