Garber Meets Miami Ultras; Says Support NASL Strikers First
After MLS Commissioner Don Garber received an onslaught of emails for months from a limited number of Miami Ultra supporters who wanted MLS back in the South Florida market, Garber met with them last weekend to have his say. He didn’t mince words with the group.
“Miami needs to change its reputation as a market that believes in professional soccer,” said Garber to 60 Miami Ultras and other soccer supporters. “I’m telling you as a guy who’s sitting in New York and promoting soccer matches, we worry about this market. This is a risky market for international soccer. There is no reason why it should be.”
According to Christopher Harris of Major League Soccer Talk who attended the meeting and wrote a good report, Garber encouraged the Ultras to grow their numbers and support their local team, Miami FC which will be called the Strikers this season. He stated they also need to support international games when they are played in the area. The MLS chief said that by putting thousands of fans in the seats of their local team they will send a message to the league and investors that they are serious about their commitment to soccer. But Garber made it clear that for now the market is not ready for MLS.
According to Harris during the Q & A time some supporters expressed frustration over the lack of marketing and information that has come from Miami FC in the past. NASL CEO Aaron Davidson was asked by Garber to attend the meeting. He addressed the supporters and said “the message was heard loud and clear” and that he would meet with South Florida soccer fans to work together to improve attendance at Strikers games in 2011.
IMS has talked to a number of South Florida soccer supporters who have been rightly frustrated by almost no marketing for Miami FC in the past. The Blues attendance is always one of the worst in the league and last year finished second to last and averaged a measly 1,254. That could have something to do with the fickle South Florida market. However, no one would know until the team actually spent time and money marketing the team. Something that Davidson has said he is now willing to do. The NASL front man has acknowledged to IMS in the past that Traffic didn’t want to put money into a team that played in a league where the owners had no control. He also claimed that now that the NASL is running the league, this year will be different.
This is the year to prove it.
Traffic owns the team and are investing heavily in the league. South Florida residents can raise MLS’s awareness of the market by attending games. The Strikers FC (or whatever the name will be – they have yet to formally announce a name and I’m not really sure why) can benefit by supporting those soccer fans by providing a decent product on the field and actually announcing to the market through advertising that they want them to come to games. But it has to start with Traffic marketing their team and actually caring about putting fans in the seats. This isn’t Brazil where people fill up futebol stadiums because it’s practically the national religion. You have to work at it in the U.S. and as Davidson recently said, anyone who invests in soccer in this country is a philanthropist. He also said the whole idea is to eventually make money. There’s nothing wrong with that, even if Traffic is getting the money. Getting fans in the seats helps grow the game and will offset costs so perhaps someday there will be profits in soccer.
We will be watching Traffic’s Strikers and the Miami soccer supporters carefully this season to see if they both put their money where their mouth is.