Watching soccer at Yankees’ baseball stadium still looks pretty screwy

There have been soccer matches at the new Yankee Stadium before, but with NYC F.C. set to take the pitch there next spring, more soccer writers are starting to sit up and take notice. So it was that SB Nation watched yesterday’s Liverpool-Manchester City friendly and responded with a resounding ew:

Camera angles that can’t show near the width of the pitch are not good. You can’t see anyone’s runs and even simple 20-yard passes take the ball out of the screen. The camera angle is way too low to adequately show soccer.

And the background for the pitch is a bunch of big ads. Which are broken up by a unused baseball scoreboard. Which is then broken up by a bullpen. Which is then broken up by a batter’s eye.

On top of Yankee Stadium’s unsuitability for TV, it has a very, very narrow pitch and the grass laid over the infield is terrible, causing every ball over it to bounce high.

Now, it’s arguably more important how fans see the game from the actual seats than on TV, but that doesn’t seem so hot either. (Note: I haven’t been to a soccer match there yet myself, nor have I spoken with anyone who has. Commenters, that’s your cue.)

NYC F.C. is in a tough situation, because it desperately wants to be the “city” team in contrast to the New Jersey-based New York Red Bulls — “City” is literally its name, even — but there has been zero interest from the new New York city council leadership in throwing lots of city money, land, or tax breaks at a new soccer-only stadium, and NYC F.C.’s bazillionaire owner has shown zero interest in funding one completely out of his own pocket. Sheikh Mansour apparently decided it was worth an expansion fee of $100 million to get a foothold in the New York market (if for no other reason, to help promote the sale of Man City kits), and MLS decided it was worth putting up with a weird-ass seating chart in order to get a $100 million check. Which is all fine, just so long as nobody starts arguing that this makes it New York City’s problem that NYC F.C. fans have a funny view of the field. But nobody would ever do that, right?


20 comments on “Watching soccer at Yankees’ baseball stadium still looks pretty screwy

  1. Would Citi Field be any better (not that that’s an option, I understand), or is this just a side effect of using a baseball stadium for soccer?

    Also, those 70s multipurpose stadiums sure don’t seem so dumb now, do they?

  2. I guess they can use the first season or two’s attendence to gage how big a stadium they should build.

  3. The 70s multipurpose stadiums made multiple sports okay but none of them great. (Not that we knew any better.) Today purpose-built stadiums usually make their intended sport much better but any others not so great at all.

    This PROBABLY is an effect of the baseball stadium situation that would not have been much better at Citi Field.

    When Citi Field hosted soccer in 2011, it looked like this:

    http://goal.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/06/07/soccer-makes-its-debut-at-citi-field-with-more-to-come/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0

  4. Taking the cue, partially… Not Yankee stadium, but have been a Euro-team summer practice match/overpriced training session at a baseball stadium. And the viewing experience live is pretty poor compared to an SSS or even a football (American version) stadium.

    It will be interesting to see what attendance is like for NYCFC. I have friends who want to see even MLS level soccer in NY but can’t be bothered to deal with the hassle of getting out to Harrison. Wonder how much (or if) poor site lines will make them rethink that.

  5. From Brooklyn, Harrison is actually almost the same distance as the Bronx, especially if they ever expand that damn PATH train station so more than two people can go through the turnstiles at once. I agree that it’s a psychological distance, though (and a real distance if you’re in upper Manhattan). My guess is NYCFC will draw more casual fans at first, especially with some of the familiar names they’re bringing in (Villa, Lampard), but may have more trouble building a committed fan base once the curiosity effect wears off. Though having the Yankees’ marketing power will help them there.

  6. Kansas City’s MLS team played in a converted minor league baseball park for three miserable seasons, and it was just as awful as described here. Shoehorning a rectangle soccer pitch into a stadium designed around a baseball diamond is a terrible idea. I will admit that there’s a certain amount of schadenfreude in the idea that the proper NYC team, which the league brass have been absolutely coveting since ’96, has to play in the country’s worst facility.

  7. I don’t think Mansour was trying to get a foothold in the NewYork market in buying into MLS. The money from that is peanuts compared to the amount that can be saved in Financial Fair Play penalties by using NYCFC to cook Man City’s books with a bunch of fake revenue. Check out this for the details: http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/media/2014/06/8546453/how-big-will-nycfc-be

  8. Have seen soccer at the former Skydome. It’s not so much the footprint of the pitch that doesn’t work there, it’s the sightline angles. Facilities built for football or soccer tend to have steeper inclines to the first tier of seats than baseball (primarily) stadia do. So fans are much further away from the action than they are used to being.

    While the era of multi purpose stadia may be over, if you are willing to accept more foul territory on the infield side of a baseball facility, it can still work for other sports. It will never be as good as a dedicated facility though. Given the costs involved in moveable seating, a single multipurpose facility could actually end up costing more than a 45k baseball stadium and a 20k soccer facility, for example.

