Archivos en la Categoría: Dennis Justice
The following article “Leadership Not Followship” written by Dennis Justice is the sole opinion of the author. Socka Zone and The Alvarez-Galloso News Hour are not responsible for the opinions expressed by the author of this article.
“Leadership Not Followship” by Dennis Justice [22-July-2011]
“Remember that the
President of the United States Soccer Federation
is the VOICE of the American soccer fan.”—Dennis Justice
“To take the moral high ground is fine, unless you’re standing in quicksand.”—Sunil Gulati, USSF and New England Revolution President, on why he voted for Sepp Blatter for FIFA President instead of abstaining.
The following are questions given to me by Roberto Alvarez-Galloso, who writes for The Premier League Insider: http://thepremierleagueinsider.com/
1. What is inherently wrong with US Soccer and why is there a need for radical change?
Dennis Justice: In 2004, I went to an Election Night party supporting the Republicans. I met a British gentleman who told me about the challenges of American soccer. He said that around the world, soccer is the “poor kids’ game,” and in America, it’s the “rich kids’ game.” (Remember this was a Republican group!) Although I never got his name or even saw him again, it helped change my perspective.
It seems the United States Soccer Federation acts as though they would rather host the World Cup than win it.
It seems that the top professional league, Major League Soccer, seems to marginalize America’s soccer potential for selfish reasons, having a MLS team executive, Sunil Gulati, running the USSF, which seems to many a complete conflict of interest, which would not acceptable in any major professional league in this country or any serious football association globally.
It seems we do everything opposite what the rest of the world does, yet we complain about not getting to host the 2022 World Cup.
We act like if we don’t have perfectly manicured soccer pitches for eight year old kids, at great taxpayer expense, those kids won’t develop.
We focus on indoor soccer and the physicality and luck associated with hockey walls, rather than futsal in every recreation center and indoor basketball court in America, which teaches creativity naturally, forcing players to develop dribbling and passing skills without the wall as a crutch, and as a way to reach out to minorities, already priced out by expensive summer camps and travelling teams.
Read “Bend it like Janiah” and see how Philadelphia, a city that is 43% African-American, had only one of 556 girls soccer teams comprised of mostly African-Americans. Did you see much “diversity” on our last Women’s World Cup squad? That explains in a nutshell what is really wrong with American soccer.
We have pathetic attendance at high school soccer matches, which has gone on for decades, and our college program is playing at the wrong time of year. Don’t forget taxpayers are already paying for those schools. We just don’t utilize them to our advantage since we’re diverting too many kids to travelling teams. No wonder many kids who start playing soccer end up playing football and basketball.
Ultimately, there is a “trained-flea mentality” with American soccer, a mentality that we should be lucky for what we have, that winning major tournaments is just too hard, being close is acceptable (and “close” is a moving target), and that we shouldn’t dare to adapt to get better.
This mentality is unacceptable to me and a lot of American sports fans who are asked to support an organization that protects the status quo.
We do not need marginal change, or promises to “study” change, or even a couple of programs here and there on top of what we’re doing. We don’t need “I hear you, but…” and other defensive excuses.
We need to ask ourselves how we would run our soccer program as though we started from scratch.
Our women’s national team lost to a country whose top league is semi-professional, although interestingly has promotion and relegation. Qatar and South Africa has promotion and relegation, too. But American soccer fans are told from MLS to think that “the infrastructure is not there yet” for a similar system here.
MLS will have you think that the NASL is the sole reason for their “single-entity” nonsense, restricting player movement like Curt Flood didn’t exist. What they do not tell you is the real history of professional leagues with over 400 teams folding over the last 100 years in America, all closed leagues: http://soccerreform.us/blog/?p=553
We are not a developing nation. We are the United States of America. We need to stop being the rebellious teenager in the soccer community, and join the adult football world.
2. What are the radical changes that are needed for US Soccer?
Dennis Justice: For starters, we will implement promotion and relegation in both men’s and women’s soccer, with some of the details mentioned below.
The United States Soccer Federation, not Major League Soccer, decides if MLS has promotion and relegation, and even if MLS exists.
