Because apparently we don’t have enough to argue over these days, Soccer Twitter is once again lit up in the latest chapter of the ongoing debate over promotion and relegation in American soccer
Riccardo Silva, the owner of NASL outfit Miami FC, commissioned British professional services firm Deloitte to compile a report
-soccer-in-the-usa.html# on the feasibility of implementing a system of promotion and relegation in the American soccer pyramid. The report draws from, among other data points, a poll of 1,000 American soccer fans conducted in September of this year.
While the report tries to provide a balanced analysis, it doesn’t mince words about its conclusion— the benefits of pro/rel would outweigh the costs and risks. Deloitte cites increased fan interest and consumer engagement, increased buy-in from broadcast media, and more investment in infrastructure and youth development programs as benefits of implementing promotion and relegation in the US. Of course, the report also states that “as it stands” American club soccer isn’t ready for a pro/rel system, and that even a gradual implementation would require a significant commitment in capital investment and bureaucratic resources for developing the regulations necessary to make it all work.
Of course, there’s some reason for skepticism here. Silva didn’t commission the report as a purely fact-finding exercise. Not only is he the owner of a soccer club that would presumably benefit from a lower barrier-of-entry into MLS, but he has financial interests in soccer broadcasting and is actively trying to grow his business. One can debate whether business interests are more or less compromised than ideological zealotry, but it’s still worth keeping in mind when evaluating how much weight this report should carry. After all, business consultants will tell you any number of things as long as you’re picking up the tab.
Unsurprisingly, Soccer Twitter isn’t entirely convinced.
Deloitte’s study on the benefits of pro/rel in the U.S. was paid for by Riccardo Silva’s company and assembled in part by Jerome de Bontin.
— Jonathan Tannenwald (@thegoalkeeper) November 20, 2016
Deloitte Pro/Rel report confirming what most of us believe. Game would benefit from system but unrealistic right now https://t.co/2P13HSIbnt
— Kyle Martino (@kylemartino) November 21, 2016
Reminder: Deloitte report paid for by Miami FC owner, who has a lot to gain w pro/rel & is afraid a MLS team is going run him out of town
— NERevs Rumors (@NERevsRumor) November 21, 2016
Deloitte was like: people won’t have enough to argue about with their family over Thanksgiving, let’s give em some Pro/Rel fodder!
— Wes (@MnNiceFC) November 20, 2016
I like the idea that pro/rel can fix MLS’s ratings problem, like 30 people in Sioux Falls are what we need.
— Maxi Rodriguez (@FutbolIntellect) November 21, 2016
Meanwhile on Ted’s TL… pic.twitter.com/2OK997asOa
— David Rudin (@DavidSRudin) November 21, 2016
Given that Deloitte’s own conclusions state that pro/rel isn’t coming to American club soccer any time soon— a fact concurred by nearly every major stakeholder in the domestic game— it’s not clear what releasing this report now is supposed to do. It won’t change many minds among consumers fans, and it definitely won’t sway a plurality of decision-makers. Given that the NASL is in talks with US Soccer in a desperate bid to stay afloat, it’s possible that the report was released in order to establish some leverage in whatever negotiations are happening right now. For the moment, however, the only thing this report is likely to do is instigate more Twitter fights.