  9. Pedro:

    I wouldn’t be too sure that Man City can pull that off. I agree that they’ll probably try, but FFP rules were written with that sort of shenanigan in mind… so it might not be as easy as purchasing a ‘dumping ground club’ to park your unwanted contracts at. Given MLS’ salary restrictions, it may be doubly hard to achieve that goal within this league’s structure.

    I agree that clubs will try anything to skirt FFP, but they are dealing with an organization full of people who know just how they think… The bigger question for me is will UEFA have the stones to hit the big clubs hard when they do break the rules…

  10. Neil: It’s not the physical distance but the pain-in-the-ass-messed of the PATH and the time it takes. I have friends who had NYRB season tickets but gave them up simply because getting to and from was too time consuming. Those same guys have pretty much said they’ll probably latch on the NYCFC if they decided to get back in to MLS in anything more than a passing interest (they are EPL fans first and, as they get a little older, have less disposable time for sports). I realize this is anecdotal but it’s something I’ve heard from several soccer fans I know in NYC.

    John and Pedro: I figured Citeh would use NYCFC (and the club they bought in the Aussie A-League) the same way that Chelsea is using Vitesse. Accumulate a bunch of cheap midfielders (salary-wise), see which ones develop, then sell them for a profit or bring them into the first team at MCFC (although I see less of the latter happening)

  11. Oh, I know all too well what a pain in the ass it is to take the PATH back from Harrison. (Taking the PATH *to* Harrison is actually pretty easy.) But one of the things that New Jersey promised the Red Bulls as part of the stadium deal was a $250 million upgrade to the Harrison PATH station, which is supposed to be partly opened in the next year or two:

    http://www.panynj.gov/path/harrisonredevelopment.html

    (Admittedly, that the “Progress” page on that site has had no updates in the last two years isn’t promising.)

    My family goes to at least a couple of MLS games a year, and we’ll probably check out NYCFC. But even knocking half an hour to an hour off the total commute doesn’t seem like it’d make up for a crappy game experience.

  12. Michael and John:
    You both reference player contracts concerning FFP evasions, but that’s not how MCFC is said to be doing it’s funny business–

    “The FFP issue loomed when City Football Group swooped in last April and bought an 80 percent share in NYCFC, paying $80 million to own a large majority stake in the team. Their partners, the New York Yankees, bought the other 20 percent. And conveniently, MCFC managed to sell, for approximately £24 million ($37.5 million), intellectual property rights to NYCFC and another sister club in Australia, all owned by City Football Group. That is to say, they sold it to themselves.”

    So what intellectual property did NYCFC pay all those millions for? Amongst other things, how to build a training facility. Needless to say, MCFC insights are doing them any good..

  13. Pedro: So how does that help them get around FFP rules, exactly? I thought FFP just limited player payroll and club debt, neither of which should be affected by Man City shuffling money among its various pockets. Or are you implying that Man City is offshoring their debt to NYCFC?

  14. Neil:

    FFP includes provisions surrounding club’s commercial sponsorships and the like as well. Essentially it is an attempt to account for “all” sources of club revenue, and then tie that club’s spending to it’s all-in revenues (on a three year rolling average).

    If a club that is owned by a person that also controls an airline (just as an example…), and that airline enters into a sponsorship agreement with the club that is ‘several times’ the FMV of that club’s expected sponsorship revenue, FFP is supposed to discount any unsupportable portion of that club’s sponsorship revenue. Exactly how the rules will be applied and exactly how they will determine what FMV is for a given club I don’t know… but that’s how it is supposed to work.

    One of the earliest questions I asked about FFP was similar to what Pedro asked above… what’s to stop a major club buying a tiny one in a non-UEFA league and dumping any unwanted contracts there (or, more likely, selling them at a huge profit to the obscure club, then using that “revenue” to fund even more purchases).

    I was assured that FFP had considered that (and many other) possible tactics, and that these would be considered “non-market” transactions and the financials adjusted accordingly for FFP accounting purposes.

  15. So essentially Man City would be siphoning off funds from NYCFC — either by assigning payroll expenses there or by getting paid by them for nonexistent services — and using that to pad their EPL budget?

  16. Neil – yes, though I would describe it creating revenue for ManCity’s books to offset losses it would be penalized for by funneling money thru NYCFC by vastly overpaying ManCity for an asset (like paying $20M for a binder filled with info that tells you how to scout players)

  17. That’s the general idea, yes. European clubs have a long history of ‘feeder’ relationships with smaller clubs, whereby they loan players out to their affiliate to get playing time while paying for the privilege of doing so (through wages, and often fees as well)… much like the affiliated minor league baseball system.

    UEFAs rules take that into consideration, of course, but are also supposed to go much further… addressing alleged “off book” transactions and the like. Who knows if they will be effective at this, but they are at least making an attempt to address it.

  18. …and sometimes it’s not just intellectual property that is loaned…

    www.bbc.com/sport/0/football/28616101

  19. Human Rights Watch reports on how Sheikh Mansour uses football clubs to gloss over his truly despicable human rights record as Deputy Prime Minister (his brother’s the big cheese)
    http://www.theguardian.com/football/2013/jul/30/manchester-city-human-rights-accusations

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