Lampardgate: Where are MLS and New York City FC?

New York City FC Unveil_Levine_Garber_Soriano

EDITORIAL – So let me get this straight — the opinions of U.S. Men’s National Team coach Jurgen Klinsmann were so severe that Don Garber had to field an embarrassing impromptu press call to address the situation, but no one is coming forward to clarify this New York City FC Frank Lampard debacle?

If ever there was a time for Garber to demonstrate his promise of transparency, this is it.

We are now on the third day of Lampardgate, and all anyone can come up with is conjecture and secondary reporting to explain the entire mess. By now, it is almost an accepted fact that Lampard never had a contract with New York City FC. That, in turn, means Lampard never had a contract with Major League Soccer. That means both NYCFC and MLS have lied to us.

All of us.

And no one is answering for their role.

People can grind their axe against NYCFC all they want, but MLS is complicit in this entire fiasco, and that alone should require some form of response.

So why is everyone so quiet?

Is it the embarrassment of MLS starting their 20th year by feeding into their interminable minor league image?  Are both organizations just tossing the ball around to figure out who will fall on their sword for the greater good of American soccer?

The silence is deafening, and the only folks who are made to suffer are those who support the beautiful game across America.  Oh yes, this is bigger than just the Third Rail.  This is larger than the nearly 12,000 season ticket holders who have plunked down their nonrefundable deposits to support a second New York team.  This is bigger than New York soccer.

Lampardgate is about MLS.  About American soccer.  NYCFC aren’t the only ones made to look like second class “Citizens” in this entire affair. On their 20th anniversary, and just seven short years from Garber’s goal to make the league a global player, MLS is looking as plastic and propped up as ever, quietly sitting in a $100 million dollar cash pool while City Football Group circumvents Fair Play rules to meet their own ends.

No wonder Garber was so elusive about the Lampard situation in his recent Reuters interview.  “All player personnel decisions are made by the club. I have great confidence in the management in New York and the ownership and their representatives,” he said.  “I am sure in due time they will be able to deal with this issue but it is not something that the league is going to weigh in on in any way.” Nevermind the fact that all player contracts get ratified by the MLS offices.  Nevermind the long and illustrious history of MLS involvement in player acquisition (Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley anyone?!).

Yes, player personnel decisions were taken by NYCFC — but when was MLS going to tell us they weren’t in the loop?

At this point, media members have grown accustomed to the clandestine operations of NYCFC.  Whether by choice, lack of infrastructure, or mandate, New York’s latest professional franchise has kept everything close to the vest.  Even the simplest requests seem to go ignored and unexplained — and frustratingly so.

Sadly, this behavior has come to be accepted.

MLS, however, has no excuse. NYCFC is making a laughing stock of the league with this Lampard situation and the controversy deserves more response then Garber washing his hands of the entire affair.  Instead of celebrating 20 years of growth in the domestic professional soccer realm, we are reminded just how far off MLS is from being a global player.

That seems slightly more detrimental than Klinsmann encouraging players to test themselves in the highest levels of professional soccer, doesn’t it?

Someone needs to take a leadership role.  Someone has to take responsibility.  Someone has to speak for this black eye on MLS and American soccer.

Now who is it going to be? The MLS Commissioner? Or the tone deaf people who tweeted this mere hours after their franchise was dragged through the mud?

  • Jim Powers


  • The Public

    The time has come for the Don to go. His handling of the whole NY2 fiasco has been maddeningly sub-par to put it mildly.

  • Uncle Sam

    Dave, you have outdone yourself in the best way. This is what a US sports writer should be doing – going after the facts. Bravo!

    I would add that this also is an offense to US Soccer as it blemishes perception for foreign professional players taking leagues in the US seriously. Furthermore, if it is made known that FFP rules were being circumvented, then USSF should not allow itself to be a puppet to no foreign club as it compromises the entire integrity of the game within the states.

    This is not just a NYCFC problem, nor just an MLS problem, it is also a federation problem that can ultimately affect other clubs and leagues.

    Someone on top needs to say and do something.


      Totally agree.

