Imagine the scene on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.
Shouting and panic, white papers being waved in the air, frantic conversations into cellphones and one lone trader desperately trying to discover the route of the pandemonium.
“What’s the Pwanic?”
“It’s Mwoyes,” says the Wolf of Wall Street, “he’s gahn.”
“Omg get me a cwarfee. Dis is BIG!’
A caricature yes, but barely more ludicrous than the notion that the exit of the Manchester United manager was a big deal on the NYSE, or New York, or indeed anywhere in America.
If the media of Britain want to make this a lead NEWS story let them – the appetite was indeed substantial in England and at least this was fact rather that tiresome speculation and invention. But don’t pretend the world moved off it’s axis. And in America it was particularly small fry
I was there at the time and I can tell you that the interest was in NBA and NHL play-offs not Premier League manager-offs. Unsurprisingly. A reality check is needed when it comes to English football and America but we’ve reached an interesting stage.
Significant progress has been made, a tribute largely to the incredible Premier League brand than can bring in over eight billion dollars in overseas TV rights. But becoming part of the fabric of American sport consumption is not an overnight deal.
It could be argued that the last few years have been the most important chapter in the relationship between the USA and the country that first developed football.
Including the Glazers at United, roughly a third of England’s Premier League clubs are owned by Americans, a statistic I still find remarkable. I spoke to Shahid Khan at the start of the season to ask one of the world’s richest men why he bought Fulham, currently struggling every bit as much as his Jacksonville Jaguars NFL team.
He talked of the tie-in between the teams, the importance of London, the excellence of the Premier League, the charm of Fulham, but it still doesn’t explain fully what he gets from it. Nor Randy Lerner at Villa, or Ellis Short of Sunderland. I see what’s in it for Huw Jenkins of Swansea and indeed the Abu Dhabi-based controllers of Manchester City. But harder to put your finger on an American businessman’s need to own and run a loss-making organisation, an English football club.
City of course, are expanding in the other direction. New York City FC will arrive next year and that’s going to be a litmus test for the real appetite for the world’s game. (In a part of the States already served by New York Red Bulls)
Then there’s Beckham, the truly global sports brand. and his new Miami franchise. After building a fan base in the country during his time at LA Galaxy, Beckham and his entourage expect success. He certainly has a strong track record in business (if not persuading FIFA to miraculously give England the 2018 World Cup or Stuart Pearce to play him in the London Olympics).
Currently the Premier League is prominent enough in the States. Whether it’s scheduling of many live games, the big advertising campaign on the distinctive New York taxis or even English broadcasters making their mark for networks such as ex-BBC pair Arlo White and Rebecca Lowe (former colleagues who are talented, nice people by the way).
The MLS continues to expand and increase its popularity in a crowded sports market. By 2017 there will be 22 teams, with nine new franchises being created since 2005. And for the first few weeks of the new season attendances were up on last year. In theory the popularity of the Premier League has not taken away from the growth of MLS. There is room for both to succeed.
The national team continues to be underrated as they prepare for their seventh consecutive World Cup. Interesting that most people were surprised they managed a draw against England in their opening game South Africa 2010. Not sure what football reasons that was based on looking at how the teams were actually performing at the time.
And the news that the USA will stage the 100-year centenary of Copa America is quite a coup, a consolation for the 2022 World Cup bid failure. With CONCACAF teams included it promises to be a memorable occasion for the oldest of the international/continental tournaments.
So there is plenty of evidence of the continued rise of the men’s game in America (and the women’s game is a phenomenon of participation). But job done for English football? Not yet.
Less than a million people watched NBC’s live coverage of Liverpool v Chelsea, far from disastrous but an important dose of reality for a game so pivotal to the title race.
And anecdotally? Make of this what you will. In over two weeks in Florida I spent much time amongst tens of thousands at tourists attraction and parks, most of us dressed in casual wear including some hideous football shirt fashion ‘no-nos’ and indeed American sport fashion atrocities.
Yet I didn’t see one Manchester United shirt. Not one. The handful of Chelsea and Liverpool shirts I saw, going by the accents of their owners, were tourists not Americans.
There were many Barcelona shirts, about ten times more than every other shirt put together. Some Real Madrid. A fair amount of Brazil and Argentina kit on display. Of course there is a Latin American presence in Florida, and tourists from South America. But ‘say what you see’ as Roy Walker used to say on the TV show Catchphrase.
Maybe one day there will be as many United shirts as Mickey Mouses in Orlando. But right now the departure of Scotsman Moyes departure ‘Dis’nae’ matter to Americans, despite what some fantasists would have you believe.
Lee Wellings is the Sports Correspondent for Al Jazeera English based in London. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Lee on twitter @LeeW_Sport