3. You are running as a citizen-candidate for President of the USSF [United States Soccer Federation]. There are people who favor Jurgen Klinsmann and Franz Beckenbauer for President or Coach. What would you do that would be different from Klinsmann and Beckenbauer?
Dennis Justice: Frankly, if either won, and if they were doing what is needed to totally change how we run American soccer to make it the “poor kids’ game,” I would be ecstatic.
I believe my background in sports management, and my degree in that field (and the Masters degree in Sports Administration I will earn in 2012), is a start. I also have written on sports business issues for Our Sports Central, Bleacher Report, and other places for years. I always look at things through the prism of infrastructure. I also currently am working on a project called the United Rugby League, which is a proposed 11-a-side rugby league competition that has rules that fit American football fields.
The most important thing I offer is a vision, and detail reforms needed not just for the men’s team, but throughout all of American soccer. I don’t look at “consensus at all costs” as a virtue. I look at doing the right thing at all costs as a virtue. I believe one must learn to adapt to survive, then to thrive.
And frankly, would people rather have me run the USSF and let Klinsmann coach the men’s national team, or let Klinsmann run the USSF and let me coach the men’s national team?
Let’s stick with our skill sets. Klinsmann is an example of someone who knows how to turn around national programs. Not saying he’s the only candidate I’d consider if I was elected, I think every male and female coach of quality should make the case as to why their direction to change American soccer is best.
4. What would you do if you are elected President of the USSF?
Besides pinch myself to see if I was dreaming?
I would seek immediately to implement “Project 2030.” Remember “Project 2010?” We were supposed to be “contenders” for the World Cup by then. How did that turn out? If you listen to politicians and certain “fanboys,” “contend” could mean anything. I think winning the Confederations Cup (instead of choking a two-goal lead in the final) or making the semifinals in the World Cup (which we had a very real chance to do had we beaten Ghana) would count as “contend” to me. But Cuba technically “contended” since they were in the first stage of World Cup qualifying.
Well, let’s get rid of “wiggle words.”
The objective of Project 2030 is very simple: WIN the men’s World Cup by 2030. Clarity helps focus on what is really needed. As Patton once said, “pressure makes diamonds.” Programs or people that do not get us closer to achieving that goal will be released.
I would de-emphasize indoor soccer and emphasize futsal very heavily, to recruit minorities into the sport in the least expensive way possible.
I would tell high school coaches that they are responsible for middle school and elementary school development, like high school football, where the head coach directly or tacitly runs the middle and elementary programs. Those parents need to support the high school program just like “football moms” and “football dads” do for high school football. As such, they should be renting out public fields for summer camps, not private groups. Larger cities with professional teams should use academies working with the high school teams in a network.
I would petition all high school athletic associations to play all high school soccer in the spring, and petition the NCAA to move all college soccer to the Spring and Summer, promoting it like college baseball does. Colleges also can be useful in Physical Education schools with courses that teach future high school coaches how to coach soccer.
THE JUSTICE PLAN:
PROMOTION AND RELEGATION FOR AMERICAN SOCCER. FINALLY.
After over 100-plus years of professional soccer leagues and 400+ failed teams, all closed, it’s time to join the adult football world. http://soccerreform.us/blog/?p=553
I would use the USSF’s power to sanction leagues to force promotion and relegation on all professional leagues, for men and women, and to dictate various specific terms to make sure they start off the right way. Players simply must in a system with superclubs for American soccer to grow. They must understand the constant and variable pressures that promotion and relegation
There is a sports enterprise with promotion and relegation occurring every day in American sports right now. It is a two BILLION DOLLAR a year industry. It does not need venues paid for by taxpayers. In fact, the taxpayers have to give permission for that industry to exist.
It’s greyhound racing. http://www.gra-america.org/the_sport/tracks.php
In greyhound racing, dogs that win can get promoted until they are in “A” class. Dogs that do not do well for a few races may get demoted to a lower class, or if they are in the lowest class they are retired (and hopefully adopted). http://www.gra-america.org/the_sport/at_the_track/gradingsystem.html
I’m not writing this to support greyhound racing. I’m just asking if other countries can have promotion and relegation, and we have greyhound racing with promotion and relegation, why can’t we do it in the greatest country on earth for our top soccer league. It’s because MLS doesn’t want it.
