The transfer window is now open and the next two weeks should be very active at 7000 S. Harlem. The MLS combine takes place from January 8-11 in Florida ahead of the SuperDraft on the 13th in Baltimore and the Fire need to begin filling the open spots on the roster now, but before any of that discussion kicks off I want to introduce the first new feature of 2011 - "Have Your Say".
"Have Your Say" will give Fire Confidential readers the chance to sound off on soccer issues that are sticking in your craw or just plain annoying you to no end. The first one sets the bar pretty high. "Shortpasses" goes into some detail on US Soccer's decision making process for retaining Bob Bradley. Here it is.......................
Just When you thought Everyone had Forgotten Klinsmann!!
When we last looked at this soap opera, Jurgen Klinsmann was back watching the waves; Bob Bradley was thanking his lucky stars that he had a job; and Sunil Gulati (US Soccer President) and Dan Flynn (US Soccer CEO and Secretary General) were avoiding the issue by "concentrating" on the 2022 World Cup bid. (How did that go?) US fans were divided between those who hated Bradley and blamed him for among other things, world poverty and those who were satisfied and willing to give him another chance.
With the benefit of several months for everyone to cool down, myself included, I decided to try to identify for my own satisfaction the causes of Klinsmann's rejection. I started by trying to piece together a time-line of events following the World Cup. This was ultimately rather frustrating since any early discussions went unreported. I finally settled on the following critical events: (1) US Soccer Board Meeting on August 10; (2) Meeting between Gulati and Klinsmann on August 27 or 28: (3) Announcement of Bradley's contract renewal on August 30.
My initial effort was to check out the US Soccer Board of Directors Meeting Minutes for August 10. Nothing there. However, the Board did go into Executive Session that day and those minutes are not publicly available. Given the fact that Gulati needed Board approval for the hiring, I believe he must have received his "marching orders" here. Less than 3 weeks later, August 27 or 28, Gulati and Klinsmann met, according to a report on ESPN.com. And then with no further explanation on August 30, Bradley's contract renewal was announced. Despite the hope it initially engendered, I believe that the 27/28 meeting was just the final nail in the negotiating coffin. Gulati couldn't give in and Klinsmann wouldn't.
Blame for the rejection of Klinsmann has pretty much been laid at the door of Gulati, with some mud thrown at Flynn and a little saved for the big money players from MLS. I have never felt totally comfortable with these explanations particularly regarding Gulati. Why did he reopen this can of worms? He obviously is not a strong leader but he also isn't stupid. He must have believed that Klinsmann would back down, this time or, more likely, he felt that the Board of Directors would acquiesce to Klinsmann's terms, this time. Because I find it very hard to believe that Gulati thought that Klinsmann would back off, I am left with the conclusion that Gulati totally misjudged his Board. I am convinced that the Executive Session of the August 10 Board Meeting drew the line in the sand that ultimately Klinsmann would not cross and Gulati couldn't undraw..
The Board vote was critical since Gulati, as President, is quite limited in his individual authority. According to the US Soccer By-Laws:
Bylaw 402. RESPONSIBILITIES OF OFFICERS
Section 1. The President of the Federation shall have the following responsibilities:
(a) preside at all meetings of the National Council and the Board of Directors, and
serve as Chairperson of the Board;
(b) appoint all committees as provided by Bylaw 431 and serve as an ex officio
member of those committees;
(c) provide an annual report 30 days prior to the annual general meeting of the
National Council; and
(d) to be or to delegate someone to be the official representative of the Federation in
FIFA, CONCACAF, and other international organizations.
As Board Chairman, Gulati has the ability to sway his Board Members but only to the extent that his own political skills allow. Other than that he is just another voting member of the Board and shares in their authority as defined by the By-Laws:
Bylaw 411. GENERAL AUTHORITY AND RESPONSIBILITIES
Section 1. The Federation shall have a Board of Directors. Except as otherwise
specifically provided by these bylaws, the Board of Directors shall have all governance,
supervising, and administrative authority of the Federation as provided.
If we assume that Klinsmann was telling the truth about having a verbal agreement with Gulati, then it would appear that Gulati was over-ruled by his Board at the August 10 meeting. Given the importance of the Board vote, it is surprising that more attention has not been paid to the individual members of that Board. See the Board Composition below:
Bylaw 412. COMPOSITION
Section 1. The Board of Directors consists of the following Directors, with each Director
having one vote except as otherwise provided:
(1) the President.
(2) the Vice President.
(3) the Immediate Past President (non-voting).
(4) two out of the 8 Commissioners of the Adult Council elected for a 2-year term
expiring at annual general meetings of the National Council.
(5) two out of the 8 Commissioners of the Youth Council elected for a 2-year term
expiring at annual general meetings of the National Council.
(6) two out of the 8 Commissioners of the Professional Council elected for a 2-year
term expiring at annual general meetings of the National Council.
