The announcement in the New York Times of a Major League Soccer team owned by Manchester City of the English Premier League and the New York Yankees made headlines on Tuesday afternoon, raising the stakes for soccer and sports in an already crowded New York sports business landscape.
While the involvement of Yankees ownership is intriguing from a business standpoint for both the baseball and soccer club, the investment should only lead to success for both sides. From the Yankee perspective, there's little that should cause fans to worry about a John Henry-Liverpool scenario.
No, the New York Yankees' ownership group isn't going to suddenly stop paying big money to baseball players in order to grow their stake in a startup soccer team.
Instead, look for the soccer team, known as the New York City Football Club, to play some games at Yankee Stadium and have their games televised on the YES Network.
I spoke to Chris Ravita, Soccer Editor for The Sports Network US, whose first opinion of the deal was that of a win-win for both the baseball and new startup soccer entity.
"My impression was the Yankees are on board predominantly for two functions: identify potential sponsorships by using their own brand equity, and also assist with the stadium development as they are quite familiar with the NYC landscape," said Ravita.
Furthermore, we spoke about the involvement of the YES Network, which outside of Brooklyn Nets games and a simulcast of Mike Francesa's sports talk show on WFAN in New York, is a channel without regular programming, especially in the baseball offseason.
"New York City Football Club on YES will contrast Red Bulls games on MSG quite nicely," Ravita explained.
At some point, an acquisition of this caliber was inevitable for Yankees ownership, due to the cost and magnitude of building the new Yankee Stadium in 2009. Simply put, the building is too spectacular, too much of a draw and too much of a grand stage to only be functioning for 81 home dates per season.
The soccer partnership is just an extension of Cotto-Foreman, The Pinstripe Bowl and Legends of the Summer at the new Yankee Stadium.
Yankees' involvement in NYCFC is the surprise, since Man City affiliation had been known. Mets owners have been antagonistic to project.— Grant Wahl (@GrantWahl) May 21, 2013
While it's easy to assume extra entities and commitments will detract from the overall tunnel vision of ownership to win baseball games and compete at the highest level in the AL East, the facts don't bear that out.
The growth of the New York Yankees' brand isn't just about baseball in 2013. As the majority soccer ownership group expounded on in a press release today from MLB.com, the partnership works both ways.
"We are thrilled to contribute to the energy and growth of New York City Soccer," said Ferran Soriano, CEO of Manchester City Football Club. "In the Yankees, we have found the absolute best partner for developing a world-class sports organization and a winning team that will carry the New York City Football Club name with pride."
With the expansion of Manchester's soccer brand into the MLS, comes increased revenue and opportunities for the Yankees.
Of course, there is always a chance that the Yankees' stake becomes bigger and more pronounced as the years move along, taking away from their focus on the baseball team. Yet, despite the rising popularity of soccer in New York and in the Northeast, it doesn't make sense from a business standpoint to ever truly bite the hand that feeds the Yankee ownership.
In other words, don't expect the baseball team to suffer or be affected in the slightest.
Different organizations with less skilled and experienced baseball operations departments might have an issue if ownership was pulled in different directions from time to time.
With Brian Cashman and a capable baseball operations department in place—along with a minimum $189 million payroll—that won't be an issue for the New York Yankees' fanbase any time soon.
Is this a good move for the New York Yankees?
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