Vincent Safuto’s Weblog

Notes and observations

Major League Football’s field of dreams is just crazy

I have always heard that when you go to the movies, you should suspend disbelief. Sometimes you just need to get away from it all, and I have found that movies like “Interstellar” were great escapes. Maybe the physics wasn’t exactly right, but hey, it was a story. I haven’t seen “Jurassic World” yet, but plan on doing so. I don’t expect exactitude, just a rollicking good time.

But when local governments are spending taxpayer dollars on local businesses, you have to have both feet planted firmly on the ground, and evaluate whether the things that are being promised in exchange for that dough are real or just jawbone.

I see darkened crotches in the pants of a lot of our local economic development officials over this “thing” called “Major League Football.”

I’ve commented on it before, and noted that Manatee County’s commissioners have pledged $147,000 to the organization to – as the Sarasota Herald-Tribune noted on June 16 – “…relocate to Southwest Florida and create 49 jobs at its corporate headquarters within the next five years.”

Commenters at the bottom of the story – unusually – had nothing to say about Benghazi or Obamacare, but one astute observer noted as I did that this was “From the city that brought you one wall of a hockey arena and a suspect movie production studio. Strike 3.”

Not wanting to be left out, the H-T said, “Bradenton and Sarasota sports commissions have since committed a combined $35,000 in tourist tax dollars to offset Major League Football’s rent in its inaugural season — the company will chip in $10,000 for the use of Premier Sports Campus next spring from Feb. 15 to March 20.”

The reason for this is that, and I know this sounds hard to believe, next year at Premier Sports Campus in Lakewood Ranch, there will be a spring training camp for 1,000 players and coaches.

Running on empty
If Major League Football was a running back prospect, he’d be cut after the 50-yard dash. As of Jan. 31, again according to the H-T, the company “has $5,000 in cash, a working deficit of $1 million and thousands in unpaid income taxes to the state of Delaware.”

Wow. I’m really worried that I might have been wrong about this outfit.

Seriously, folks, based on past stories, does anyone really believe that there is a horde of investors out there waiting to lose money on this?

League executive vice president Frank Murtha claims that this is all part of some grand plan. “We’re not just winging it,” he told the Herald-Tribune.

Well, sheeze, with $5,000 in cash, you can buy a lot of Playstations and copies of “Madden 15,” and there’s your league.

The history of Major League Football makes you wonder, as the H-T drops names that have some associations with the NFL, as if that makes them credible:

“Last December, MLF emerged as a publicly traded company with a plan to launch a spring football league in cities without National Football League or Major League Baseball teams. The company has since announced “tentative” teams in Orlando; Little Rock, Arkansas; Norfolk, Virginia; Birmingham, Alabama; Oklahoma City and Eugene, Oregon. The company has several former NFL players behind it, including Ivory Sully, formerly of the Los Angeles Rams, and Wesley Chandler, the former Gator who played for the New Orleans Saints, the San Diego Chargers and the San Francisco 49ers. CEO Jerry Vainisi is the former vice president of the Chicago Bears and led football operations for the World League of American Football, later known as NFL Europe. That league disbanded in 2007.”

The deluded Bradenton EDC

The head of the Bradenton Economic Development Corporation, Sharon Hillstrom, is still as deluded as ever, insisting that any corporate headquarters is good. So I guess if the company is busted and incapable of doing anything, that’s as good as there not being a company there.

“Any time you can land a corporate headquarters, that’s great,” Hillstrom, the Bradenton EDC president, said. “Typically that’s going to be positions that have a higher wage. And a company gives us that much more credibility as a viable location for sports performance events.”

Unless, of course, the company never pays promised wages. I doubt that $5,000 will last long.

But not to worry.

“At a press conference held earlier this month, a finance officer with MLF told the Herald-Tribune that it would take roughly $100 million to cover the costs of a league that aims to fill a gap in professional football by playing in the spring and summer seasons. Reached Monday, Murtha discredited that number, but declined to provide a more realistic figure. Before MLF announced that it would move to Lakewood Ranch, the company filed paperwork that states that it has raised $470,000 out of a planned $3 million.”

Oh, OK.

“When it came to picking a headquarters, MLF reportedly looked at setting up shop in Daytona, on Florida’s east coast, and in San Antonio, Texas, and Casa Grande, Arizona. The Premier Sports Campus, as well as the incentive package from Manatee County, helped officials decide on Lakewood Ranch, Murtha said.”

So in other words, the other places weren’t big enough suckers for their pitch. They found just what they were looking for here. Lovely.

And, of course, just as the Florida Marine Raiders insisted they would do well in Lakeland, Murtha claims Major League Football will do well here.

“Murtha said that open tryouts for Major League Football will be held this summer, when the company expects to announce the remaining cities in the league. What fuels his confidence is the idea that Major League Football can help the NFL by becoming a development league, providing options for talented players who are cut from the NFL or looking to make it there. He said Monday that he expected recruiting players to be ‘easy,’ since there is a ‘surplus of good players and the lack of (alternative) places to play.’ [Especially since the X-League seems to be falling apart.] He maintains that his company will not be like other sports leagues — such as the United Football League, which was unable to attract enough fans to stay in business after four fall seasons.
As for continuing to secure funds for coaches and players’ salaries, team expenses and other costs — that may rely on the public’s interest in the new league.
‘We have the ability to raise funds in the public market at the appropriate time,’ Murtha said. ‘The bulk of our expenses don’t begin until next spring.’”
I refuse to suspend disbelief when it comes to this.

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June 18, 2015 - Posted by | Life lessons, The business of sports | , , , ,

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