One day after he briefly touched on the curious state of Chivas USA during a pit stop in Seattle, MLS Commissioner Don Garber addressed the topic more in depth on Sunday in Los Angeles, telling the local media there that the league has begun to intervene to help the club improve its brand awareness in Southern California.
Garber’s comments came after Chivas USA drew a sparse crowd for the season opener on Saturday night, which ended in a 3-0 loss to the Columbus Crew.
“What I would encourage everyone to have is a bit of patience,” Garber said at halftime of the LA Galaxy’s 4-0 win over the Chicago Fire. “They have an idea, they have a plan. We’re hopeful that plan will be successfully executed. I think they need to do better in the execution.
“They need to put some real good resources on the administrative side, and get really focused,” he added. “The league has been working with them – one of our club services guys has been working with them to try and help them on the ticketing side, and help them understand some of the best practices going on with our other clubs.”
Garber said that although he had no objections to the club’s recent shift to more closely resemble a Mexican-American version of its big brother club in Guadalajara on the field, he intends for the league to play a more active role in ensuring the team is successful off the field as well, including larger crowds than the 7,121 fans who showed up on Saturday night.
“We’re going to be more focused to try and work with them and give them some resources internally to help them get better,” he said. “We’re going to spend more time with them so that they understand that operating a team with a difference is good, but they still need to understand this is a traditional US sports market. You need to sell tickets. You need to have a television deals and relationships. You need to have active sponsors who are going to promote and market your brand.
Garber also addressed the team’s lack of a local television deal and said that while he wasn’t necessarily concerned, it’s a requirement for all MLS teams to have a deal in place.
“They haven’t been able to do that yet, but they’re going to need to get that done,” he said.
Garber repeatedly preached for Chivas USA supporters to have patience in light of such dramatic recent changes – the club changed ownership last August into the hands of Chivas Guadalajara owner Jorge Vergara and his wife Angélica Fuentes, who brought in MLS coaching newcomer José Luis Sánchez Solá during the offseason – but admitted that the club’s situation is one that will be closely monitored by the league.
“Let’s give them some time,” the Commissioner said. “If we’re here in June or July and we’re having the same issues that we’re talking about right now, this might be a different conversation.”