  • Kudos to you Dave, and not just because I happen to agree. It’s true, some journalists in this country are now finding it unavoidable to be critical, but you seem to be one of the very, very few who are not afraid of big bad MLS not just now, but for a long time.

    I know some thought the Borough Boys were being precious, or stupid, or I whatever else, in turning against this despite our stated goal of bringing MLS to NYC. But now do you see the point we were making? I hope so.

    • Jspech

      Well said Leo

  • Garry Redman

    I personally think it’s high time that the folks running MLS get a little more honest with themselves as well as us. It’s nice to have lofty goals and ambitions. But when you get too big in your britches as they say, foolish things happen. On another note, looks like some folks here need to apologize to Zac Wassinck. His assessment of calling NYCFC a “Plastic Franchise” was just about spot on, and he was bashed for it…

  • Andrew

    Great post. What makes this worse is that MLS/NYCFC had weeks, if not months, to prepare for this eventuality. Instead they’ve reacted as if they were completely caught off guard.

  • Sean

    I support Don Garber. He’s done more for soccer in the US than JK will ever do.

    Having said that, MLS will look really bad if they don’t stand up to this.

  • Nick Chavez: A source close to City Football Group decision makers has exclusively confirmed that Frank Lampard will be directed to play for New York City FC as planned by, at the latest, the very first match of the expansion club’s inaugural season.

    Wow, that’s some source you got there Nick Chavez. Your “exclusive” source.

    And your welcome for the plug, I’m always happy to embarrass you with more attention.

    • Fast forward

      Did his source also tell him that Lampard was never signed to NYCFC, or did he forget to mention that?

      At least he got one part right in his aricle:
      “The common public perception is that the decision is completely up to Manuel Pellegrini and Lampard, but my source emphatically insists that Pellegrini will not be the final decision maker, and that CFG higher-ups will be the ones having the final say.”

      Of course, Lampard was signed to MCFC and that is CFG’s priority.

      “If my source is correct, then it’s possible that NYCFC Sporting Director Claudio Reyna and Head Coach Jason Kreis are not privy to this information”.

      Nope, they never were.

      I feel sorry for Jason Kreis who is being caught in the cross fire. I wonder if he is thinking of leaving after this fiasco. He basically has no power.


    Well said Dave. This is the exact reason people gravitate to this site.
    I think @USsoccer needs to step in once & for all & tell MLS they can’t operate like this anymore & can’t expect preferential treatment any longer from the fed.

    • hope you’re not holding your breath nycsportspunk.


        dream a little dream. I do think the time is coming, these guys running the show have outlived their usefulness. The American soccer fan is being educated everyday & asking more questions that MLS simply can’t answer or refuse to.

  • TBrodie

    The NY Attorney General’s office should be the party addressing the fraud that occurred during that press conference on the Brooklyn waterfront back in July.

  • Anonymous

    I wish there was someway to undo this. To revoke this chivas-style, if they were in violation of some clause or something

    Sadly, we will never know. Everything is done behind closed doors and written in vanishing ink.

    Every time I hear Don speak, it feels like Orwell & Kafka are high-fiving each other

    • Fast forward

      Would be interesting to see if MLS eventually negotiates to buy NYCFC from CFG. The questions is though, will CFG want to and will the MLS single-entity board be able to force the sale? And will the Yankees also sell? And who would be the new owners? And where would NYCFC play?

      Seems like MLS made their bed and have to sleep in it. Tough break that might hurt the entire league.


      • Fast forward

        New York is NOT Blue!

  • Luis Cueva

    Thank you for writing this great article Dave. I am Cosmos fan, but also a US soccer fan and this whole Lampard situation has shown people how plastic and unauthentic this franchise is. New York deserves much better than this, and it’s why I chose the Cosmos over this club and red bull as well. Again, thanks for writing the truth and keep pressing on this issue; I go to this website every day!

    • Smith

      Great article.

      You have spoken for many of us, Dave, with this piece.

      Thank you, Dave.

      I would rather go see 2nd division soccer on plastic turg than support Don Garber in any way at all.

      This was really the final straw for me.

