The New York metropolitan area, already packed with professional sports teams, will soon get another: a Major League Soccer team owned by Manchester City of the English Premier League and the Yankees, according to the New York Times.
The team, to be known as the New York City Football Club, will be the 20th Major League Soccer franchise and expects to begin competing in 2015, assuming it can find a stadium to play in.
The announcement on Tuesday by Major League Soccer confirmed speculation that Manchester City would spend about $100 million to buy the expansion franchise. The English team, which is owned by an investment group led by a member of the royal family of Abu Dhabi, Sheik Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan, will be the latest foreign owner of a franchise in the New York metropolitan area. It will join hands with the Yankees, one of the wealthiest and best known teams in American sports.
Manchester City will be the majority owner of the new club, while the Yankees will own about a quarter of the team. The pairing represents a deepening of ties because the Yankees’ stadium concessions business, Legends Hospitality, provides services at Manchester City’s home ground, Etihad Stadium. Manchester City will play an exhibition match against Chelsea on Saturday at Yankee Stadium.
“New York is a legendary sports town, as well as a thriving global city with a rapidly expanding soccer fan base,” said Ferran Soriano, chief executive of Manchester City Football Club, who will fill top positions in the new club. “We are thrilled to contribute to the energy and growth of New York City soccer. In the Yankees, we have found the absolute best partner for developing a world-class sports organization and a winning team that will carry the New York City Football Club name with pride.”
Manchester City had not initially contemplated inviting the Yankees to buy a share of the team. But in recent weeks the English owners decided to become partners in the deal so they could make the most of the Yankees’ political connections and experience building stadiums in New York City.
The fledgling New York City Football Club may play its inaugural season at Yankee Stadium. After that, the team hopes to play in a new stadium in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park that the owners of Manchester City would build.
The project, while backed by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, has alarmed parks and community activists, who object to heavily used parkland being given to a for-profit foreign-owned team essentially free.
“We hope this new deal once and for all puts to rest any further attempts to seize even more public parkland in Flushing Meadows Park,” said Geoffrey Croft, president of the watchdog group NYC Park Advocates. “The Yankees were given enough.”
Croft and other activists also see the partnership with the Yankees as an attempt by Manchester City’s owners to deflect criticism away from their owners from Abu Dhabi, who have been accused of having a dubious human rights record.