Cosmos chairman O’Brien promises stability, rise with club’s return to field

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By DAVE MARTINEZ

The Paul Kemsley Era New York Cosmos left a sour taste in the mouths of New York-area soccer fans hoping for a second MLS franchise to emerge in the region. Seemingly at every turn, where there was promise, failure followed. A potentially great alliance with standout youth academy program BW Gottchee was formed, only to deteriorate into a legal battle over unpaid wages. An unbelievable opportunity to showcase as the foil against Manchester United for the Paul Scholes testimonial was more of a publicity stunt than anything tangible for the club. More emphasis was put on reviving a brand for retail sake than focusing on fielding a team.

Bottom line: No matter how great the opportunity was, the outcome always soured, and the brand suffered for it. New Cosmos co-owner and chairman Seamus O’Brien is focused on repairing the damage of the past two years by focusing in on the basics, namely soccer.

"One thing you will learn from me – unlike recent past – everything we say, we'll deliver on, and everything we say will be politically correct," O’Brien told SBI. "All I'll say for now is that we intend to attain the highest level possible, whatever that may be, at whatever time, and we intend to win. We are putting a team out to win and we intend to win on the field and off the field; in the business of sport, in the business of soccer, which is a highly competitive, global business. We're going to run a team that will be at the highest level, as I said, on and off the field in both of those areas."

O’Brien, who is a 50 percent shareholder in the Cosmos (the other 50 percent of the team owned by a pair of wealthy Saudi families connected to Sela Sport), has taken the role of righting the group's misguided ship after a tumultuous start to its MLS aspirations. 

"I've been in the sports media marketing industry for most of my career, which is approaching 30 years," said O'Brien, owner of Asian-based sports marketing and event management company World Sport Group. “The other investors in the team have been an all-time sort of renowned industry sports and media guys who I have happened to have done a fair bit with over the years. 

“One day they came to me and said, ‘Hey look, we'd like to talk to you about one of our investments in North America. You may have heard of it – something called the Cosmos.'"

“Of course I have,” he said with a laugh. “Obviously, they had issues and said, 'Look, can you help us?' So one thing led to another and here I am."

A "difference of opinion" over the running of the organization caused a split of the original investment group. With Thursday's announcement of the Cosmos joining NASL in 2013, the message has been streamlined; it is no longer about apparel or the next marketing gimmick. Instead, it will be about creating a proper football club from the ground level up.

"We're out on a journey," O'Brien said. "The link and the ties between the two brands, the league and the club, are obviously very strong. As we did the evaluation of the opportunities available to us right now as we start out, it became clear that starting in the NASL was the right place to start. It will allow us to do things with the team and the brand as a business that perhaps, initially you might not be able to do within the MLS structure. We want to build the biggest base within the community, around New York, on Long Island and Queens and internationally that we can.

“I'm very keen and conscious that not only do we play out a very extensive and in-depth role within the grassroots communities of Queens and Long Island. We are also doing the Cosmos Copa that is going on at the moment as a community, grassroots event, and on the professional side, we want to be able to draw the best American talent that we can.

“I think our reemergence, the NASL as a league, the moment only provides greater opportunity and career paths for talented kids coming out of either high school or college that want to play soccer professionally. We want to draw on that, and, at the same time, we realize that we are in a global environment, we are in America's global city with the most diverse population base in the world and we want to play to that audience.”

With such lofty aspirations comes the worry of monetary solvency. MLS commissioner Don Garber has repeatedly made mention of an ownership buy-in price of $100 million dollars to whichever prospective group that would take on the NY2 project. Though O’Brien admits that the investors are still looking for both a domestic and international partner for this endeavor, their current monetary outlook is still quite considerable.

“I mean, we got as deep a pockets as anybody in the game,” O'Brien emphasized. “I'm not going to go into our own wealth, but they are extremely wealthy people and I've got a few dollars myself. It's not about the depth of your pockets or your financial capacity; I don’t think that's ever been questioned to date. We made an evaluation on the business model and figured for the time being, I would rather put $100 million into our own team and our own brand and our own club than going to spend it somewhere else. We just made a business decision that we think is the right one for the team right now.

“As a business man — and this is a tough business — we are going to build a team, a franchise, a club that is going to … When we get to the top — and we will get to the top — we are going to get there and stay there. This is not going to be a one-hit wonder. It would have been arrogant and remiss to assume we can come out of the blocks in Year 1, win MLS or whatever and play in front of 70,000 people in MetLife (Stadium). That stuff only exists in fairy tales. 

