Friday, December 20, 2013

Ownership Owning Up

Sports are big business in today's world, and that should shock absolutely no one. Owners mean more than they ever have before in the sports sphere, and with the money that's on the line why shouldn't they take a more vested interest in their major property? However, recent events in two sports have some wondering what the proper role of owners/chairmen are, and whether they need to face the music after they act. Spoiler: they should.

The biggest stories in the NFL right now are centered in Dallas and Washington... for the wrong reasons. We're not talking about the resurgence of the Miami Dolphins, or the dominance of the Seattle Seahawks, but the gong shows run by Jerry Jones and Dan Snyder. When it comes to model franchises in the NFL, you would think of the Steelers, Patriots, Packers, and even the Giants. Do you ever hear a peep from their owners, or do they ever become the focus of a story? No. But in the two aforementioned cities? You hear plenty about Snyder and Jones. That's not a good thing. None of those two owners are often held accountable for what their teams do, especially in Dallas where the owner is also the GM. But even in DC, Dan Snyder sometimes puts his hand into the cookie jar, and then it gets shut with his hand still in it. Snyder does not hold press conferences to answer for what he may or may not be doing, and instead it's his coach and prized QB put in the crosshairs. These two franchises are two glory ones for the NFL, and when they do better, the league does better (no matter what people in New York and Philadelphia tell you). Everyone but the league does well when these teams are circus acts as they are now. When Skip Bayless gets more play than Jerry Jones talking about the Cowboys mess, there's a big problem. So that's the NFL's ownership accountability... but what about this other sport?

The Premier League's managerial carousel spins at such a violent pace, that even people on the periphery start suffering from vertigo. In the last week, two managers have been sacked, and a 3rd is on the verge. Are these all "clubs in crisis"? Probably not. But ridiculously quick managerial turnover makes it seem as such, which is disturbing. In the Midlands, West Brom sacked Steve Clarke after a small losing streak, despite finishing 8th last season and winning at Old Trafford and nearly doing so at Stamford Bridge this season. Yes they are two points above the drop zone at present, but Clarke had done a fantastic job with what he'd been given based on limited transfer spending. And we've heard nothing from the club chairman on why this course of action had been taken, especially considering he'd been given gardening leave (meaning he can't interview for any other job). In North London, Spurs are under pressure based on their transfer spending (even though their net spend is zero), and after 3 humiliating losses the board and chairman Daniel Levy couldn't take any more. You could go through all the records that Andre Villas-Boas had broken for the club, but that wasn't enough to keep him at the club. Was it that he lost the dressing room? Was it his relationship with the chairmen had gone to hell? Who knows, but pieces written in the Guardian and the Daily Telegraph will probably not shed any light on the situation. The only way we'll find out what really went on is if Daniel Levy speaks about what he did, and there's no indication that he will. And recently stories have come out about Cardiff manager Malky Mackay being forced to resign or be sacked by owner Vincent Tan for... no adequately explained reason. So what's the point of tying all of these disparate examples together?

Money certainly plays a role in all of these messes, especially in the soccer examples, but ownership failing to take accountability for their actions in the function of their clubs is part of a disturbing trend. Distant ownership is not always a bad thing, see the example of Jerry Reinsdorf and the dynasty Chicago Bulls of the 1990's for proof positive of that. But when that team broke up, Reinsdorf didn't stand up to the media for why he didn't do something to keep them together, since it seemed that the break up happened too easily and too quickly. These five examples of owners gone AWOL from facing the music should raise alarms as to why this is continuing to happen, especially in soccer. These chairmen never have to respond to the criticism they get from all sides for lack of transfer spending to sacking managers for almost no adequately explained reason, and Jones and Snyder don't ever face the media to explain why their teams are sideshows. The best owners and chairmen in sports are ones that are not visible and don't make themselves bigger than the team, and here the men at the top have done just the opposite.

The call from this keyboard is to simply answer to why the actions that were taken were taken, and not just to stand silent and let the bus roll over everyone else. Fans continue to get frustrated with the way their loyalty and cash have been taken advantage of by ownership that don't treat their teams with respect, instead treating them like play toys. Taking a step in answering the call early and explaining their actions is a good first step in reversing the tide of negative press they all get. 

Fans deserve better than what they get most of the time. Because the money that these owners need to continue to run their teams will soon dry up without the support from the people who shouldn't have stick through their clubs being circus acts.

When owners don't own up, fans are left to wonder why. And type out columns like this to explain why. 

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