Well, again, MLS doesn’t decide that, the USSF does. Makes it easy to understand why MLS made sure Sunil Gulati is the USSF boss and he also runs a MLS team, doesn’t it?
Well, this will change when I’m President.
It will not be a complete pure system of promotion and relegation but a compromise plan: Two tiers in the “major” markets, and two or more tiers in the “minor” markets. No need to make smaller cities worry about having to build large stadiums on short notice, when they are better off in a separate system but also competing for a national championship. If Qatar can have two tiers of 12 teams each, what is being proposed here is very workable.
I would seek to rebrand…or replace…Major League Soccer with the American Premier League.
I would seek to rebrand…or replace…the United States Soccer Federation with the United States Football Association, or United States FA.
To gain sanctioning, the leagues in the “major” markets would have to accept the new realities of American soccer’s maturity (part of “The Justice Plan”):
a. The top trophy to gain is the United States Open Cup. (Lamar Hunt’s name will be removed from the Cup and the event. No person is bigger than the sport.) THAT champion is the team that should visit the White House to meet the President (not the MLS Champion), as it’s the oldest and most important tournament in America, and it will highlight the American dream of any professional team trying to win the Open Cup. They also win a CONCACAF Champions League spot.
b. The new American Premier League will have 16 teams starting out, all independent ownership groups with no “single entity” controlling player movement. The season can be 30 games from late February to August, to not interfere with American football, starting in southern cities and working up north until Spring arrives to minimize cold weather.
c. The APL will start in 2019, plenty of time for MLS teams to adjust and prepare. They will still have the head start, every advantage over new teams, and five years’ warning. Promotion and relegation should not start the same year as a men’s World Cup or I’d start it in 2018.
d. Canadian soccer development…is not the responsibility of American soccer. Not with our CONCACAF Champions League spots on the line. Canadian teams may want to take that time to develop a new promotion and relegation system of their own. They can always schedule exhibitions with American teams, and of course they have CONCACAF Champions League, too.
e. There will be new pay factors which virtually assures top American players are encouraged to play in the APL, not go to Europe and hope to play, which hinders our national team development. The players’ union will have to be on board with an extension of the current CBA until 2018 and a new one starting 2019.
f. Team bonuses for wins shall be implemented with 80% of a title sponsor’s endorsement (Like “BigNameInc American Premier League” or “American Premier League presented by BigNameInc”) for the league itself. This makes every game more important and more entertaining.
g. Promotion and relegation spots will be determined by the number of second-tier teams. 12-15 teams: 2 spots. 16-19 teams: 3 spots. 20 teams: 4 spots, with the fourth spot determined in a survival playoff (#13 APL at #4 second-tier). Those second-tier teams must be approved by the USSF.
h. The regular season champion will be considered the official APL champion and win a Champions League spot. If the APL has a playoff, it’s for teams 2-5 and it’s for remaining Champions League spots, with higher seeds hosting. The APL regular season title will be the #2 trophy to win in America. The U. S. Open Cup Final is one week after other competitions end at a pre-determined location.
i. The women will have a system of promotion and relegation starting in 2019 as well, even if it turns out being two tiers of six teams each, although obviously we will work for more. Given more venues are going to be opened up from my proposals below, there are possibilities for expansions for men’s and women’s teams in the same cities, in the same venues. We can work with local sports commissions on this. It will work.
Also, I will petition FIFA on a variety of measures. The women are needed in WPS as much as possible, and it’s a disservice to have top Americans playing for the full team every two years for World Cups and Olympics. The men have U-23s and three wildcards in the Olympics. This should be the same for the women. (Frankly, men’s and women’s basketball should do the same.)
Also, I feel the World Cup bid process is flawed. The new reform to give each nation a vote actually could create more accusations of bribery and much harder to prove either way. I think the rule should be a “reset” and from there, once a nation wins a bid, they don’t host again for at least 40 years, and that confederation does not host until the other confederations do. (In other words, after the 2026 bid is announced, each confederation hosts once every 20 years period.) A hard rotation system where each confederation is guaranteed to host once every 20 years, and just giving out one bid every four years, would have prevented a lot of the controversy last year.
