You know, I am going to be extremely honest with you folks: I am anticipating a good year from Los Angeles Football Club in 2018. I envision their campaign to be similar to that of Orlando City back in 2015. Orlando finished out of the MLS Cup Playoffs but had a strong inaugural season at 12 wins, 14 defeats and eight losses (44 points). With the right decision making by the current investor-operator group, LAFC will have a decent, but not outstanding, first year.
I want to take this time to talk a little bit about ownership in MLS. LAFC, like the LA Galaxy and other teams in the competition, is under the single-entity structure. MLS owns LAFC and all the other teams but the investor-operators control them as they control teams in other leagues but, to make it sound convincing, they are depicted as the “owners” of the teams. And if the investor-operators of any team mismanage the contract dealings, as with the case of Chivas USA, MLS can boot them out and take over and read it its last rites.
This is something that LAFC’s team of 27 investor-operators must acknowledge. So I envision that Los Angeles Football Club, as an organization, consists of a number of teams. First, you have the players and coaches of the first team. You have the players and coaches of a second team, should LAFC exercise an option to be like the LA Galaxy (more on them in a bit) and field a reserve side in the United Soccer League (USL). You have the players and coaches on the Academy teams (this is required as part of the deal from the league office). You have the front office team. And then you have team of teams, the ownership group, the ones who are supposed to abide by all the rules and regulations as stipulated by MLS without trying to deliberately bend them through loophole exploitation.
LAFC have more owners (we’ll just use this technically incorrect word for the sake of this piece) than any other team in the competition, and they won’t start their journey to the MLS Cup of Life for another two seasons.
Most teams have one sole owner: Chicago has Andrew Hauptman, Columbus has Anthony Precourt, Montreal has Joey Saputo, Robert Kraft owns the New England Revolution, Red Bull GmbH owns the New York Red Bulls (of course), Stan Kroenke owns the Colorado Rapids, Clark Hunt owns FC Dallas, Merritt Paulson owns the Portland Timbers, Dell Loy Hansen owns Real Salt Lake and Earthquakes Soccer, LLC owns the San Jose Earthquakes. Atlanta United will have one owner in Arthur Blank while Minnesota United‘s sole owner is Bill McGuire. And of course, AEG (a.k.a. Phil Anschutz) owns the Galaxy.
There are teams in MLS that have multiple owners, as is the case with Vancouver (four), Sporting Kansas City (five as Sporting Club), Houston (four), Philadelphia (six as Keystone S&E), Toronto FC (eight when using the Board of Directors at Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment), Orlando (two), Seattle (four), New York City FC (two), and D.C. (three).
LAFC have 27 owners. Twenty-seven. Essentially one large board of directors, enough to field a full football first team. They are Henry Nguyen, Peter Guber, Tom Penn, Ruben Gnanalingam, Vincent Tan, Brandon Beck, Larry Berg, Will Ferrell, Nomar Garciaparra, Mia Hamm, Chad Hurley, Magic Johnson, Tucker Kain, Kirk Lacob, Mark Leschly, Mike Mahan, Irwin Raij, Tony Robbins, Lon Rosen, Bennett Rosenthal, Paul Schaeffer, Brandon Schneider, Mark Shapiro, Allen Shapiro, Jason Sugarman and Harry Tsao. Guber is the executive chair, Penn is the President and Nguyen is the Managing Partner.
The one person that I want to point out among this team of 27, the one big elephant smoking in the back room of the boys’ room, is Vincent Tan. As the kingpin of the Berjaya Group with lots of cash and with it a ton of leverage, he owns three other clubs, all based in Europe, with the most notable being Cardiff City. Now Cardiff is an interesting case. A recent report has shown that Cardiff not has been a revolving door for players in the past 4-5 seasons…but it also was a victim of an attempted rebranding that galvanized the supporters to turn its back on Tan.
The inability to acknowledge tradition in the name of ego-flaunting destroys clubs. While Tan still owns Cardiff City, he has succeeded in alienating many Bluebirds fans due to his perceived lack of respect for the culture and traditions that they have had for more than a century. Now while the tradition aspect is nonexistent, the financial dilemma that Cardiff had under Malky Mackay and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer with all the transfer fees could come into play at LAFC and therefore, abiding by the entire rulebook the league dishes out will ensure that the Galaxy’s crosstown rivals stay financially solvent.
At LAFC, Vincent Tan is obligated to be in solidarity with the consensus school of thought from the ownership group and put the direction wishes of the team above his own. And this is why having too many owners isn’t necessarily a good thing. It’s akin to having so many individual stars on a team (as in the case of the LA Galaxy last year) but if they don’t work as a team, a competitor with blue-collar names (i.e. Portland) will go on to lift the MLS Cup.
My belief is this: there is an excessive number of owners/investor-operators at LAFC and no one should be surprised if within the first decade of the club, some opt out, new faces opt in, and there is division among the ranks. The supporters also need to ensure they will always have a huge say in the matter too. District 9 Ultras (formerly known as Union Ultras) and Black Army 1850 have seen their old team fall to pieces and they are obligated to know the direction of the club and have leverage in the direction of the club.
Ultimately, LAFC will need to learn from its big brother the Galaxy on how they were able to survive 20 seasons in the competition and remain standing tall. After all, it was Phil Anschutz himself who owned half the league at one time and now owns just the Galaxy but not before leaving a mark on the league with the MLS Cup named in his honor. If the ownership team wins in the board room and it matches the wins that LAFC will get in its first year, the lessons learned by people like Vincent Tan will pay dividends and ensure the club’s long-term survival. If not…sigh, this will happen. Again.
Until then, you may pass the popcorn and answer this question: Are there too many owners at the Los Angeles Football Club? Scroll down to our Disqus comment board and fire away. And keep it right here on The Stoppage Time, powered by Azteca Soccer, for more Major League Soccer news. Like Us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.