The battle is ours, but the war is far from over

The Crew will be staying exactly where they belong, in Columbus, Ohio. It’s been a long hard road but here we are, right back where we started.

I’m delighted don’t get me wrong but where we are, is where we started.

There’s no doubt it was a huge achievement to save the Crew and I would like to personally thank each and every person that did their part including of course our new owners the Haslam family and Dr Pete Edwards.

The sad fact remains though, if this could potentially happen to a founding member with the history and roots that the Crew have in MLS, then no one is safe.

The league is broken. I’m not pleased that we are staying in MLS, I’m ecstatic that we are staying in Columbus.

The people of Columbus and how they rallied around their team are why I will always be proud to call myself a fan, I simply can not say the same of Major League Soccer who put these people through hell.

The MLS is an extremely entertaining league, more so than I ever could have imagined when I first became a fan this season. Like North America, its diversity is its strength but like America, not everyone can see that.

Taking my Columbus hat off for a moment, it is simply amazing when you think about it to watch a team like the Montreal Impact play the LA Galaxy, the contrast is immense.

Which other league in the world can you find teams from two so vastly different countries with different languages, cultures, governments and even climates facing off against each other?

And yet, despite the most unique of unique selling points, MLS is destined to fail.

Why? Because Don Garber never learned his history.

I’m extremely interested in the history of the American Mafia, be it Chicago or New York. I don’t claim to be an expert on it, far from it but what I do know is that the founder of the American Mafia was Salvatore Lucania also know as ‘Lucky’ Luciano.

Now, agree with his methods or not – and obviously, I don’t – this man was a visionary. He saw chaos and brought order, albeit for a short time. What Lucky did was he created a commission, a group of bosses from the five heads of the New York Crime families and also Chicago and Buffalo.

What Lucky saw was the opportunity to make the most money for himself with the least risk to himself creating more risk to his competitors. Until he was extradited to Italy by the US government it was all going to plan.

Ultimately this system was flawed and doomed to fail just as it did. The reason was simple, no matter how well-intentioned it was to Lucky, his business was built on greed and the most hostile of takeovers was never far away.

If we take away the characters, the colourful adaptations of the history of the Cosa Nostra does any of this sound familiar?

Enter our personal protagonist playing the part of Lucky Luciano, Don Garber. Like Lucky, Garber stands at the head of a commission, the MLS’ Tutto di tutti Capi or boss of bosses. When you strip it all away, that’s what he is.

In MLS, no one is able to move on anything without his say so. Then he has his underbosses or the head of his 23 families. Each one is allowed to make money on Garber’s terms and of course, a percentage gets kicked up to him.

Sadly one of the underbosses (who claims he isn’t a boss at all as they all did when caught in nefarious actions) decided he wanted to move on from his current business but he’d have to ‘whack’ a city to do so. After a sit down and with tributes paid, the deal is done and the Columbus Crew are now due to be sleeping with the fishes.

Knowing what you know now about the Mafia, knowing how that business structure operates, would you still be swayed by the riches and lifestyle? Or would you look for something more sustainable and honest?

They say those that don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it, well I can only see one outcome for MLS and it isn’t long-term success for anyone but Garber.

What about Atlanta? Well, what about them? They are doing well both on and off the pitch and they have people flooding to the stadium and they show that Garber’s way works, right?. Well no actually it doesn’t. What it shows is he’s doing what he always did and he’s getting what he always got.

Columbus was an unmitigated success at the start, as were DC and then expansion sides like Chicago. Where are they now? Well, you have certain fan groups in DC being given preferential treatment and others being left to ‘die’, at least that’s what the DC ownership want whether they will admit that or not.

You have Chicago fans being banned from their own stadium and other fans boycotting in support and others just fed up with how the club is run as a whole.

Then we come to my beloved Columbus Crew. In Columbus, it’s the end game of what the league wants. There is no loyalty, they wanted to move to what they see as the more prosperous area of Austin in spite of the promises they made to the people of Columbus. In spite of the years of support, these people gave the MLS in its infancy, despite the fact that if it wasn’t for them and fans like them across the league there would be no MLS.

Each lack of advertising, each facility in the stadium left unfixed, each lie about attendances as Columbus fans tried desperately to support their team in the face of a league that insulted them daily, it must have been like a death of a thousand cuts.

I became a Crew fan in large part because of the Save the Crew movement, but now I wonder, what exactly were we trying to save or achieve? To go crawling back to a league that has shown us nothing but disdain? If this was a relationship, PSV would have been arrested and tried for domestic abuse. Why are we so desperate to return to that?

So we have new owners, that is amazing but really after the way the league has treated the city of Columbus, why would we ever want to help them again? So we can try and compete with what they see as the ideal, Atlanta United, a team that doesn’t even have a dedicated soccer stadium?

As a football purist, the game will always come first for me and while there are many things to be admired about Atlanta such as their fans, their team and the football they play, equally to me they are still a side that plays in a non-soccer specific stadium without grass.

If Garber knew a thing about soccer and cared about his players and his league, that would be one of the first requirements to be part of MLS. He doesn’t though, he never has and never will.

So is this what we fought for? To crawl back to a league that shows us nothing but contempt?

I saw a lot of Chicago Fire fans sticking up for the Crew in spite of the rivalry and it did the heart good. I also saw a lot of Fire fans who were poking fun at the current plight of Columbus.

I get it, it’s a rivalry and these things will happen but these fans would do well to realise that the issues they are having with their club are part of a wider issue, the league itself and the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

So what do I want? Well imagine the fans who built this league all left the MLS, imagine those diehard Columbus Crew, DC United fans and Chicago Fire fans all walked at the same time. Imagine Garber and his cronies got what they think they want.

Imagine a challenger league where teams with die-hard fans of the biggest most well-supported teams in America, teams that play on grass, teams that take back a working class game where atmosphere and controlled passion is welcome and not suppressed, where you aren’t at risk of being ejected from a stadium for swearing.

You want to see what US Soccer could be, take a look at Detroit F.C., fan owned by locals who would never sell out to what MLS is – at least I sincerely hope not. Look at their dedication, the atmosphere they create, the love of their team. Fans from the state of Ohio famously sing “we don’t give a damn for the whole state of Michigan” but where soccer is concerned there should be a caveat in my opinion.

It wouldn’t be easy, it would take time and there would be challenges along the way but you would have what every American claims to be the most important thing in their country. Freedom.

What price freedom?

I’d love nothing more than for MLS to realise the opportunity they have, to run this league in a manner befitting the dedication of its fanatical core fanbase.

MLS is an excellently marketed product and is sold very well, just like you would expect from a business that seeks to exploit it’s ‘customers’ but look a little deeper and you can see that this is certainly an offer you can refuse.

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