Rangers in­ter­ested in pro­mo­tion/del­e­ga­tion

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - SPORTS - BROOKS KUBENA

A team that com­petes in the Na­tional Premier Soc­cer League filed a claim Thurs­day with an in­ter­na­tional sports ar­bi­tra­tion court to re­quire the U.S. Soc­cer Fed­er­a­tion to adopt pro­mo­tion and rel­e­ga­tion across all three of its professional di­vi­sions.

If such a sys­tem were adopted in the U.S., an NPSL team like the Lit­tle Rock Rangers could even­tu­ally as­cend to Ma­jor League Soc­cer if they won enough games.

The claim — made by the NPSL’s Kingston Stock­ade FC and Mi­ami FC of the North Amer­i­can Soc­cer League — con­tends that U.S. soc­cer is fail­ing to fol­low Ar­ti­cle 9 of the FIFA rule­book, which states that its mem­bers de­fine professional di­vi­sions based on per­for­mance.

FIFA is the in­ter­na­tional gov­ern­ing body for soc­cer.

Ev­ery coun­try other than the U.S. and Aus­tralia prac­tices pro­mo­tion and rel­e­ga­tion, in­clud­ing in the English Premier League, which in 2016 sent three teams at the bot­tom of its league stand­ings to its sec­ond-divi­sion Foot­ball League Cham­pi­onship in ex­change for three teams at the top of that league’s stand­ings.

In the U.S., the 2016 NPSL and NASL cham­pi­ons re­mained in their lower-tier leagues while the teams at the bot­tom of su­pe­rior leagues re­mained in theirs.

If a pro­mo­tion and rel­e­ga­tion sys­tem were im­ple­mented in the U.S., teams that be­long to lower-tier leagues like the Lit­tle Rock Rangers can as­cend to higher-tier leagues without hav­ing to pay ex­pen­sive ex­pan­sion fees or be ap­proved by ex­pan­sion com­mit­tees.

“We’re tak­ing this ac­tion,” Mi­ami FC CEO Sean Flynn said in a state­ment, “be­cause we be­lieve that the ben­e­fits of soc­cer should be shared by the many, not the few, and that soc­cer’s top divi­sion should in­clude the best teams, not the teams that pay cer­tain sums of money.”

The claim will be heard by the Switzer­land-based Court of

Ar­bi­tra­tion for Sport, which has re­solved dis­putes in the Olympics, Tour de France and FIFA.

Arkansas was without a high-level soc­cer team for 20 years be­fore lo­cal busi­ness­man Jonathan Ward­law helped found the Lit­tle Rock Rangers in the ama­teur NPSL for $22,500 in Oc­to­ber of 2015.

Ward­law said in May that the team is “just not there fi­nan­cially” to make a jump to the professional Divi­sion III level, which would re­quire a buy-in that ranges from $300,000 to $500,000 and an owner worth $10 mil­lion to own 35 per­cent of the team.

A pro­mo­tion and rel­e­ga­tion sys­tem could al­low the Rangers to as­cend without such an in­vest­ment.

“Who knows what could hap­pen?”

Ward­law said. “I’m just in­ter­ested to see how this all shakes out.”

A switch to a pro­mo­tion and rel­e­ga­tion sys­tem in Amer­ica would dis­rupt a cur­rent struc­ture that re­lies on fi­nan­cial vi­a­bil­ity.

The cur­rent buy-in rate for an MLS fran­chise is over $140 mil­lion, and the suc­cess of the league, ac­cord­ing to Ward­law, is de­pen­dent on the sta­bil­ity of each team and how well each team cul­ti­vates their in­di­vid­ual mar­kets for ticket sales and com­mer­cial deals.

“They’re driven by their huge mar­kets,” Ward­law said. “The New Yorks, the LA’s — that’s where they’re get­ting their fan bases. What the other leagues are seek­ing: Why don’t we just get a ton of Lit­tle Rock sized cities, get them to­gether and take that ap­proach.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.