CARSON, Calif. -- At Sunday's LA Galaxy regular season opener against the Chicago Fire, MLS commissioner Don Garber was on hand to pass out LA’s MLS Cup championship rings.
After the ceremony, Garber conducted several interviews with the media including an interview with Time Warner Cable SportsNet and a halftime chat with print media.
The main topic of conversation during interview that was the state of the Galaxy's in-stadium rival Chivas USA, but reporters also touched on LA's season opener being broadcast nationally on Univision, Landon Donovan and other topics.
Garber's comments are below...
(On Chivas USA's poor attendance on opening weekend…)
GARBER: "When we launched Chivas USA, the idea was to have a team to be different and to cater to the Mexican American population in Southern California. It hasn't really been able to deliver on that vision since 2005. We went through ownership mediation -- Jorge Vergara and Angelica [Fuentes] took it over and they got a plan. It's the first game of a long season. We're certainly hopeful that it will improve. This is a market that needs, in my opinion, two teams and two different teams. We're hopeful that they'll be able to deliver on that."
(On whether or not there is concern that Chivas could become a farm team for C.D. Guadalajara...)
GARBER: "Not in any way. Remember where we were, we were hoping to get more Chivas de Guadalajara players in here from the beginning and we weren't able to do that for whatever reason. Now we've been able to do that and the players have been here for a couple weeks now. What I would encourage everybody to have is a bit of patience. They have an idea, they have a plan and we're hopeful that plan will be successfully executed. I think they need to do better in the execution. I think they need to put some real good resources on the administrative side and get really focused. The league has been assisting them and we have one of our club services guys working with them on the ticketing side to help understand the best practices that are going on with our other clubs. We're both hopeful that it will get better and we'll work hard to make sure that it does."
(On what difference between Chivas USA's plan in 2013 and in 2005...)
GARBER: "I think that they're executing on it and they didn't execute in 2005. We had [Francisco] Palencia, Claudio [Suarez] and a handful of players [from Guadalajara], but it didn't really get executed and they never really committed to it. [Former owners] Antonio and his brother [Lorenzo Cue] were the managing owners of the club and I am very close to them and they believed that there was more of an opportunity to have a more general market MLS team. There was not much of an identity difference between that team and any other MLS club. Jorge and Angelica believes that there is an opportunity to make a difference and they bought the team and they're going to deliver on that plan. What I would encourage everyone to do is, give them a shot, give them some time. The league is going to be very focused with them and we have made great process in this league in so many different areas and we're going to ensure that they're successful as well."
(On how patient the league can be with them...)
GARBER: "Listen, it's the first game. How patient? More than the first game...we're going to be focused to try to work with them and give them some resources internally to help them get better. We're going to spend more time with them to help them understand that operating a team with a difference is good, but they still need to understand that this is a traditional American sports market and they need to sell tickets, you need television deals and relationships, you need to have active sponsors who are going to promote and market your brand. You look at what the Galaxy have been able to do and it's a good model. They have to execute better.”
(On whether Chivas is limiting themselves by marketing simply to Spanish speakers…)
GARBER: "I think they have the right and there is an opportunity for them to have a different brand position. It's not just Spanish speakers per say, but more targeted to a Hispanic audience. Having different brands and a different identity is a good thing because you don't want all your teams to look and feel alike. What I would say is, let’s give them some time. If we’re here in June or July and we’re having the same issues that we’re talking about right now, this might be a different conversation.”
(On the Galaxy being shown on Univision nationally as opposed to an English language network...)
GARBER: “We have a great partner in Univision. They’re as important to us as any of our other broadcast partners in terms of what they pay for those rights and the market that they can reach. This is the first time that we’ve really gone out and given them a great game to try and support that relationship. We’re excited about that…There are 50 million people in this country that are watching Univision and connecting with the sport in the Spanish language and I’m not even remotely apologetic about that. It’s a big part of the league’s strategy.”
(On whether he was concerned with Chivas USA not having a local television partner…)
GARBER: “Concerned is probably not the right word. They need to get on local television. By the way, it’s a requirement so they have to work hard to get a deal done and they haven’t been able to that yet. But they’re going to need to get that done; it’s a requirement for them.”
(On whether the league was consulted about Landon Donovan’s leave of absence from the Galaxy…)
GARBER: “Consulted is probably not the right word. It’s more that we were communicated with. I spent some time with Landon and I think I talked about that during my State of the League [address] last week. I’m very sympathetic for what Landon is going through. That guy has had the responsibility of this sport on his shoulders for a longtime. He’s been an unbelievable ambassador for [MLS], for our national team, for every kid that loves the game. If he needed to take a breather, that’s his right. He’s not getting paid during that time period, but I feel for what he’s going through and I’m really excited for when he comes back.”
(On whether there are minimum standards that MLS sets for its franchises in terms of attendance and investment…)
GARBER: “It’s less about minimum standards. It’s not a specific amount of money. Every market is different and every ownership group has different resources. AEG can spread it all around [with] 28,000 employees where Vergara doesn’t have that opportunity. But what we do, do is we work with all our clubs and understand what they’re spending, understand what resources they’re applying. And try to help them figure out decisions that they’re making are good decisions or whether not they should be different. The league is engaged in that process. I’ve seen across the twittersphere that the league should come in and do something [with Chivas USA]. Well, these are teams that are owned by individual investors, they’re governed by the league and what we can do is help them get better and try to work with them to understand the different challenges that they face. Listen, this is not the first team in Major League Soccer’s 18 years that we’ve had challenges with. They turn around. We had this conversation in Kansas City a number of years ago and [Sporting Kansas City] is one of the banner franchises in our league and I would hold it up to almost any professional soccer team in the world. There was time where we’ve had similar discussions like this so we’ll get this right.”