Come On MLS – Let TFC Fly!
If you dear readers are anything like me you eat up voraciously the videos that TFC graciously posts on its website that sometimes show behind the scenes stuff that we fans almost never ever get to see. And after hearing what has happened Thursday for the Reds, namely a day stuck in Edmonton with a cancelled scheduled flight to Seattle, and now a flight to Vancouver then a long bus ride to Seattle, I got to thinking about one video in particular from last season featuring the dearly departed Jon Conway.
In the video below (courtesy of TFC TV) we see some footage taken by Conway on one of the pricey charters that TFC put on last season that took the club in this case to Honduras for a Champions League qualifier match versus CD Motagua.
That 737 in the video is a pricey charter plane that the club hired to fly direct to Honduras instead of forcing the players and coaches to take some ungodly sequence of commercially scheduled flights from Toronto to Tegucigalpa. CONCACAF and Voyageurs Cup matches are not under MLS rules. That means that roster rules are different and rules regulating things like hotels and charter flights are non existent. In this case TFC laid out some serious coin to get their team to their destination in style and well rested. And the game in Honduras if you recall was a success for TFC as it drew late to qualify for the group stages of the Champions League. I will let you decide how much the charter flight and nice hotel had to do with the successful outcome.
However on Thursday the team found itself losing a full day of training after beating Edmonton Wednesday evening because MLS does not allow teams to fly on anything other than regular scheduled flights in some attempt to control costs that league clubs pay for moving its players and coaches around the continent.
And league rules preclude TFC, if they wish to do so, from calling up a charter company and reserving a plane to get their players where they need to go. Instead the players are tweeting and waiting around an airport all day when they could either be resting or training for a tough away match Saturday evening. Late Thursday evening we heard via Twitter that the club was flying to Vancouver then taking a long bus ride across the border to Seattle. It will be a tired team arriving in Seattle in the hours ahead.
Now I get the need to control costs, especially for a gate driven league like Major League Soccer where some of the clubs are not even profitable. I also get that MLS is a salary cap league that feels the need to try and keep the playing field level so that one club does not have a significant advantage over another. But I think this kind of specific rule takes the parity concept a bit too far, to the point in cases like this of negatively impacting the quality of the product the league is trying to sell.
Without a doubt this lost day is going to have some sort of impact on the product on the field between TFC and the Sounders on Saturday night. And there is nothing that TFC can do about it.
And that needs to change!
Parity is fast becoming an illusory concept in this league anyways. TFC is a perfect example of what I mean. In the last year the parent compant MLSE spent upwards of $5 million on a new grass surface. They spent millions to expand seating in the stadium’s north end. And last week the club committed upwards of $20 million to the building of their new Academy in North York’s Downsview Park. In the long run all these expenditures will start hopefully to impact the quality of the product on the field, salary cap be damned.
Don Garber must start to realize that if a club wants to spend a few extra thousand dollars on something as simple as a charter flight in extraordinary circumstances like today then they should be allowed to do so. The key point is if the club wants to actually do so and has a justifiable need. But when the nickel and dime-ing starts impacting the quality of the product that your paying customers are actually going to see on the field I think it is time to let your clubs have the power to do what is right for their club and right for the league.
I get cost control Don, but not at the expense of the product your customers are paying big bucks to see.
My two cents.
What do you think? Your comments are always welcome and appreciated.