Loftus Versfeld Stadium

A novel "mortgage" system, one in which fans can buy their own piece of stadium real estate (their seats) over the course of a protracted term, just as they would a condominium, could change the way professional sports teams approach stadium financing. The program allows purchasers to avoid pesky ticket price raises by locking in their annual payments, provides needed financing for stadium projects, and guarantees the buyer ownership of his or her seat no matter the stadium or if the team relocated.

A Wall Street Journal (not that deep, I know, but this is incredibly interesting) piece outlines the concept; while it is only currently being utilized by American universities hoping to expand their college football stadiums, the story suggests that Tottenham Hotspur, a club desperately looking for financing options as they look to build a replacement for White Hart Lane, might be the first professional team to enact it.

The largest problem with selling seats in this manner for professional teams looking to finance building projects is sales; while the long term investment for passionate fans might make sense, it could be difficult to sell some or most of the most expensive seats. For that reason, the concept would be a pipe dream for American soccer clubs looking for alternative financing sources to build a stadium. The game, and the leagues involved, simply don't have the profile and demand for tickets that could make the "seats as condos" idea work.

  • Vancouver Whitecaps President Bob Lenarduzzi spoke during a fund-raiser for the University of Victoria yesterday, and in a preview of his speech from the Times-Colonist he touched on several interesting topics. Among them was the belief that college soccer in Canada has a role to play in the development of professional players, the commitment of the Whitecaps to starting a new USL-1 club in Victoria once the club moves to MLS, and the frustration over the sticky stadium situation that the club currently faces. Lenarduzzi's statements on the stadium don't sound too good, and he put the lack of movement squarely on the shoulders of the local government.

  • FIFA's top medical man wants referees and coaches to step up efforts to punish violent play, and says career-ending injuries have been on the rise over the past two years. With the stakes such as they are, Michel D'Hooghe believes coaches may be complicit in some of the horrific tackles that take place on the pitch. D'Hooghe is calling for a strict application of the rules, which would mean a spike in red cards given to players who tackle from behind or use their elbows illegally. The rules are the rules, and should be applied as their written, though the practical matter is that referees are hesitant to hand out ejection, especially early in matches. If D'Hooghe did get his way, the global soccer community would be forced to go through a period of painful adjustment (not to mention controversy and anger), but would certainly come out better for it on the other side.

  • The A-League, the Australian analog for Major League Soccer with its salary cap, Marquee Player rule and franchise system, is pulling back on plans to expand. Economic factors have delayed a Sydney ownership group's hopes to start a second club in that city, and the league will remain at ten teams for at least one more season. The A-League fascinates me because of its similarities to MLS, though the differences between the two leagues and the two countries in question are significant. Still, if MLS is able to continue expanding through the worst economy in recent memory while other leagues are holding, they must be doing something right. Now if MLS would just follow the Aussies' lead and completely exempt DP player salaries from the cap...

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