It's that time of year again - when TFC does a wholesale change of the front office, explains where it all went wrong and tells us what they're going to do differently this time. Because this time they really, really mean it - all those other times were just a trial run for this time! Honest!
In furtherance of that Tim Leiweke participated in a conference call yesterday morning that was intended to address the firing of Kevin Payne and address other matters (listen to the call here) that are near and dear to TFC fans' hearts.
Leiweke started out seeming fairly logical and addressed the firing as purely a difference in philosophy in how the club should progress - that he had hoped to leave this to the end of the season but that things were happening that would not happen the right way should Payne stay around.
While he didn't go into details on that one has to assume it had to do with acquiring players as the rumblings over Payne putting the kibosh on some signings grow louder. Leiweke reiterated that they want to have the right person in place going into the off-season to ensure that certain things happen so, player signings it is!
He praised Payne for the work (yeoman's work) in clearing up some of the bloated contracts and getting them lots of lovely allocation money that puts them in a much better place going forward.
Ryan Nelsen apparently has Leiweke's stamp of approval - they are on the same page in what needs to be done going forward and whoever the new GM is will have to accept Nelsen as his head coach - which is an interesting thing in itself.
The call goes on and Leiweke addresses SSH renewals - not til January, they want to show us what they're going to do before taking our money - huzzah? And the marquee DPs that are coming our way - also coincidentally in January. Lots of shiny new toys and all the right things are being discussed - all is well in TFCLand. Right? Not so much.
Because that's when it happened; that's when Kurt Larson stepped up and asked THE question: what about the rumours that the Argos may be coming to BMO? (Read the entire text of Leiweke's reply here). Are you done reading? Are you done swearing and ranting? No? Good - don't let up, don't let the anger and dismay lessen, because the only thing that may convince the PTB to not go forth with this nonsense - because that's what it is, nonsense - is if you speak up.
Leiweke says that he's going to continue to meet with fans and will be talking to some at the big TFC BBQ this weekend (you're all going, right? Of course you are) - if he talks to you please speak up! Tell him in no uncertain terms that you do not want to see this happen. Leave no doubt - no wiggle room for he and the suits at MLSE to hold up as examples of fans that are excited for this path to destruction for our club. Because that's what it will do - it will ruin TFC - it may kill it off altogether in ways that 7 years of mismanagement and nightmare decision making have been unable to do.
There's going to be a lot bandied about regarding new turf, retractable stands, a roof (ooh, a roof - that'll make it all better) and any other bit of dazzle they're going to throw out as rationale for making this work. Hey, the stadium's almost the right size, with proper scheduling the grass (if it remains grass) won't get completely ruined, there's a way to remove gridiron lines and so on.
The stadium is NOT the right size - major construction will be required to wedge the CFL game into our house; that's right, it is OUR house. The same type of major construction that will be needed to install those alleged retractable seats and the same type of major construction that will be needed to reset the grounds around BMO.
Turf - no matter how high tech - is not what we want to go back to. Remember how long and hard we fought to get grass to BMO? Remember the complaints from players the league over about the turf? If not just look at the comments about the turf at BC Place - think about what it looked like at Olympic Stadium or hell, how did it look at the Skydome? Because if they don't put in turf you can bet that we'll be looking at a destroyed pitch for large stretches of the season.
Those lines - so far there is nowhere in the world where they share a ground that has been successful in removing gridiron lines - in fact you could still see some faint remains from the rugby match at the Revs game - but gridiron lines? To have to stare at those glaring lines everywhere? No thank you.
And while all of this construction is going on - because this will take a full season to execute - where will our Reds play? At Lamport? At Downsview? (you think getting to BMO is troublesome at times?) Or do we get treated to an exciting, poor sight-line filled, cavernous season of fun at the Skydome?
Forget about the physical ramifications - think about how this looks on a larger scale? One of the things that Leiweke said in the call more than once was the MLS is a changing and growing league. The commissioner talks about how growing MLS into one of the top leagues in the world is a top priority. We've seen fantastic soccer specific stadiums built in the past few years - grounds that yes, BMO can only aspire to be but at least it is (for now) only for the beautiful game.
So how can Leiweke and MLSE stand up and say that they want to be part of this changing league and making TFC a force, a better team and team to be proud of and then turn around and instead say that they're all for diminishing the profile of this team. Because make no mistake - the second that they start sharing a ground with the double blue, TFC will become the red-headed stepchild in this equation.
And if that happens they might as well say to MLS that MLSE has no further interest in helping to grow the game here in Canada and North America; that they've no interest in returning to the days where TFC sold out every week, where tickets couldn't be found no matter how hard you looked, where the fans where willing to spend large sums on road trips, on tifo displays, on merchandise and yes on concessions. No, this is a clear step backward - it won't just hurt the fans and the team, but it will hurt the league as well.
Not to mention the effect it will have on National team games being played in our city. We've been lucky (you know what I mean) in how often we've been able to watch the national teams here and the support that has been growing will surely dwindle if fans cannot go watch them play. If major tournaments are less likely to be played here - remember the part that grass and the soccer specific stadium part played in hosting those WCQ games?
And what of we the fans - feels like a slap in the face doesn't it? Like all the time you've spent on this team, talking about them, tweeting about them, writing about them, watching them on TV, watching them at BMO, at the pub, agonizing over every game - well feels like a waste right? Like what was the point if the dream of having a team, a team with a home of its own, where we don't have to feel like second class citizens is taken away? Feels terrible doesn't it?
If you're on twitter you saw a lot of tweets last night (and will likely see more), that were full of outrage and many declarations of those that will walk away should the Argos come to BMO (present company included). And I truly think that Leiweke and Co. do not understand that this will be the last straw for many of the faithful - for those that have hung on for seven long, long seasons through the instability, through the losing, through the circus - this will be it.
I'm angry about this, as are many that I know - and I count among those that are full of ire, some of the most ardent and dedicated supporters around. People that live and die by this team; that only want to see a successful team and after seven nightmare years still show up every week - will walk away for good. MLSE should think long and hard about what they're proposing here, because what they're looking at means the death of TFC.