It Seems To Me . . .
The story behind Logan’s ouster.By Robert Wagman
WASHINGTON, D.C. (Wednesday, August 4, 1999) -- I could go for the obvious and say that in his self-proclaimed "Year Of No Excuses," former Major League Soccer commissioner Doug Logan ran out of excuses. But it would appear that what really happened is that he ran out of allies on the MLS board of directors.
Yes, lack of fans in the seats, and viewers on television, was the underlining reason Logan lost the backing of a majority of the relatively few men who own and run MLS. But what caused him to be pushed now, can actually be traced to several unrelated events of the past several weeks.
You have to look at MLS's ownership as a very small fraternity made up of the Kraft family which owns New England Revolution and San Jose Clash, the Hunt family of Dallas which owns the Columbus Crew and Kansas City Wizards, Denver billionaire Philip Anschutz who owns the Colorado Rapids, Chicago Fire and Los Angeles Galaxy; and the MetroStars' Stuart Subotnick who represents the interests of his long time mentor and partner John Kluge. To a lesser degree, there is relative newcomer Kenneth Horowitz in Miami, Alan Rothenberg, the former United States Soccer Federation president and head of World Cup USA ‘94, and Kevin Payne, the D.C. United president and general manager, who is highly respected by the league owner-investors because he is simply the best in the league at what he does.
The whole Logan downfall epic has its soap opera aspects, and is a saga marked by miscalculations and missed opportunities. Reduced to its simplest component, Logan lost the confidence of several of the key owner-investors after last season. But others stuck by him. But gradually, when one by one he began to lose their support, his position became tenuous. Finally, several recent events lost him the last of his principle supporters, and he was told through a leaked newspaper story that the time had come to move on.
As it turns out, the first of the key owners to leap off the Logan bandwagon was New England's Robert Kraft. Reportedly he wanted to jettison Logan after last season. In fact the Krafts, who also own the National Football League’s New England Patriots, have long known Don Garber as he worked his way up through the marketing ranks of the NFL. Rothenberg, a stockholder and member of the board of directors, has not been a big Logan supporter, admits talking to Garber after last season to feel him out as to whether he would take the position. No offer was made, but Kraft, and to a lesser extent Rothenberg, began to push Garber's candidacy.
The strange imbroglio involving the firing of deputy commissioner Sunil Gulati almost brought the Logan affair to a head. Supposedly, Subotnick was outraged that Gulati had exercised the option year in midfielder Tab Ramos' expensive contract without discussing it with the MetroStars. Never mind that the option was automatic renewed unless the league affirmatively rejected it, and that the MetroStars knew this, knew the renewal date, and raised no objections. The affair became what amounted to a test of wills between some members of the board who wanted more control over the day to day activities of the league and effectively their employees led by Gulati who exercised that power, admittedly in a somewhat autocratic manner.
Logan had long been miffed that Gulati was seen as the real power in the league. By this year, the two reportedly were hardly speaking. So when Logan threw his support to Subotnick, a majority of the board thought it was not worth dividing the owners, and it was agreed to let Gulati go. But in doing so, Logan moved the Hunts into the Logan-must-go camp.
If MLS has a first among equals, it has become Anschutz. Reportedly he stuck with Logan, as did Subotnick. But then came the events of the past few weeks. First, Anschutz's Los Angeles Galaxy wanted to be assigned newcomer Chris Albright, who agreed to sign with MLS only if he could play in Washington, Los Angeles or Chicago. Instead, Logan assigned Albright to Miami in part to compensate them for the Carlos Valderrama fiasco. He then told the three teams to bid for Albright. Miami asked Los Angeles for either Robin Fraser or Cobi Jones. L.A. wouldn't go that far, and Chicago didn't make a serious bid. So Albright went to D.C. United, and Los Angeles was furious.
Then Anschutz's Chicago Fire badly wanted to host next year's MLS Cup. The game must be played earlier than this year because World Cup qualifying begins in November of next year. MLS has a contract with ABC. But ABC said it will only broadcast the game if it is played on October 22, 2000. That, however, is the date of the Chicago Marathon, and thus Soldiers Field is not available. Anschutz was reportedly upset that MLS did not have more leverage with its broadcast partner to work around the conflict. Anschutz moved into the anti-Logan column.
Then came the All-Star game. Simply put, it was a marketing disaster. That was
the final straw. The anti-Logan forces moved quickly. The former commissioner
had simply run out of supporters.
Robert Wagman wrote a nationally syndicated political column for Scripps-Howard for many
years. At the same time he has covered soccer in North America for British and South African
newspapers since the days of the North American Soccer League. His "Football In America"
column now appears regularly in British newspapers. He can be e-mailed at
Robert Wagman wrote a nationally syndicated political column for Scripps-Howard for many years. At the same time he has covered soccer in North America for British and South African newspapers since the days of the North American Soccer League. His "Football In America" column now appears regularly in British newspapers. He can be e-mailed at SoccerWag1@aol.com.