Finally, the system to re-elect the FIFA President needs reform. While I do not agree with each nation voting on World Cup bids, I think each nation should be allowed more latitude to nominate who they want to run FIFA, and that we should have a real primary system. FIFA Presidents should not be allowed to serve more than two terms, and like my office should not interfere in campaigns if they are finishing a final term.
I hope I will not have to petition FIFA directly to forbid any nation who does not have a system for promotion and relegation (for both genders) from bidding on World Cup at any level. But don’t think for a second I wouldn’t do it. The American soccer fans are not interested in “simulated” anything.
We’re getting our nation to join the adult football world. And once we do, we’ll be glad we did.
5. What are your reasons for direct and transparent elections in the USSF?
MLS executives should never be in a position to nominate the leader of the United States Soccer Federation.
It is not appropriate for our long-term destiny to have owners and executives from professional teams, and players from those teams, representing American soccer on the Executive Committee. While changes are needed and long overdue, it is arguable that both players and owners may prevent action to protect their own interests, forgetting that professional soccer is only a part of our national program.
An Executive Board would be better suited in the future by more independent-minded people, with eight regional seats and a President, elected by the members, the fans of American soccer. Each member would vote for their district representative, and the President. The Executive Committee would be allowed to vote for a Vice-president.
I also feel that the President’s term should end in January after a men’s World Cup, not a few months before the World Cup like with Mr. Gulati, who certainly got re-elected at a time where there couldn’t be any opposition. Since that means I would have to serve 4 ½ years, I would not seek re-election, nor be involved in any campaign for anyone who may want to replace me.
Unless the membership actually elects all the Executives this way, they don’t really have a voice in American soccer. Just the opportunity to give money to the USSF and be told to be lucky for what we have.
6. I have been reading about a group that wants to purchase the New England Revolution. What is your opinion of the concept of buying the New England Revolution or any club in the USA?
First of all, when the first team with such an effort happens to be run by Sunil Gulati, that itself is an indictment on what the fans think of his leadership. I strongly support The Fort Trust’s efforts and passion. http://www.fanfeedr.com/soccer/2011/07/06/ntr-the-fort-trust-a-movement-to-get-fans-to-buy-the-new-england
When fans are seeking to buy out a team, it signals they love the sport, but are unhappy with the management. If fans were to seek to start a brand new team, they are hoping to convince “the powers that be” to allow them that chance.
In either event, it would be wise for any fan-based ownership group to consider that having the community own the team is not a “magic bullet.” You still need money. Australia’s A-League had a team called the North Queensland Fury that folded, even after efforts to turn it over to a community-based ownership. They needed to raise $1.5 million a year for three years and were not able to.
This topic is really more important in terms of new teams in a potential second tier following my proposed American Premier League. Among conditions for ownership for a private group or a community-owned team:
1. Proof of venue and government support for whatever infrastructure is needed. This is partly why I believe playing in NFL and major college football stadiums are ideal, if the schedule was tweaked, from late February to August with 16 teams and 30 games. For those stadiums that share with football, you could look at a convertible artificial turf system at Dallas Cowboys Stadium. They have three different turfs: NFL football, college/high school football, and soccer, that can be changed over if needed in 2-3 days.
Say a team like Atlanta, Baltimore, Charlotte, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Detroit, New Orleans, Orlando, Phoenix, San Antonio, San Francisco, or other top-50 markets not served by MLS had a plan to convert their football field to a convertible turf system, and the local governments pledged a part of the resources for the turf, changeover costs, and some of the rent. This is a much better deal than building $100-200 million “soccer-specific stadiums” for taxpayers.
And today’s turf are coming out with cooler-field technologies, including Mondo who uses plastic coated rubber granules for their infill instead of rubber, and GeoTurf USA who uses crushed coconut shells and cork instead of rubber. It works, the fields look and play very well and the fields are more “eco-friendly” as a result.
