It was just a little under six months ago that Frank Lampard signed a deal to play for New York City FC in MLS and become the new face of their expansion MLS team. Along with David Villa, they would be the two big names to lead the team to their debut in March.
Because NYCFC doesn’t play until March, it was agreed that Lampard would go to Manchester City until January in order to remain match fit and be in shape when the MLS season begins again. Now since Lampard has scored five goals as a “super sub” at Manchester City, City just announced that they are extending Lampard’s stay until the end of the EPL season but there remains confusion as to if he’s still going to stay at Manchester City due to remarks by City manager Manuel Pellegrini.
So who exactly is to blame for this mess? It seems like a question that doesn’t have an easy answer and it could result in everyone involved becoming villains when it’s all said and done.
In terms of this being a sole business decision, I have no problem with what Manchester City has done. Anyone who thought for a second that NYCFC and Manchester City would get equal billing was/is being naive and delusional. From the day it was announced, it was clear that Manchester City would get top priority and NYCFC, Melbourne City and Yokohama F. Marinos would be secondary. That’s business, and Manchester City makes the most business for City Football Group. It’s the best business decision to do what you can to make Manchester City the best team it can possibly be. That sometimes will come at the expense of the other three teams.
Having said that, in a sports sense, what Manchester City is doing is highly unethical and can lead to dangerous consequences. Some have pointed out that this is used to avoid UEFA Financial Fair Play sanctions. Now that it seems like Lampard signed a contract with City Football Group instead of either NYCFC or Manchester City, there definitely is some creative accounting going on.
In Forbes, writer Bobby McMahon points out how City Football Group is minimizing the expenses from Manchester City by diverting it equally onto the other teams.
“The Manchester City payroll stats show a significant decrease in the number of staff but at the same time external charges have increased by $26M to $90M in 2013/14.
It appears that many scouting and related expenses have been moved off the Manchester City payroll and on to the books of the holding company only to then to be pro-rated back to each of the four clubs in the form of recharges.
Some may see that move as FFP gerrymandering while others would see it simply as good business and a way to spread overhead over a larger base.”
In business, this is great but it’s different in sports. People don’t religiously support a business (other than Apple maybe) like they do a sports team. Manchester City forgot the fans, the NYCFC fans and now they have to pay for that. Manchester City just shot themselves in the foot by angering a growing soccer country where many big teams treat the United States as a modern day “gold rush” and is trying to scoop up as many new fans as possible. To many in the United States, this is their first experience with Manchester City so good luck trying to get US based fans in the future.
Frank Lampard is going to get a lot of criticism and blame for his role in this but I see Lampard more as a pawn in the situation. I’m sure if given the choice, Lampard would rather stay and try for one final title at Manchester City before going to NYCFC, but this would end the same way if Lampard expressed desire that he wanted to honor the original agreement and come to NYCFC in January.
I do believe that he is going to get some criticism for being so definitive about not playing in England and playing at NYCFC in the beginning. This video particularly, at about a minute in, has Lampard saying during a Yankees game that he “didn’t want to play anywhere else in England.”
I’m grouping MLS and NYCFC together because it’s tough to differentiate who is responsible for what. Both were part of negotiations so I’m putting them together.
Where oh where to start with this group? Let’s start at the beginning. When Frank Lampard agreed to join NYCFC, it was revealed that he was going on loan to Manchester City. On MLS’ website, Lampard is on loan here and here. In the second article, it even says Lampard would be on loan until January 2015.
Manchester City even tweeted that Lampard to Manchester City was a loan.
— Manchester City FC (@MCFC) August 6, 2014
NYCFC spent countless amounts in marketing on Frank Lampard and many fans paid for NYCFC merchandise and tickets on the publicly made agreement that Frank Lampard would be on loan in Manchester and would come to NYCFC in January. To some, being a supporter of a team should mean sticking with them for more than just one player and that’s 100% true. I also understand that supporters, or anybody for that matter, do not like being scammed and taken advantage of. Whether or not that’s true, that’s what it looks like.
Fast forward to present day, Grant Wahl interviewed MLS Commissioner Don Garber this past weekend. In the article, Garber said, “I could understand why their fans are unhappy, and I do believe [NYCFC] will work hard to build back that trust.”
Also in the article, it was revealed that this is NOT a loan and Garber states MLS’ official version of Frank Lampard’s contract. Wahl’s summary of MLS’ interpretation of Lampard’s contract, “Before he was announced by NYCFC last summer, Lampard entered into an agreement with the City Football Group to play under an MLS contract for 2015 and ’16 and to play for Man City until the end of 2014 under a Man City contract. Now that Lampard’s Man City contract has been extended to the end of this season, he will join NYCFC in July and play under an MLS contract.”
That sounds nice if you forget that everyone said this was a loan. This is what angers me the most. I can understand the business aspect of Frank Lampard staying at Manchester City but I don’t like being lied to. MLS has a history of not being transparent and they have deliberately hid rule changes, roster moves and business proceedings from the public until we find out at some point when it’s necessary for them. If they just put everything out on the table and say there was a chance Lampard would stay in England until summer of 2015, it would have a better reaction. If that really wasn’t the case, just admit that because Lampard has improved, say that both sides came to an agreement to extend Lampard’s stay in England and he will be here in summer of 2015. Just be honest, don’t privately change the language in the deal, not tell us and then treat us soccer fans like we’re stupid. Give us some credit because just like with any cover up, the truth does get revealed at some point. It’s PR 101, get in front of the story and don’t let the story control you.
Taylor Twellman hit the nail on the head with this tweet today.
— Taylor Twellman (@TaylorTwellman) January 5, 2015
For this, MLS deserves the most blame for the Frank Lampard situation for not being honest to fans. Privately, that may not be the case and it’s really not MLS’ fault, but their history of being secretive and changing things with no explanation or reason, they lost that trust and credibility.
For the record, I love MLS. I feel MLS has made great strides and is the best it has been in 20 years. I also believe Don Garber is a great commissioner and I can’t imagine MLS would be close to what it is today if not for Garber. Having said that, Garber and the League do things sometimes that portray Garber and MLS of looking incompetent and/or dishonest. For that, that’s why many people, both inside and outside of the soccer world, look down on MLS and do not respect the League. Garber seems to have taken a “laissez faire” approach to Frank Lampard and accepting it as it is, but a few months ago, Garber was incensed at remarks made by Jurgen Klinsmann on MLS. Klinsmann made valid points about how European soccer is better and that made Garber say, “Jurgen’s comments are very, very detrimental to the league. They are detrimental to the sport of soccer in America and everything that we are trying to do north of the border. And not only do I think they are detrimental, they are wrong.”
I think Garber needs to look at himself in the mirror and admit to himself and everyone who loves this league and this sport to say that what NYCFC and Manchester City is doing is “detrimental to the sport of soccer in America.”