More questions abound as MLS ‘answers’ for Lampardgate


EDITORIAL: Leave it up to MLS to make a complicated matter even worse.

Answering the call for someone anyone to comment on the New York City FC/Frank Lampard debacle,  both MLS Commissioner Don Garber and his Deputy, Mark Abbott, stepped up to the plate (no pun intended).

Garber avoided yet another hastily-called press conference, choosing instead to funnel his message through one of America’s most respected sports news outlets, Sports Illustrated, and with one of the league’s most treasured journalists — Grant Wahl.  Meanwhile, Abbott spoke to Fox Soccer’s inimitable Alexi Lalas about his perspective on Lampardgate.

In the American Soccer bubble, that is quite the stage to set off a counter-offensive.

Then why are people still angry?

Because the answers were not good enough.  Because there is no defense.  Because MLS was complicit in the Lampard farce. Because the league continues to defend their position. Because there was no ‘mea culpa.’

But perhaps most damning … because MLS lied.

“If there was an error in judgment on this,” Garber offered, “it was not just announcing that [Lampard] 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.”

If there was an error in judgment? Is that still up for debate?  You can’t clog a bullet wound with a band-aid and hope to stay alive. How can MLS possibly look to mend the Lampardgate fences without first admitting to their role in the crime? Garber is absolutely right — a July start would have been “no different” than that of several DP’s across MLS.  So why the lie?

Well, in comes Abbott to explain the thought process.  “I don’t think anyone was duped,” he told Lalas of the nearly 12,000 NYCFC season ticket holders that believed Lampard’s loan was, you know, a real thing.  “It is a distinction without difference.  He had an overall agreement with owner, City Football Group.”

An overall agreement with CFG. Not MLS. Not NYCFC.

But that is just minutia, I suppose.

Abbott’s defense and denial continued.  “There wasn’t a loan, and I’m not quite sure why it got characterized as a loan.”

Oh really? Forget the fact that New York City FC labeled this a loan deal from the onset. Nevermind that the league website has mentioned the word ‘loan’ with nearly every Frank Lampard article from early August to December.

Where on earth did that phraseology come from?

Yes, Garber “understands” why NYCFC and MLS fans are “unhappy” over the mess that is Lampardgate.  Hell, he even “sensed” a problem would arise when the details of this deal emerged.

Senses be damned, Garber kept his head down and allowed the lie to perpetuate. Lampard remains City property — and is apparently still not signed to an NYCFC or MLS deal.

That last fact makes Mark Abbott’s declarations to Lalas all the more confounding.  “There is no possibility (Lampard) is not coming at all,” Abbott states.  “He’ll be playing for the MLS team in 2015.”

Just like he was supposed to play for “the MLS team” in January?  What prevents Lampard or Manchester City from extending his deal another year? Or even half a year? That would seem a silly idea for an aging 36-year-old midfielder, but Lampard has proven his class transcends age. Once again, NYCFC can only count on a verbal guarantee to assure the safe arrival of their star DP.

And we all know how that can turn out.

But no worries, folks.  Garber has all the confidence in the world that NYCFC will get it right.  “I could understand why their fans are unhappy, and I do believe [NYCFC] will work hard to build back that trust,” Garber sad. “They’ve started that process already.”

Have they? How? The organization continues to keep radio silence, breaking the quiet to announce the signing of Andres Mendoza before going back into their cocoon in preparation for March.

Nothing like covering up one lie with another.

You want real answers? You likely won’t find it from the MLS or NYCFC leadership. Garber is beholden to his investors. That is the structure of the league.  Sure, he may feign disapproval in tense circumstances, but he will never throw his teams under the bus.  Just look at Chivas USA as your prime example.  After all, franchise owners have the power to pull Garber’s strings.  Look back at the Jurgen Klinsmann conference call and tell me of any other major league commissioner holding court with the media in an emotionally charged rant to defend his owners from an opinion like he did.

It won’t happen.

Part of being beholden to your investors is also protecting their interests.  Garber can not tell NYCFC how to conduct their business so long as they do so within the rules of MLS, FIFA and the U.S. government. NYCFC bought into the MLS franchise system to perform under their business umbrella, offering substantial dues to do so. How the franchisee chooses to implement their business structure within the regulations of the franchise model is theirs to decide — including the decision of who is flipping the bill on players.

So in the end, we are back to square one.  It is September 2014 all over again, and rumors of a Lampard extension are once again bubbling in the UK.  The same guarantees are being made about his pending arrival stateside.  The same promises, floated.  

The only difference is those declarations will now be met with scrutiny and doubt rather than praise and celebration.

It’s a sad situation for soccer in New York and America. NYCFC was supposed to be the answer to an East Coast soccer renaissance.  

The closer we get to opening day, it seems that may have been a lie, too.

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  • Dave from Dix Hills


  • Lou

    +1 Zing.

  • BG

    I wish every soccer publication in America had the balls Dave Martinez does to speak truth to power like this. Your loyal readers thank you Dave!

  • I second BG, and would say the same if you were critical of my team Dave. I am trying to understand, however… Garber stated that MLS has an agreement with CFG, does this mean that the NYCFC franchise can sign a player without MLS owning the contract?


      Bravo Dave !

  • Eurosnob

    Or how about Gify having any balls whatsoever. “journalist” my ass. Wish Grant would go back to college basketball.