Do this forward-thinking and you can play soccer without the “gridiron” lines virtually the whole season, and not have to build new stadiums in most cities to do it!
2. Reduced entry fees, but proof of resources for three years. The idea that MLS wants the New York Cosmos to pay $100 million to be the 20th team is outrageous. I can’t imagine any MLS team worth that, and certainly it isn’t consistent to what MLS players currently make. It should be MLS wanting to pay the Cosmos $100 million to join!
Under our current system, once they reach 20 teams, that’s the limit due to FIFA rules. We can’t get around that rule nor should we ask FIFA to make an exception for us.
So that’s the limit since there is no plan for pro-rel. If there was, they would have announced it before the World Cup bids were handed out, and they wouldn’t have said recently they have no plans for pro-rel in the “foreseeable future.” Therefore, there is no incentive for cities above to get involved. They don’t want to be permanent “second-tier” cities if they are major markets. Who could blame them?
Actually, it should be closer to $12-18 million to get in the second-tier, with discounts possible based on some infrastructure the local governments put in. Also, each group (whether private or fan-based) must have the estimated budgets funded in escrow accounts for EACH of the three years. They will NOT be permitted to touch year two and year three resources until that year comes and they will not even be permitted to take loans based on those funds. If they squander those funds, that will be their problem and they lose the escrow funds to various charities. We’re not going to let mismanaged teams bring down the league wasting money like the WUSA did!
3. Existing NASL owners get two years after agreement to raise resources, other new cities until 2017. Current NASL owners will be permitted to have a fan-based ownership as part of their group, and they get a chance to get a team put in the new second-tier, but only until 2016 or until 16 spots are taken in that second-tier. They will have to meet minimal requirements, but unlike today’s system there is a reason to invest: A chance to EARN a place to the top tier! (The NASL would likely be rebranded as well, hopefully to include a major sponsor in the name.)
Frankly, the New York Cosmos should ask the USSF to be put in the second-tier under The Justice Plan, and let them EARN a place to the American Premier League!
7. What is your opinion of the U-17 and U-20 Group?
I think our recent performance in the U-17 World Cup should alarm this country on the future pool of players for future World Cups. This is especially true considering that our main rival (Mexico) won the U-17 World Cup.
8. Is the problem with US Soccer a problem of loyalty or not enough publicity?
I have noted that any negative responses to any comments of mine are not on the merits of individual ideas, but on the premise that we are not allowed to criticize the American soccer program, ever, and to do so is “unpatriotic.” We’re told “nobody could have done better than Bob Bradley.” I strongly disagree.
It seems there are too many “sacred cows” we’re not allowed to talk about, like soccer being the “rich kids’ game” in America when it’s the “poor kids’ game” everywhere else. Too many fiefdoms.
If taxpayers are being asked to supplement soccer programs, complexes, and stadiums with their money, I don’t think they should take well an attitude of hoping to win, depending on physicality and luck to win, and celebrating red ribbons rather than doing everything it takes to win and imposing consequences for failure. They have every right to complain and so do the average soccer fan.
As to publicity, the professional soccer leagues in America are just a part of the United States Soccer Federation. The arm is not greater than the body, no matter how much of a perception that MLS seems to claim otherwise. We should not cut off the body to save the arm.
My proposal to re-emphasize the U. S. Open Cup Champion as the top champion is a critical element in promoting American soccer in general. No television package should exist that does not strongly emphasize the importance of the U. S. Open Cup.
9. Do you believe in term limits for Presidents and Coaches of USSF?
The President should serve no more than one term. Other members of the Executive Committee should be permitted to serve up to two terms if they get that far (which may include one term as President). Coaches in most circumstances do not need term limits; the nature of the occupation is that coaches do not stay in the same job for long. It just is an issue with the current men’s coach in the perception that he should not be coaching the national team anymore.
I also do not think it is appropriate for the President or Executives who know they are on the way out to be involved in campaigns for candidates that may replace them. New minds, new ideas, always.
10. What else can be said about the future of US Soccer?
There is absolutely nothing Americans cannot do if we’re motivated enough. We won two World Wars, put a man on the moon, and even survived the Milli Vanilli scandal. There is nothing we can’t do if we’re motivated enough!
