Sports

Toronto FC makes some big money

By Phil Cottrell, Daily Observer

Phil Cottrell

Phil Cottrell

Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (MLSE) is finally opening up its fat wallet and making some huge signings for its soccer team, Toronto FC. MLSE own The Toronto Maple Leafs (NHL), Toronto Raptors (NBA), Toronto FC (MLS) and the Toronto Marlies (AHL). It also owns the Air Canada Centre, BMO Field and other prime real estate. It is said to be one of the wealthiest sports /business organizations in the world. This is not to be confused with the wealthiest sports teams. Those are incidentally: 1) Real Madrid, 2) Manchester United, 3) Barcelona, 4) New York Yankees, 5) Dallas Cowboys.

MLSE president and CEO is Tim Leiweke, the man who brought David Beckham to MLS (Major League Soccer) and in doing so raised the status of the league almost instantly. Now Beckham is a brand, one of the most well known sports figures in the world, a man who causes riots in China when he makes an appearance. So, it would really be impossible to duplicate such a monumental signing.

However, Toronto FC of MLS have come pretty close with some huge signings. They made a transfer agreement with the English Premier League Club, Tottenham Hotspur F.C. and signed English international forward Jermain Defoe as a Designated Player. A brilliant player and great goal scorer wherever he goes, Defoe will remain at Tottenham until Feb. 28 before joining Toronto FC ahead of the start of the 2014 season. Defoe, 31, is currently in his 16th season as a professional football player, and 11th with Tottenham Hotspur F.C. (Spurs). He has made a combined 362 appearances for Tottenham, scoring 142 goals. Although terms are not disclosed it is said that Defoe will make $6 to $7 million a year for the next five years. So, finally, the Club has put it's money where it mouth is.

Apparently Drake, the Canadian and international hip hop star has become a spokesmen of sorts for MLSE and was, it is said, quite instrumental in getting Defoe to agree to come to TFC. An interesting cross over between music and sports.

Of course, some snooty Brits and Euro snobs decry Defoe's move, not wanting to give an ounce of credence to MLS, which they ridiculously call a beer league. They snicker and make disparaging comments about how Defoe is heading to a dead end etc. They simply do not want to understand TFC's current issues, or how much MLS has progressed since the team entered the league. Additionally, they are unaware of the growing sentiment around the city that Toronto FC is finally being managed extremely competently. I long for the day when MLS teams give top English clubs a run for their money, and wipe the smirks of their faces.

Additionally, if the Defoe signing was not enough, TFC has also signed another designated player in American midfielder Michael Bradley to a contract in the five to six-year range at an annual salary in the neighborhood of $6.5 million. Bradley, who is in the prime of his career at 26 years of age, has fallen out of favor with his Italian first division side Roma this season, appearing in just 11 matches (five starts) and scoring one goal. He is currently in his second season with Roma after spending a year with Italian side Chievo and several more with Borussia Monchengladbach in the German first division. An excellent midfielder, Michael Bradley is also a kingpin and possibly the most important player for the US Men's National team and will play his part with them at the upcoming World Cup in Brazil where they will need all his skills as the US is a very difficult initial group. His father, incidentally, was once coach of the US Men's national team. Bradley is indeed another sensational signing for TFC .

Both Defoe and Bradley's contracts have resulted in future friendly matches with Tottenham and Roma at BMO field in Toronto, as well as a shared development program with the Italian club.

With the return of Toronto's native son Dwayne de Rosario, himself still a top player and rated sixth in all-time league scoring, the signing of Brazilian Gilberto, and now Jermain Defoe and Michael Bradley, as TFC goes into it's eighth year of existence, it may be finally putting together, potentially, a really top team, and one that could possibly put Toronto firmly on the sports map.

Certainly the club is doing the right things, as all of this adds up to spending in the area of close to $100 million. However, whatever the sport, a team of super stars still has to gel and play as a team. The stakes are very high here, as since its inception, TFC has yet to make the playoffs. Some, particularly the naysayers, may say it is financial suicide, as it is indeed a bucket load of money, or as somebody said, rather like telling your accountant that you are buying three Bentleys.

However, this is all very fantastic news to TFC's long suffering and amazingly loyal fans. And no doubt Maple Leaf Fans will be wondering if the same can be done for their team. However, the Toronto Maple Leafs, despite their record, have a waiting list for season ticket subscribers. Now if TFC really wanted to show its commitment to its fans, then they could do a one shot discount of season tickets...say a 30 per cent discount for season tickets holders who have purchased season tickets for the last three consecutive seasons, 40 per cent discount for those fans who have purchased season tickets for the last four consecutive seasons and a 50 per cent discount for any season ticket holder who has held season tickets for the last five consecutive years or more. However, that's pie in the sky and almost certainly would not happen. Nevertheless, as the club knows, the fans will come back once they see a winning team. TFC may be on the way to creating not only a superb team but additionally reinvigorating the atmosphere in BMO stadium to what it was in those first initial glory years of the franchise. Amazing news indeed.

And on the local level, Ottawa Fury FC make some more strong signings

Ottawa Fury FC of the North American Soccer league (NASL) announced the signing of Canadian National Under 23 defender Andrés Fresenga who has been a recent call up to the Canadian National Team. Fresenga has spent the last seven years playing in Uruguay, most recently with First Division side Racing Club de Montevideo. Also Fury FC announced Marcel DeBellis as the club's first goalkeeper signing. The former Benfica U19 goalkeeper joins the team after impressing at the open tryout in November.

Finally, and very recently, the club made it's fifth international signing with Ghanaian midfielder Hamza Elias joining the expansion NASL club. Fury FC continues to build its squad with some very impressive signings. It does seems that on paper a strong team is being assembled prior to Fury FC's inaugural season starting in the early spring.

Not a nice gesture

Real Madrid have launched an internal inquiry after winger Angel di María was seen to grab his crotch while being substituted in a game against Celta Vigo. "It was a natural gesture that any man does, and all the more so when he is running," reckoned Di María. Really? ...and in front of 80,000 people?

Remember, whatever your sport, to win the game is great, to play the game is greater, but to love the game is the greatest of all. And be part of the soccer fan base world wide, 3.5 billion and counting! Also remember...support local soccer!

If you have any comments on the beautiful game please contact me at cottrell@nrtco.net, or call 613-587-4856.


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