MLS Commissioner Garber backs NYCFC in Lampard situation


Four days after news of Frank Lampard’s Manchester City extension, MLS Commissioner Don Garber spoke exclusively to Sports Illustrated over the situation, defending New York City FC from accusations of being a “farm club,” and backing the fledgling franchise and their operations.

“I could understand why their fans are unhappy, and I do believe [NYCFC] will work hard to build back that trust,” Garber told Grant Wahl this past Saturday night. “They’ve started that process already.”

Major League Soccer fell under scrutiny for their role — or lack there of — in City Football Group’s decision to extend Lampard’s stay in City.

In his first comments since the controversial New Year’s Eve decision, Garber admitted to having a sense that the issue would take a negative turn, but expressed there was little he or MLS could do about the move.

“I sensed this was coming, and it didn’t surprise me when they ultimately made their decision,” he began. “You’re dealing with a very unusual set of circumstances. Frank has become one of the most important players in Man City’s season, and he’s scored critical goals to have them tied for first place in the Premier League.

“They were faced with a difficult decision,” Garber continued. “I’m going to be supportive of all our ownership groups, making them aware of my point of view. But we need to work hard now to move forward and recognize that Frank will be joining this team in July along with other Designated Players, who throughout the history of the Designated Player program have almost always joined in July.”

Despite their inability to control the player movements of individual clubs, MLS has also been accused of being complicit in the Lampard loan situation by quietly operating while New York City FC continued to falsely label the transaction “a half-year loan.”

That, Garber admits, may have been a mistake.

“If there was an error in judgment on this, it was not just announcing that he would come in July and figuring out how to manage the start of the season, no different than what happened with Robbie Keane or Thierry Henry or David Beckham,” he explained.

MLS offered a clarification on the Lampard agreement, revealing the player entered a contract with City Football Group to play “under an MLS contract for 2015 and ’16 and to play for Man City until the end of 2014 under a Man City contract.” Instead, Manchester City extended Lampard’s contract, meaning the join-in date with NYCFC has been moved toward July.

While an agreement is in place to see Lampard’s return to NYCFC, the situation remains as fluid as ever. Come season’s end in the Premiership, there is nothing stopping Manchester City from enacting yet another extension and keeping the former Chelsea great as they have done this past week.

It’s a tenuous situation that has league observers labeling the organization a “farm team” for Manchester City, set to operate for the good of their mother club.

“I don’t think it is a farm team for Man City,” Garber retorts. “With this decision, while I can understand people will try to think that, the level of investment that this ownership group is making with the club is massive, and it rivals some of the bigger clubs around the world. This kind of decision is not something in my view that in any way says this is a farm team for Man City. I don’t believe in all my dealings with them that they have led us to believe that’s true.

“I think it’s important to say this: These guys [NYCFC] are very committed to MLS and committed to New York … They have made an unprecedented investment in MLS and New York City, and they are going to continue to do so.”

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  • Sam U El

    The key word here is “investment” in MLS… NYC is secondary. The fans? Meh… They are simply a bunch of rubes that will ultimately come around anyway. Give them a nice shiny new logo, sprinkle in a couple of DP signings and presto! I mean c’mon this is MLS we are talking about here. These guys have the Soccer market on lockdown in the USA. Did we expect The Don to say something other than what he did? They will ride out this little bump in the road by having a Gerrad signing event in LA at somepoint in the coming weeks. Before you know it will be starting up camps and they will make some expansion announcements before the start of the new season. Once the season starts they’ll be showcasing Kaka, Villa and the new franchises. Really do you think The Don or the BOG is concerned with what NYCFC did or didn’t do or how it looks? It seems like only yesterday Don was doing the State of the League and rolling out Transparency as the New (again) watch word for 2015… So much for New Years resolutions.

  • TBrodie

    Don, it’s pretty safe to say that not telling the truth during a “special event” press conference is an error in judgment. That bit of deception — rather than the obvious fact that MLS is a lower level than the Premier League — is what is causing the uproar.

    • Smith

      Don doesn’t “get” that it’s not the delay, per se, that upsets MLS supporters, but rather the lack of transparency AFTER HE JUST WENT ON ABOUT THE NEED TO BE TRANSPARENT!

      He’s really quite a laugh riot.

  • Jay H.

    I’m not shocked at all about this. I said it once and I will say it again, “Don Garber is not the right man for the job.” MLS fans expected great things from him on making America’s top league one of the best by 2022, but the way he runs it make that plan unrealistic. How he fixed the Chivas USA problem was by ending its run and making the same mistake in New York, but this time owned by a richer club in England instead of Mexico. Then he hypes a major playrt signing, used that player to sell season tickets and made his MLS contract final… So we thought. MLS already ended the season with the news of them losing over 10 million dollars and you would think they would be smart on signing new teams. First of all, NY didn’t come with a fan base. In order for money to come in, getting a lower division team with already a good fan base should’ve been the right target for a new expansion team. Seeing MLS with a long term plan isn’t looking good.

  • chepe pedos

    people want to see players like lampard play from day one, not wait months…it hurts the league, club and attendance …its true

  • Anonymous

    How do these jokers deserve D1 status and all the privileges and protections that come with it?

    They’ve gotten too comfortable

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