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Lampard-gate: Joke's on us, I guess...

For anyone not closely following the Frank Lampard/NYCFC/Manchester City situation...and I'd imagine there are a lot of you...here's the breakdown.
  • In July 2014 - MLS expansion club New York City FC (slated to join competitive play at the start of the 2015 season) announces that it has signed former Chelsea FC (English Premier League) striker Frank Lampard.
  • August 2014 - NYC FC announces it has loaned Lampard back to its sister club, Manchester City FC, for the first half of the 2014/15 EPL season. (Background: Manchester City and NYC FC are owned by the same company)
  • December 2014 - Manchester City announces that Lampard will continue to stay on for the club until (at least) the conclusion of the 2014/15 season, and thus not be joining NYC FC until at least July or August 2015, after the MLS season is more than half over.
Even if you're only the most casual of sports fans and don't know diddly-poo about sports business (in other words...me) this should make you shake your head and say..."Huh?" Yeah. This whole situation is troubling for a few reasons:

1.) A shameful piece of trickery by City Football Group. 

Yes...but a good one on whom and who's to blame and will anyone
ulitmately care? 
Apparently, as has been reported, Lampard never actually "signed" anything with NYC FC. What he signed was a contract with City Football Group, which owns both Manchester City FC and New York City FC. Nothing wrong with that, right? Well...kind of. I mean...what really happened is City Football Group bought Lampard in order to use him as a PR cash register for NYC FC, all along knowing full well that he'd be sent to Manchester City for the 14/15 EPL season. They might claim they never had that intention, but if you believe that, I'll tell you about a guy who lives in the North Pole and delivers toys to kids on Christmas. Basically, New York area soccer fans just had a game of three-card monte pulled on them in order to get them to buy season tickets, etc. 

2.) A failure on the part of the MLS

NYC FC apparently made every effort to promote Lampard as a part of their team and an integral part of the club's 2015 opening-day roster. They took PR photos of him under the Brooklyn Bridge, printed Lampard souvenir jerseys, etc. etc. etc. all under the supervision of the MLS, who should have policies in place to prevent this kind of bullshit being pulled on fans. And again, if the MLS claims they had no knowledge of what was going on here, that in and of itself should prove there was a rat. I hope someone launches an investigation into this and gets to the bottom of what happened here. If this were in the government realm, heads would roll and frankly I'd like to see some heads roll here. 

3.) A failure on the part of the U.S. sporting press. 

How in the &$%@! did this slip under the noses of the American sporting press? Nobody asked to see a copy of Lampard's contract? Nobody probed into the terms of the deal? How iron-clad it was? What were Lampard's obligations under the contract? Can a player signed by an MLS club even be "loaned back" to an English club (which in and of itself seems preposterous)? These are basic, Journalism 101 type of questions that apparently a.) no one bothered to ask, or b.) someone asked but didn't like the answers to, or c.) someone asked, and wrote about, but someone (cough...City Football Group) yanked a few strings and had the story squashed. In any event, this represents a massive, massive failure on the part of the U.S. soccer reporting corps. 

This whole thing is mystifying though, because if you think about it, what really happened here? Did anyone break any laws? Did anyone steal any money from anyone? Did NYC FC ever make any guarantees to prospective season ticket holders that Lampard would be starting on Game 1 of the MLS season? Well...no. Not really. City Football Group basically just used Lampard's name to sell season tickets and get NYC FC ticket sales off the ground. Lampard is still, in all likelyhood (I sincerely hope) going to join up with NYC FC in the 2015 season as planned...just not on the time frame everyone thought. When you look at it like that, it doesn't seem like that big of a deal....and yet...

...I feel like I've been sucker-punched. I feel like I've been sucker-punched and I have absolutely zero stake (financially or in rooting interest) in NYC FC, Man City, or Lampard. None. And still, it feels like there is something very wrong that went on here, like your boss telling you you're being put on indefinite, unpaid leave, but that you haven't done anything wrong and you're not being "fired" so not to bother looking for a new job. Riiiight. 

Somebody or some handful of people out there are sweating right now, hoping this all blows over and hoping they don't lose their jobs. It all depends on how outraged the public gets, though. If the NYC FC season ticket holders forget about this or don't make a big enough stink, nothing's going to happen. But public outcry can reach a strong enough level, there's going to be an investigation, by the league or by reporters, hopefully both, and someone's going down. 

So sit back and enjoy, my friends. This could become interesting....


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