  • Uncle Sam

    Dave, if there were a supporters’ award for best soccer writer in the US, you would be right at the top. Keep it up.

    Seek the truth people!

  • Anonymous

    Thanks, Dave


  • Luis Cueva

    I also agree with BG and Leo. Once again, thank you Dave for keeping true to yourself and write what die hard soccer fans think. You are our voice!

    • Smith

      Dave – You are the man. If the soccer hall of fame ever physically re-opens & the have a bloggers wing, you are a shoo-in.

  • Paul

    I thought The League signed all players, not individual teams

  • Grant Wahl

    Tsk tsk Dave. Don’t realize that “real” soccer journalism is only possible if you are bona fide MLS zealot & extremist like myself? Cultivate your faith in the holy Don Garber, Dave. Only then will true soccer journalism be possible.

  • Hi Grant. I do find it disappointing that when given the chance to ask “why did the league lie about having a contract with Frank Lampard and a ‘loan’ deal with Man City when there was or is no contract”? , you declined. American fans rely on you, we don’t get to ask the tough questions of Don garber, he wouldn’t deign to be in the same room with us. So we’re disappointed that you threw softballs.

    • Grant Wahl

      If you question me or MLS in any way whatsoever, you are just spewing “anger and hatred” in my opinion. (Phew. Hopefully that’s enough to shut down this debate.)

  • Sam U El

    I take exception to Mark Abbott’s statement, “I don’t think anyone was duped,” he told Lalas of the nearly 12,000 NYCFC season ticket holders that believed Lampard’s loan was, you know, a real thing. “It is a distinction without difference. He had an overall agreement with owner, City Football Group.”

    To me this was all a calculated business decision on the part of the NYCFC FO, CFG and MLS. At the end of the day they wanted to elevate brand recognition with a splash signing which would in turn push merchandising and ticket sells. This, by all accounts was successful. However with that reward there was the risk that Lampard could potentially stay longer. I’m sure at the start of the EPL campaign it seemed very unlikely. Then as the season unfolded and Lampard became a critical part of the rotation the percentage increased. Now here we are… CFG is focused solely on the Mother Club and NYCFC has a disgruntled fan base still well within its infancy because they feel they were just sold the Brooklyn Bridge. You only get one chance to make a first impression… In New York more than most places that still counts for a lot. NYCFC has already established what this brand stands for and at this point what it stands for is what many folks thought it would but hoped it wouldn’t, a farm club. As for MLS, this simply feeds into the ongoing, long playing record of missteps and a lack of transparency. If they weren’t so fixated on “building the forest of the future” maybe they would actually see the trees they have been steadily chopping down in the name of progress.

    LAG had already established a DP standard. It wouldn’t have been thought of as unusual or odd if they had just been upfront that Lampard signed a contract with CFG that would have him reporting no later than July 2015. If things worked out and he reported in time for pre-season camps that would have been seen as a plus. Of course that wouldn’t have been as sexy but it would have been honest and a whole lot sexier than what we have now which is a bunch of bobble heads in suits holding their dicks in their hands.

    • OpenCupFan

      You’re response literally put me to sleep. Thanks for being the cure to insomnia.

      ManCity NY is minor league. That’s the message, MLS is selling NYers are minor league team.

  • chepe pedos

    thank you dave ,for this article.. im not a fan of nycfc , and dont care for the team, but, for the league and soccer in this country, i will always follow before any other league.or sport… Manchester City USA, horrible idea, horrible investment group CFG … sad, to see fans spend lots of money on tickets, just to be lied too …

  • Sam U El

    @OCF… Now you know how I feel when I read all that shite you post on Bigsoccer… The message here is the message to me is NYCFC, MLS, and CFG lied to the soccer fans (paying customers) of NY and someone needs to be held accountable for it.

  • Oh, this isn’t the real Grant Wahl I see. My bad. I’d be surprised if he came here to just make sarcastic remarks.

    • Grant Wahl

      Of course I’m the real Grant Wahl:

      – Do I sound like an MLS zealot?
      – Check.

      – Am I thin skinned and unable to accept criticism?
      – Check.

      – Am I angry and bald?
      – Check.

      Must be me…

  • slowleftarm

    From day one, “NY2” has been handled poorly by Don and Co. MLS didn’t need a second team in the area to begin with. This has gone worse than anyone imagined though.

  • Frank

    The answer to this is pretty fucking simple: It should have been the Cosmos. Period.

    • Jerry S.

      (Sigh.) Here we go again…

      MLS wanted the Cosmos and the Cosmos rejected them because of single entity, salary cap, MLS owning their trademark, etc. Thank god they did, too, or they would be stuck in that Mickey Mouse league forever.

  • Andy

    What I’m left wondering through this whole thing is how is this not an issue of third party ownership, by which Lampard shouldn’t be eligible to even play in England. If neither MUFC or NYCFC doesn’t hold his transfer certificate and City Football Group does how is that not thrid party ownership?

    Personally I don’t think he will ever play in MLS and City Group are a bunch of fools if they try and bring him over. And as a Red Bulls fan I can’t help but just laugh and enjoy this farce. Don Garber’s golden New York goose with egg all over their face. Meanwhile, Red Bull has a homegrown coach, homegrown players getting first team minutes, and just hired a smart MLS front office veteran to their front office.

  • dvlvrbfan

    Thank you, Dave.

  • Gerard

    You see now this is why I am a cosmos fan

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