And God forgive us if we choose to do the wrong thing. We did some terrible things in this country, but we were motivated enough to do it.
So why don’t we get motivated to do what we know in our hearts is right for soccer?
How many who read this can admit to themselves that they can see The Justice Plan happen? Because it will not happen if we the people do not unify ourselves. We truly are a sleeping giant that must be awakened.
You may be one of many who have grumbled about the politics but never felt any power to do anything about it. Well, now there is a way to work together. Join us! Spread the word!
As Patton said, Americans love a winner, and will not tolerate a loser. Maybe I take a softer view: We will begrudgingly accept losing, but only if we know we did everything do win, and stop celebrating red ribbons or “being close.” We know good and well the path we’re on is not getting us any closer to winning the men’s World Cup. So why are we on it?
I love America. I love everything we are supposed to stand for. But this is the one time when we are wrong and the rest of the world is right.
This is why it’s not just Sunil Gulati, or whoever Don Garber anoints to replace him, has to be defeated. It’s the mentality that allows our stunted growth to continue that has to be defeated.
To those that may read this who are not die-hard soccer fans: I don’t blame you for not being a die-hard. You see us not doing everything we have to do to win and act like it’s not a big deal, and then ask taxpayers to subsidize stadiums and complexes we selfishly hoard for ourselves. You may not be able to afford to send your kids to the overpriced soccer camps and travelling teams. You see people dare criticize American soccer and be called “unpatriotic.” (Yeah, that makes me scratch my head, too.) So you may wonder, “Why should I support this?”
Think of it this way: The men’s World Cup is the world’s athletic benchmark. It’s the ultimate prize in sports. Bigger than the Super Bowl and the Stanley Cup combined.
Now imagine how the world would react if the United States won it.
Isn’t that enough of a reason to support this effort?
I would encourage soccer fans to visit www.soccerreform.us, a website run to promote more open systems of promotion and relegation. I don’t agree with the author’s political views, and not even everything on the website, but there is a ton of useful information about the real history of American soccer, how we had closed leagues for over 100 years, and how MLS is holding down USSF and American soccer.
I hope I’m not the only citizen-candidate, but if I’m the only challenger to the status quo, let it be me.
Remember that when Sunil Gulati said voting to abstain on the Sepp Blatter vote for FIFA President, he said taking the “moral high ground” is “quicksand.”
Remember that the President of the United States Soccer Federation is the VOICE of the American soccer fan.
Did he speak for you when he called the “moral high ground” “quicksand?” (And why would it be quicksand, Sunil? And what would FIFA do? Kick us OUT?)
We had no business voting for that office because of a conflict with one of Gulati’s friends (Chuck Blazer) and the controversy with Mr. Blatter’s opponent, Mohammed bin Hammam. We had a political out and Gulati couldn’t see it, or wouldn’t see it. That alone disqualifies him.
You may not agree with anything else I say, but please agree with me on this: Sunil Gulati is NOT the voice of the American soccer fan.
Do you want a leader of USSF who will make soccer “the poor kids’ game again?”
Do you think I should be that leader?
Please visit www.dennisjustice.com, “like” the Facebook group, and follow my Tweets @DennisJustice. And please send prayers, I’ll need them if this takes off for real.
We must have a large enough group to get national media attention and get the attention of the major sponsors of American soccer. This is the only way we have a chance to change anything. There is no point in the USSF electing me if they’re going to try to stop everything we need to do. This is why a national movement to move the sponsors is critical.
That’s why we must start now
If you don’t agree, thanks just the same, please go on somebody else’s group and join them, or run yourself.
But for America’s sake, don’t think we’ll win the men’s World Cup, or even host a World Cup again, with the “trained-flea mentality.” What FIFA allowed to slide will not slide anymore.
Any future World Cup bid will have this motto: “Willing to change. Willing to change the world.” And that bid will start with deeds before words.
You deserve better. America deserves better.
America soccer fans deserve “leadership, not followship.”
Thank you and God Bless America.
Citizen-Candidate for USSF President