Free Market Farce
There has been a lot of talk about this new group. Maybe, too much talk.
Of course by now you’ve likely heard all about the Foundry and their plans for a potential MLS team in a midtown stadium. The sudden emergence of this new group has caused some to look on the MLS2STL group with some doubt. There have been questions as to why we haven’t heard from MLS2STL recently and which of these two plans is actually better for the city.
Since I’m not an urban planner, civic engineer, real estate mogul, or politician I can’t really give a thoughtful critique of the Foundry’s plans. I can tell you why these two groups ultimately cannot co-exist.
One of the areas in which the Foundry is being praised is for creating a sense of competition. It is the idea that if MLS2STL recognizes there is a potential threat to their bid, they will improve their own plans in order to compete. This is essentially the entire basis of the free market and sounds ideal. The problem is we are not talking about a free market.
There are potentially two products trying to convince one person (MLS) to buy them. And in the end it will be MLS, not us, who will make the decision. And once the decision is made, that’s it. Game over. In a free market both products would exist and the market would support one and the other would fail. But this is not a free market. Whatever MLS chooses is it. There will be no other choice for the market to pick.
This difference matters. In a free market, MLS2STL and the Foundry would be trying to create a team that will be best supported by the market it exists in. So in essence they would be fighting to create the team most liked by the fans. However, in bidding for a MLS franchise it’s not us that they’re trying to woo, but rather it’s Don Garber and the rest of MLS. So the competition will force them to be more acceptable to MLS, not the fans.
There will almost certainly be some kind of public money whether through direct funding or tax breaks. In an ideal world this would come to a public vote. But this still isn’t a free market choosing between two viable options. When I shop for shoes I pick the pair that I want. If enough other people select that brand they succeed. If not, they fail. That’s free market. What we’re talking about here is a shoe store that picks which brand it likes. Then everyone gets to vote on whether or not to carry that brand. It doesn’t matter if they’ll ever buy that shoe--they still get to influence the decision. So as involved as it may make us feel, it’s not ultimately about letting the fans decide.
So this is essentially the opposite of what the Foundry are claiming to be all about. They praise the idea of being about the city of St Louis and being focused on the fans. But what have they done thus far to support those claims? They’ve held a couple meetings where they told people their plans. That’s it. They’ve not actually done anything to back it up.
This seems eerily reminiscent of a marketing ploy illustrated to great effect on Mad Men. Don Draper pitches that Lucky Strikes market their cigarettes as toasted. This will make the consumers think that only Lucky Strikes are toasted when in fact this is an essential element of making cigarettes and all the brand do it. But by emphasizing it they are giving the impression of being special.
Similarly the Foundry are hyping up their fan-friendliness to create the impression that MLS2STL are just corporate suits looking to make a buck. But while the Foundry have done nothing to show their commitment to the fans, Dave Kavanaugh has spent millions creating Saint Louis FC, building Scott Gallagher into one of the top youth programs in the country, and has fostered relationship with the fans and local businesses that will surely continue.
The question that still lurks for many people is that we haven’t heard more from MLS2STL. And the answer is because it’s not up to us. They could show off pretty pictures and make us all kinds of promises, but in the end it is not the people of St Louis who will decide. MLS2STL have been talking plenty, but it’s to the people who will actually make the decisions.
In the end though, if you look at all the factors and still like what the Foundry are doing, then that’s fine. That’s your choice. But remember that in this decision, your vote really doesn’t matter. But if what you care most about it soccer in St Louis then keep showing up to Saint Louis FC games. Keep supporting St Louis soccer at every level. And whatever happens love your club.