English soccer not in Anschutz’s plans
Despite having the financial resources to do just about whatever he pleases in the soccer world, Denver billionaire Phil Anschutz will not be investing in Arsenal or any other English Premier League team. Not now. Not in the near future.
So says Tim Leiweke, Anschutz’s right-hand man at AEG.
“We’ve had many opportunities to jump into the Premier League,” Leiweke said in an interview with The Times. “We’ve also had teams in Germany and Italy and Spain that have been offered to us. I would not be lying if I told you that we’ve probably had 40 different clubs approach us in the last 10 years to invest.
“We’ve just never felt that that was a core [business interest for AEG] because, one, we were busy here trying to build soccer in the U.S., and, two, we have a pretty good relationship with all the teams over there.
“If we suddenly jumped in and were competing with Arsenal or competing with Barcelona or competing with AC Milan, then a lot of the things we do with them now would probably be more difficult because they would feel territorial.
“So we would prefer to protect those relationships. Our focus right now is in a different world. It’s arenas and it’s content and it’s concerts.”
It’s also on helping to bring the likes of AC Milan, Barcelona, Chelsea and Real Madrid to the U.S., and Leiweke said the Galaxy’s July 19 game against AC Milan in Carson is virtually sold out and the Galaxy’s Aug. 1 game against Barcelona at the Rose Bowl could draw “70,000 or 80,000.”
The suggestion that Anschutz might want to join forces with Arsenal majority owner Stan Kroenke, who also owns the NBA’s Denver Nuggets, the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche and the Colorado Rapids of MLS, was made in this column a couple of weeks ago, and then took on a life of its own in Europe.
Leiweke said he wanted to end the speculation.
“I was with Stan for an hour the last time the Nuggets were in town,” he said. “We talked about Arsenal, but just simply based on what he was up to. He never asked, nor did we suggest we would want to jump in.
“We would do anything we could to help him. We just don’t want to own a piece.”
Small crowds, large losses
Sad to see Women’s Professional Soccer adopting the MLS tactic of plucking attendance figures out of thin air.
Consider, for instance, this statement that came out of the WPS league office a few days ago:
“The league went over 100,000 fans on the season for a total of 102,296 in 19 games with an average of 5,380 per game. Los Angeles continues to be the league leader in attendance with a three-game average of 9,053. . . .”
It’s absolute nonsense, of course. The Sol’s announced crowd of 6,210 on Mother’s Day came on an afternoon when there might charitably have been 3,000 fans on hand. On Friday night, the Sol claimed 6,115 were at the Home Depot Center when there were perhaps half that number watching.
The small crowds add up to large losses, and the team’s co-owner, AEG, will not put up with that beyond this season.
“Are we going to lose money the first year? Yes,” Leiweke said. “Is it a million-plus? Yes. Did we expect that? Yes. Will that continue? No.
“We’ve made it clear that our job is to get it started, and then we’re going to let others step in here and continue this. But we felt we owed it to the women’s game to give them a shot.
“We were never intent on being here forever. Our plate is full. We’re very, very focused -- despite what people think -- on the Galaxy and on the Kings. Those are our highest priorities.
“We’re obviously pleased about our role and relationship [as minority owner] on the Lakers with Jerry Buss. Those are the three teams that we concentrate on.”
In other words, the Sol’s other owner, Blue Star LLC, had better start looking for other investors right now or the long-term prospects for the team, if not the league, will be bleak.
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