  • Gruff and Manly Bob

    Even as a RBNY supporter I’m upset w/ this because like Dave points out it’s not just a black eye on FC, it is one on MLS and US Soccer. Sure it’s banter material for RB supporters, but in the grand scheme of things it sucks.

  • Blayne

    I agree with everything but this being widely believed. I’m seeing very little and this contract scandal. I broke the news Wednesday night and we only had a few tweets and European publications to go on.

  • Brian Ewart

    NASL is the league that should be seeking out Euro teams to buy teams as a feeder, not MLS, which should have bigger ambitions than being a minor league for the Champions League. NYCFC is an embarrassment for MLS.

  • The North

    NYCFC people aren’t tone deaf.. they work for Manchester City. You ARE Man City, get it straight.. there is a club you are connected to that is prioritized higher by your owners, in American terms that is a “minor league” team.. in European a “feeder” club. Enjoy

  • That guy

    What does it matter whether he starts in march or starts in may?

    • Ghodt of MLS Past

      On the 4th day of Lampard, Don Garber gave to me:

      4 flipped birds
      3 has beens
      2 conferences
      And a joke called NYCFC!

  • Alan Garrison

    This is all a plan by Lampard to stay with his girlfriend, who presents an evening program on the BBC here in England. She used to present it at the BBC studio’s in London, but last year the BBC moved the studios to Manchester, and she had to move up there. Lampard bought a house near the BBC studio’s for her/him, in the summer. Then knowing the owners of Manchester City had a share of the New York club, he asked to join them. Now when Beckham played in LA, he trained with Arsenal, BUT never played for them, so the question is, under what rule does a player train with a European club? And does that rule let him play League games for it? as Beckham never did.
    Now that Lampard has played a game in 2015, what rule of the US league has been broken, and why is no action being taken to address the situation?
    Since Lampard has been playing for Manchester city, his goals have been decisive in four games. He scored the equalizer against Chelsea FC, and scored the winner in three other games. gaining Manchester City eight points that they would never have had, had he not been allowed to play League games. These points have shot Manchester City to equal first place in the Premier League, without Lampards decisive goals they would be eight points back from Chelsea. So this situation isn’t just effecting the MLS, it’s also having a drastic effect on the Premier League.
    Something has to be done to first clarify Lampards contract with New York (if there is one), and also to clarify if a player on loan to train is allowed to play for the League games for that European club?
    As lot of people in both the US and here in England are demanding answers on these points!

  • Arelius

    Your logic isn’t convincing. You say, “By now, it is almost an accepted fact that Lampard never had a contract with New York City FC. That, in turn, means Lampard never had a contract with Major League Soccer.”
    Then, you go on to wonder why MLS and NYCFC aren’t saying anything.
    Wouldn’t the fact that they aren’t saying anything lead to the better conclusion that the parent club of NYCFC (Man City) simply pulled rank and overruled NYCFC?
    Frankly, I don’t see the big deal. NYCFC is owned by Man City. Man City can make whatever decision they want with the club.

    • Lando

      And mislead (at best) or lie (most likely) to the people they are marketing their product toward?

      Also, I think the point of the article is that, yes, the parent club pulled rank and that, no, it shouldn’t happen. The reasons are outlined above fairly well.

    • Downtown Dave

      In general I have supported Garber, but I agree that this whole thing is a fiasco. Spot on reportage – thanks. If the vaunted geniuses at the top of the MLS don’t want to be a minor league for the EPL and other top flight European leagues, I have an idea for them: DON’T ACT LIKE ONE. Here’s another idea, don’t jump into bed with a business partner who is going to TREAT YOU LIKE ONE. Also – don’t do those things in the largest and one of the savviest sports markets in America, if not the world.

  • Lando

    “That seems slightly more detrimental than Klinsmann encouraging players to test themselves in the highest levels of professional soccer, doesn’t it?”

    So on point.

    • Smith

      Almost as quiet as MLS and NYCFC on this subject is NYCFC’s #1 fan, Nick Chavez.

