Thursday, February 26, 2009

Americans Abroad: Ivan Gazidis

Americans in Europe

American soccer fans follow their heroes in Europe. Whole sites are dedicated to covering the every move and step of these heroes as they do battle in far off lands. Recently, a man who was born in South Africa, raised in England, and lived in America for 15 years has gone back to England to do battle. No he’s not a field player, but after 15 years of working as the Deputy Commissioner of Major League Soccer, Ivan Gazidis has now been the CEO of Arsenal since January 1st.

Our Adopted Friend
Ivan Gazidis
Ivan is not American but after his time helping MLS he deserves our respect and gratitude. He has negotiated hundreds of salaries and has fundamentally shaped the how we view MLS. In 1994 Ivan joined the founding management team of Major League Soccer. While the other Americans had the required business brains Ivan brought more to the table. Ivan felt soccer and knew soccer in a way that Americans did not. He had grown up living the dream, and he had big ideas about how to regulate soccer so it would succeed in America.

Don’t Feel Ashamed
Major League Soccer often looks at the European leagues and feels ashamed. They have better players who get paid 100 times the salary of the biggest MLS star. The stands are packed full of fans, and worldwide TV licensing rights bring in millions of pounds.

As MLS fans stare uncomfortably at their feet or raise their middle fingers at Eurosnobs they forget that life in England and the European leagues looks better than it really is. We cheer on stars that often get paid less than a supermarket manager. In Europe they pay millions of pounds for almost every footballer on the pitch. We cheer for stars that represent us; who live in a style that we can relate to. Fans in Europe worship stars who live far beyond reality, in a fantasy world that European fans can only dream of. America brings the hard working real soccer stars.

Europe Looks to MLS
While MLS fans look to Europe, Europe is looking back at us for leadership. The lack of a salary cap is driving clubs to pay incredible amounts for one footballer. They wallow farther into debt in hopes of one day achieving the status and support that will result in a return on their investment. European clubs face continual debt, takeover bids, and large player salaries. The owners and managers of European clubs are now looking at the Major League Soccer business model for support and inspiration.

Major League Soccer is set to weather the current economic storm. With a strict salary cap, low player wages, investors with deep pockets, and a culture of the working man in place, MLS will survive. While attendance in European leagues are slowly declining as jobs are lost and tickets prices rise, MLS ticket sales remain steady. Indeed, Seattle has sold over 20,000 season tickets. It is through the careful and prudent planning of Ivan Gazidis that MLS will live on while the economic crisis will inevitably level and destroy some of the European clubs.

We may not know soccer but we know business.

Recent articles featuring Ivan Gazidis and his work

Recently there have been some great articles about Gazidis:

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