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Determination: Mostly True
Analysis: Enthusiasm for the World Cup in San Diego has been quite high, with some outlets reporting that San Diego had some of the highest TV ratings among U.S. cities for the world’s largest sporting event.
This passion led Union-Tribune columnist Nick Canepa to wonder what stood in the way of getting a Major League Soccer team in San Diego. And he quoted Anthony Fernandez, whose company organized an exhibition match at Qualcomm Stadium on Wednesday between England’s Portsmouth and Mexico’s Club America.
Fernandez said the biggest barrier between San Diego and Major League Soccer was money. Specifically, he highlighted what he estimated was a $30 million “franchise fee.”
Money is always the issue, of course, with just about everything. But there are a few things to think about.
First, it’s not actually a franchise fee. I called the spokesman for Major League Soccer, Will Kuhns. It turns out MLS is actually a limited liability corporation, not a franchise network. In other words, new teams have to buy a share of this single-entity structure. In that way it’s a bit different than most American sports, where individuals own franchises.
There are two teams entering MLS soon — one from Portland, one from Vancouver. They are both paying $35 million each for their share of the LLC. In 2012, Montreal will join and pay $40 million. But these payments are made over time, not all at once.
Secondly, though, it’s not just paying to get into the league that is a barrier. It looks like San Diego would also have to pony up to build a new soccer stadium. Nope, a new football stadium probably wouldn’t work unless MLS changes its MO.
Kuhns said that MLS leaders take into account three issues above all when they consider expanding: 1) a strong ownership group, 2) the strength of the market and 3) whether there’s a soccer stadium plan.
“What we won’t do is enter into an investment with a team in an indefinite lease situation,” Kuhns said. In other words, if the team is leasing at a facility as it would under any conceivable new football stadium plan in San Diego, it wouldn’t work.
“There hasn’t been an expansion team that either didn’t have a plan for a stadium or didn’t own the building,” he said. What he means is that, like in New England, if the football team operates the stadium and owned the soccer team, it might work. But it can’t be sharing space.
So, I can’t imagine how San Diego gets a team without either building a new stadium or convincing Dean Spanos to buy a soccer team too.
Oooh! Or maybe the city of San Diego itself could purchase a soccer team! That might provide all kinds of added value to the Initial Marketing Partnership Pilot Project.
We’ve deemed the statement Mostly True because his figure for buying into the league is near target. However, it doesn’t get a pure True because it’s not actually a “franchise” fee and a new stadium seems like the biggest obstacle to a team coming here.
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— SCOTT LEWIS