Manchester City announced today that they are to become the majority owner of a new Major League Soccer franchise, in an attempt to tap the lucrative United States market, drive up their own revenues and compete more powerfully in the Premier League and Champions League.
City will co-own their franchise with the baseball’s New York Yankees – enabling them to tap into the huge appeal of the legendary baseball franchise as they seek to make commercial capital out of MLS and draw fans to their new 20th franchise, details of which The Independent revealed last month. It is the first time a European club has attempted such an proect.
Manchester United’s own partnership with the Yankees in 2000 proved to be short lived but City’s chief executive Feran Soriano said today that he believed that the baseball club would enable them to make a success of a business venture believed to have cost City $100m, to purchase the franchise. The new club, New York City FC, will play at a purpose built stadium in the Queens suburb of the city from 2015.
Soriano rejected the idea of launching a Barcelona franchise in the MLS when chief executive of the Spanish club eight years ago, on the grounds that soccer was still relatively low profile in the country. But MLS has grown since then, helped substantially by David Beckham’s presence at the LA Galaxy. Though the pioneering venture is a way of City owner Sheik Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan launching Abu Dhabi into the US sports scene, the project is being driven by Manchester City in a way which had not been anticipated.
“New York is a legendary sports town, as well as a thriving global city with a rapidly expanding soccer franchise,” said Soriano, who will now set about filling top executive positions at the club. “We are thrilled to contribute to the energy and growth of… soccer [in new York.] In the Yankees we have found the absolute best partner for developing a world-class sports organisation and a winning team.”
Yankees are not the only baseball franchise to co-own an MLS franchise. Lewis Wolff owns baseball’s Oakland As as well as MLS’s San Jose Earthquakes. They will be “an active member of the ownership group,” Soriano said.