Q&A with MLS' Don Garber
Major League Soccer has just kicked off its 15th season as America's top-flight soccer league -- and its 12th with former NFL executive
Garber discussed a number of topics, including the new designated player rule, the World Cup, why he's working right now without a contract and
Our biggest marketing priority is to capitalize on the World Cup, both at the local level and league level, and working with our marketing partners and ESPN. And it's fair to say the continued management of the launch of MLSsoccer.com and getting more deeply engaged in the digital universe, connecting our fans to our Web site and to other applications that will come that will hopefully deliver value to them and create a business opportunity for us.
The Red Bulls have created a formula that I believe will be more successful than any formula that's existed in the past. I am cautiously optimistic that we're really going to have a terrific, well-connected, successful team finally in the New York metropolitan area. Our fans would be surprised how much they think about the game, how much they understand the game, how focused they are on the game first, from the type of stadium they built, to their grass surface, to how they're marketing and presenting themselves, to how they're training, to how they're connecting in the community. This could turn out to be a very good model not just for them but potentially for other teams.
There is no way any of our owners are thinking that they're looking to own a secondary professional sports league. They own NFL teams, NBA teams, baseball teams and hockey teams. They're not looking to own a secondary soccer league. They want to make this a primary, well-respected, dominant league. That's going to take careful planning, a focused strategy and time.
So all of the issues relate to one very simple technical glitch. It had been tested in Beta, it had worked, we had spent countless months with professional people managing this in concert with us to get it right. And unfortunately we suffered a catastrophic technical glitch. So everything from statistics to highlights to scores to the times being off, everything was related to that one single issue. The guy who created that program has been fired. My guess is he would probably have a difficult time getting a job doing the same thing for someone in our business again, because it has been so devastating to us and to our fans over the last couple weeks.
But it will get fixed. Now the data is being fed manually, which you can imagine is a massive undertaking involving hundreds of people. But I still believe in our approach. I am committed to the design. I don't want to just create another version of MLSnet.com. If we were going to do that, we would have stayed with BAM [the previous platform] and the system that we had. We provide our teams with an opportunity to have an open platform, so they now have been required to hire local staff, to hire local digital directors, to find information digitally and editorially. And when it works it will be a far better system than what we had, and I believe it will be a system that will work for our fans.
You can imagine how engaged I have been the last couple weeks. I'm terribly frustrated, embarrassed, angry, and can say only to our fans: I apologize for where we are today. Stick with us, because we're going to get it right, and it'll ultimately deliver more value than anything we've been able to deliver in the past.
I've read every fan blog. I've read all the comments. We are processing all the information that's coming in from the public and responding to it as candidly and as frequently as we can. I've read many comments asking why did we launch it if it wasn't ready? It was ready. It worked when we turned the switch on, and five minutes later if we turn the switch off we would have had no Web site for two weeks. There was no way to go back to the old one. We don't own it, we don't have that technology. Another company was our back office, and once we made the switch from the BAM platform it was over. And we started building months and months ago this system on our own. We had nothing to go back to. Now if we knew we'd be in this position now, would we have found some parallel process to manage? Of course. That's the lesson learned.