      I would like to see a piece by him about how it feels for Man City to reward his faith with the moral equivalent of bringing him out onto the field at half time in just his briefs, giving him an atomic wedgee and having 50k fans laugh at him.

      Let’s hear from Nick!

  • Arelius

    Another possible reason that NYCFC is silent could be that they are waiting to announce the signing of Steven Gerrard.

    • Smith

      They will announce that he is signing with NYCFC and being loaned to Man City indefinitely

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  • Jeff

    As a neutral observer (Dynamo supporter) and a follower of MLS since the league’s inception, I am as discouraged as everybody by this farce. Reading between the lines, I suspect Lampard playing this well has come as a surprise to Man City. Because MCFC apparently executed the contract with him, they obviously wanted to be in control of the player despite what was said when he was announced as a NYFC DP. If Lampard was not playing well he would have been sent packing across the ocean willingly in January and his salary dumped on NYFC. Since he has played well above anybody’s expectations though, and City remain in control of the player, they will willingly accept whatever blowback coming from the U.S. and keep him as long as they like. I can’t imagine what anybody expects Reyna, Kreis and Garber to say. I imagine they are as upset as we all are. I believe the only response is to own up to the debacle by cutting Lampard loose and let him do whatever he chooses to do. Hopefully no MLS team will ever be allowed to execute another contract like this. I would rather we take 10 years longer to become a world relevant league than be treated like some EPL team’s b—-.

  • Jay H.

    To be blunt, I am not shock. MLS already lost my support last season. When I first started supporting MLS back in 2011, it was to support a league that would turn into a real first division with promotion and relegation. When Don Garber shot that ever happening down, they lost my support. The whole purposr of promotion and relegation is to get the whole nation including Canada involved. It felt like three years was waisted supporting a league that wad against something I wad supporting them for. Still, since I support Sporting Kansas City, I tried and watch the league in 2014 and almost lost my mind reading Garber’s plans for the future. I almost lost my mind because he was making plans thats fitting for a NFL league, but not soccer. I’m not shockef this happened. Garber was clearly not the right man for the job and I knew that when they first signed him as commissioner.

    • Say what?

      You started following MLS back in 2011, and you knew that Garber was not the right man for the job when MLS first signed him as commissioner in 1999?

      Yeah, ok.

      Not disagreeing with you on the promotion and relegation issue or the other stuff. Just that bit of fact that is lopsided.

      • Downtown Dave

        Long time Chicago Fire and MLS fan here – very disappointed with this whole fiasco. I would never support NYCFC anyway, but this black eye for the league and the image of American soccer overall is pretty effin annoying. Again, if you don’t want to be treated like a feeder league to the European Big Five, then don’t go into business with partners that will treat you like one.

        That said, I don’t understand how on earth promotion and relegation comes into this conversation. There is no way on earth North American sports fans are going to support promotion and relegation in any sport; it is just NOT a part of our sports culture here. The MLS has plenty of problems with its parity-focused franchise system, but relegation and promotions AREN’T the answer. I have to guess that most of the folks suggesting that aren’t from this continent, because it is a COMPLETE non-starter to most casual and even more serious North American sports fans.

        As for people pushing the MLS to adopt the same schedule as in Europe, I’m just going to guess those folks aren’t from the USA or (heaven forbid) Canada. You’re suggesting outdoor games in winter – in New York, Chicago, Boston, Toronto, Montreal, Denver, and Vancouver. Seriously? No. Just no.


        • Say what?

          The person above was making a point and bring his personal opinion about what drew him to MLS and that there’s nothing positive left to keep supporting it.

          As for promotion and relegation ever happening in the US, the majority of soccer fans in the US watch global soccer which has promotion and relegation. It is already fundamentally part of the fan culture of soccer in the US. We’re just being told that it is “impossible” to happen in America, of all places where we demand the best through competition (capitalism at its finest). Despite the naysayers, ProRel will happen because it is a natural evolution of the game stateside.

          And regarding the scheduling I’m neither for or against (haven’t even spoken about it here). Nonetheless, before the 70’s and for nearly 100 years, soccer in the US and Canada was always played from fall to spring by the biggest leagues. Do some research. Cheers.

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