Soccer in Orlando: Truth in Numbers (Part 2)

There are a lot of baseless claims being made by Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs and the Orlando City soccer team regarding the new stadium proposal. They seem to be willing to say whatever it will take to push through this corporate welfare gentrification project.

One thing we keep hearing is that soccer has some of the highest attendance figures in all professional sports. Which is nice. But again, a little misleading considering the sport isn’t profitable. In 2009, it was reported that only TWO teams in the MLS were profitable. Even now, only one-third of MLS teams make a profit. The league is hardly rolling in cash. The MLS league says the same thing every year, but the reality is the money isn’t there.

Revenue By Sport from CNNIn fact, last week CNN’s The Lead with Jake Tapper showed top revenue by professional sport. So with all the talk we’ve gotten from soccer team representatives or lobbyists, where is Major League Soccer? Nowhere to be found. In fact, MLS is only generating around $280 million a year across the whole league. Compare that to NFL’s $9.5 billion, MLB’s $7.5 billion, or the NBA’s $4 billion and it’s pathetic for a “professional” sport. Even NASCAR generates $4.1 billion a year. Part of the reason is MLS soccer can’t sell on TV.

TV ratings for MLS soccer keep getting worse year after year. Last year’s MLS Championship was lower than the third round of golf’s World Challenge on NBC (1.0) and lower than MLS Cup 2011, which got a 0.8 rating featuring the same two teams. Even the World Series of Poker re-runs get better TV ratings than the MLS. That’s a problem.

Our community stands to lose big time as well. Orlando will have to somehow find the money to pay for the operating costs to run and maintain another venue despite facing budget shortfalls consistently. Orlando has a long list of financial obligations and the city’s credit is maxed out. It is shocking that Orange County and Mayor Jacobs want to enable the reckless spending by the city of Orlando.

Without any real information or data, Mayor Jacobs, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and the soccer team also continue to spread misrepresentations about tourism and economic impact. It is a real shame they keep peddling these claims. There are countless examples in the real world that show sports stadiums do not lead to a real local economic impact. And of course, there’s the Detroit example, where the heavy investment in sports stadium did little despite hosting every big event and sport possible. Jacobs and her crew also say that the stadium will host other events and bring in money. But that’s not going to be true, either. Here’s a recent example from Tampa talking about how big events don’t generate the revenue that officials claim, and the article quotes about sports: Contrary to the National Football League’s claims, Porter concluded that the championship did not move the economic needle for its host cities. (Since then, more than 40 studies and papers by other economists have reached similar conclusions about the economic impact — or lack thereof — of the Olympics, the NCAA Final Four, World Cup soccer and the World Series.)”

If the Super Bowl isn’t moving the needle and study after study can prove that none of these sporting events can, then why do people like Jacobs and Dyer keep saying otherwise?

The truth is the numbers aren’t adding up for Major League Soccer in Orlando. Perhaps that is why Mayor Jacobs is finding it hard to add up the supermajority of votes she needs from the Board of County Commissioners.

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