SPORTS LAW AT THE CROSSROADS

Sacramento’s MLS bid boosted by city’s financial buy-in

April 9 – It is almost make or break for Sacramento and its longstanding Major League Soccer aspirations this month, but the California club has received a timely boost from the city, with local government proposing a financial package to support the team. 

MLS commissioner Don Garber has laid out the league’s roadmap: the recent period of rapid expansion is to be followed by a conservative phase with the MLS just adding one more franchise to its portfolio in 2019. The league then plans to take an expansion break.

At the moment, Sacramento and St. Louis are frontrunners in the race for this year’s expansion spot. In April, the MLS will discuss expansion at a meeting in Los Angeles without taking a final decision.

Local authorities have now given Sacramento Republic FC, which plays in the second tier USL, major backing by proposing a range of financial support packages for a new stadium. Mayor Darrell Steinberg announced a $33 million package for the club, including fee waivers, tax rebates, advertising rights and infrastructure financing following negotiations with Ron Burkle, who is leading the drive for Sacramento to secure an MLS spot.

Burkle, a billionaire businessman from the private equity industry, has teamed up with Matt Alvarez, a Hollywood film producer and owner of the Pittsburgh Penguins of the National Hockey League, to bolster Sacramento’s MLS bid.  The club and the city brought in the pair two months ago after MLS officials had stated that the bid needed sound financial backing.

Sacramento has long aspired to join America’s topflight and the financial muscle of the Burkle-Alvarez duo might well push them over the finish line. On a visit to St. Louis Garber hinted that the city still needs to take a few steps. Sacramento’s proposals include a plan to build a new $252 million football-specific stadium, with the promise of private funding.

“This partnership with the city is a final and big step prior to the board meeting that shows all the work we have done and [what] we have been able to create,” said Republic’s president Ben Gumpert.

Contact the writer of this story, Samindra Kunti, at moc.l1556067256labto1556067256ofdlr1556067256owedi1556067256sni@o1556067256fni1556067256