(7) Athletes, which shall be at least 20 percent of the total number of voting Directors
of the Board, rounded up to the next whole number (currently 3), elected as
provided by Bylaw 322.
(8) two independent directors elected by the National Council in odd-numbered
years, beginning in 2007, for 2-year terms each, expiring at annual general
meetings of the National Council.
(9) one independent director elected by the National Council in even-numbered
years, beginning in 2008, for a 2-year term expiring at annual general meetings of
the National Council.
(10) one "at large" representative elected by the procedures set forth in section 3
below, for a 2-year term expiring at annual general meetings of the National
(11) the Secretary General (non-voting).
Based on the above, there are 15 votes available, (Attendance at the August 10 meeting showed 14 voting members). Eight (8) votes would have been needed to reject giving Klinsmann the authority he wanted. Here are those Board members who were indeed responsible for this decision:
Sunil Gulati - President (1 vote)
Mike Edwards - Executive Vice President (1)
Jeff Agoos, Danielle Fotopoulos, Jon McCullough - Athlete Representatives (3)
Don Garber, Tonya Antonucci - Professional Council Representatives (2)
Richard Goff, Jim Hamilton - Adult Council Representatives (2)
Bob Palmiero, John Sutter - Youth Council Representatives (2)
Francisco Marcos - At Large Representative (1)
Carlos Cordiero, Fabian Nunez - Independent Directors (2)
Donna Shalala - Independent Director (Absent)
My personal conclusions:
- Blaming Gulati alone is probably overdone. Can we believe that Klinsmann had a verbal agreement with Gulati?. Probably. There is no doubt that Gulati did initiate discussions with Klinsmann for a second time, knowing full well what Klinsmann's sticking point was before. Unless Gulati likes hitting his head against a brick wall, he had to believe that this time he could get the votes from his Board. He obviously misjudged his Board.
- Blaming the MLS owners is also in my opinion overdone. Regarding their involvement two things should be considered. (1) On paper they have only two assured votes on the Board (2) Money and prestige wield a lot of influence. However, if the MLS owners chose to use that influence the question is why? What's in it for them? From a monetary standpoint, how does MLS lose if Klinsmann succeeds? Klinsmann states that his intention would be to revamp US player development and bring an improved style of attacking play to the USMNT. How does that hurt MLS pocketbooks? Besides, MLS would ultimately bathe in the shared sunshine of a successful USMNT. The often touted reason for MLS opposition has been Klinsmann's desire for unrestricted access to players. But this is a common complaint heard around the world, Why reject a perfectly qualified coach for something that any coach of a MNT' would ask for?
- The one group that easily had the votes to reject Klinsmann's request for full authority and has received little if any publicity is what I will call the "Insiders". They start with a base of four votes. (Adult Council-2 and Youth Council-2). To this, add the Athletes' representatives, currently 3 votes. The final members of the Insider's block come from the so-called Independent Directors, all elected by the National Council, currently 3 votes. It's quite easy to see where the votes could come from but the real question is why? The answer is simple! Jobs, money, and pride. Literally thousands of people within US Soccer derive all or a portion of their livelihood from using and disseminating the current US Soccer coaching philosophy. They are "certified soccer experts" They range from coaches directly employed by US Soccer to those running soccer camps while proudly displaying their A, B, and C, licenses. What happens if Klinsmann not only cleans house on the internal US Soccer coaching staff but also changes the current development program and with one stroke makes all of their expertise, outdated. Also, for the Athletes' representatives, it would be a slap in the face. Their skills and accomplishments were being downgraded by this "foreigner". Truly a bitter pill for all that just couldn't be allowed to happen. I won't even bother discussing the possibility of pure outright xenophobic motives
The Insiders, with the possible help of Mr. Flynn, definitely get my vote as the villains
Unfortunately, my conclusion that the rejection of Klinsmann was a US Soccer grass-roots effort paints a truly dismal picture for player development in the US, a continuation of the physical, helter-skelter play that has marked us as a perpetual second tier country (intermittent round of 16 appearances notwithstanding). The only possible ray of light is the enhancement and expansion of MLS youth development programs (like the Chicago Fire's program) and the appearance of European training facilities, like Arsenal's proposed east coast facility.
Maybe, just maybe, the rejection of Klinsmann will be looked back on 20 years from now as a watershed, the beginning of the end of US Soccer's stifling dominance over the sport in the US.
For an outstanding description of the internal structure of US Soccer as it applies to this situation, check out this link: http://www.yanksarecoming.com/how-the-us-soccer-federation-structure-enabled-the-bradley-gulati-klinsmann-soap-opera-part-ii
Shortpasses has knocked it out of the park with the initial Have Your Say post. If you're interested in writing something for a future Have Your Say topic just let me know via email firstname.lastname@example.org or via twitter @fireconf.