Monday, February 23, 2009

Sorry Ottawa, you aren't getting an MLS franchise

So Barcelona seems to wavering on the idea of joining the Miami bid for an MLS franchise. What was once regarded as a 'lock' now seems like it might not even get off the ground. I'm not going to get into whether they will or won't get a franchise -- I still think that they are one of the favourites to secure a franchise -- but what I do want to touch on is the fact that because Miami and Barcelona may be in trouble, people in Ottawa have all of a sudden decided they are the next best thing and Eugene Melnyk's bid is terrific. Well, I'm here to send you back down to earth. Ottawa will not get an MLS franchise, not in 2011, not in 2013 and probably not in 2018.

First off, Ottawa does not have the best soccer tradition. They never had a team in the NASL, and while they had a team in the Canadian Soccer League for a few years, they never really wowed a large crowd. People may try point to the U20 World Cup held in Ottawa as proof that they can bring out a crowd, but the reality is, many of those were tourists from other countries and people who always show up for big events.

Secondly, the government is still deciding if they want to build a stadium, either a new one in Kanata or revive Frank Clair Stadium. Ultimately, that decision will be made by the government, and not just one level of government but 3 different levels. It's tough enough to get one level to agree to something (see Whitecaps Waterfront Stadium) let alone three levels. The other problem is that a recent poll conducted by the Ottawa Citizen showed that most Ottawa residents would prefer to have the stadium situated at the Lansdowne Park location. Only 15% chose the Kanata site. That's a serious blow to the chances of the man behind the Ottawa bid, Eugene Melnyk, assuming the government actually listens to its residents. The people I have talked to who cover sports in Ottawa think that a stadium in Kanata would effectively kill the franchise before it even got off the ground.

The other issue that makes the Ottawa bid a failure is Melnyk's business proposal, which makes no sense whatsoever. According to my sources, Melnyk wants to invest $80 Million in a stadium and $40 Million in a team. Toronto FC, one of the most successful clubs in the MLS, makes $2 Million per year. If Ottawa and Melnyk match that, in order to make their money back, Ottawa's franchise would need a 60-year run before Melnyk even makes his principal back. That's not a smart business decision in any business.

Finally, I'm not much for conspiracy theories, but there are rumours circulating that the only reason Eugene Melnyk is pursuing an MLS franchise is to cut the CFL revival effort off at the pass. According to a source, the Sens would love to own and control all sports entertainment in Ottawa and are trying to pre-empt the CFL group. My source says that they would be "absolutely shocked if Ottawa got a team and even more shocked if they it actually kicked off".

So there you have it -- why Ottawa won't be getting an MLS franchise. I don't think the Melnyk bid will pass. Sorry Ottawa fans.



Anonymous said...

Great read. Ottawa was and still is the team that won't get an MLS team, but they keep hanging on to the dream.

Anonymous said...

Keep in mind the csl team was based out of carp.Which is about 10 minutes from kanata.

Anonymous said...

Good, another non-Ottawa person saying that we don't deserve a team, that is what's going to kill the Ottawa bid.

Anonymous said...

Ottawa doesn't stand a chance. The other bids are better than Ottawa and there are too many factors that are running against Ottawa's chances.

Steve C said...

I don't know about Melnyk using the MLS bid to sabotage the CFL group, but the rest of your reasons are crap.

The biggest reason they aren't likely to get a franchise is that Ottawa is a relativley small market.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations. This is the biggest load of crap I have read for some time. I could go line by line through it, correcting it, but I have better things to do with my time.

Suffice it to say that Ottawa has a strong bid, good local support and a committed owner. If the City can make the right stadium decision, Ottawa has as good a chance as any other city still in the mix.

Full-Time: Vancouver's Soccer Show said...

With the announcement expected tomorrow that the Whitecaps are in the MLS and Portland is the 2nd team later this month... where is Ottawa in the conversation, Mr "This is the biggest load of crap I have read for some time"