“What this is, step-by-step, we are going to build a team with an unbelievable storied history and heritage, which is a great burden, but one that we hope and believe we can live up to. We are going to get to the top, and when we get there, we are going to stay there for generations to come."

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45 Responses to Cosmos chairman O’Brien promises stability, rise with club’s return to field

  1. al17 says:

    Tell ya these guys are GREAT at getting press and PR.

  2. BSU SC says:

    On paper it looks like franchise can do anything they set their minds to. They appear to have the financial backing to be a solid organization in the NASL. Hopefully we’ll see the Cosmos in MLS someday in the not too distant future.

    But there will always be those who will doubt the legitimacy of this. Let the hating begin…

  3. BEASTOFNEWYORK says:

    . When we get to the top — and we will get to the top — The next Man u of the US. This is what soccer needs.

  4. Mr Fish says:

    They should be. They have a magic name, and want to talk to everybody.

  5. don says:

    Wow still brash and brazen, just a little more restrained. I don’t mind, but could do without the “deep a pockets as anybody.” so doAnschutz, Kroenke, and Paul Allen, but they don’t go around telling people about it upon introduction.

  6. Kevin_Amold says:

    I wish my name was Seamus O’Brien

  7. Georgio says:

    The day the Cosmos step on the pitch for their first game in MLS they will be the most valuable franchise in the league. That is a fact. That is why the Cosmos will return to MLS.

  8. McQ says:

    They SAY all the right things but lets see how this plays out. I’ve heard all of this before. As a Queens/LI boy I have been waiting for years for this. The plan they lay out makes perfect sense but the devil is in the details. Don Garber basically acknowledges that this side of the Hudson is virtually untapped despite what the Red Bulls will tell you. I go to one or two Red Bulls games a year but I am not going to regularly spend 90 minutes commuting to an MLS game. If there was a more convenient option I would surely attend more games.

  9. Evan says:

    This is great for US Soccer. It is about hope, history, and promise for the future. This will really generate excitement, which US Soccer needs. Plus, it will be great for NYC to have a real professional team. I don’t see too many people from Queens, Long Island or the other areas heading to see the Red Bulls

  10. Jason says:

    Hey Ives,
    It’s been a while since we talked about about an O’Brien?

    So, what is John up to these days?

  11. BSU SC says:

    Were you the guy commenting on the article yesterday under one of these names:

    -Ghost of Pele
    -Pele’s Accountant
    -Nap time for Pele

  12. Felix says:

    I hope this happens.
    But first thing, they have to have be in NYC.

  13. betamale says:

    “everything we say will be politically correct”

    Superb. That means nothing of substance will ever be directly communicated

    -”We want to put a team together who can win trophies”
    -”We can’t comment on the officials.”
    -”We can’t speculate on potential transfers”
    -”We’re looking into many sites for potential stadium deals.”

  14. Eugene says:

    Sounds great! I think this team will be back, and in MLS, in due course. I don’t think Paul Kemsley did as much damage to the brand as is being expressed here… how could he? The brand has been around for 30-40yrs, 2 years isn’t going to break it. In fact, I hadn’t even noticed, I just assumed they continued working on the business side of it.

    The best thing that Paul Kemsley did was pry the brand rights from Pepe Pinton, because that was the major stumbling block of the last 16 years. Once that was gone, the river really started flowing.

  15. Brain Guy says:

    There is nothing magic about the Cosmos name. Success is going to require serious effort, professionalism, and money. If they have those, they will succeed, and the Cosmos name will give them a boost. If they don’t have those things, they will fail no matter how many times they say Cosmos.

    Note to McQ: where do you live that it takes you 90 minutes to get to Red Bull Arena?

  16. jimluk says:

    Can anyone explain the connections (if any) between the Cosmos and Pele Sports(apparel). It seems strange that they wold have Umbro kit with the potential “synergies” of the Pele brand. Will Nike(Umbro) use this as a way to challenge the Adidas MLS monopoly.

  17. JJ says:

    He may have been asked if the investors had the money to get into MLS or if they needed more partners. Unfortunately, we get all the answers and a little background as to what the questions might have been (this article is not in Q and A format). If he just volunteered that info, then yes it is brash.

  18. slowleftarm says:

    If this fanboy thinks they’re going to get 70,000 to come out and watch MLS just because the team is called “Cosmos” he’s sorely mistaken. Especially with their stadium stuck out in the middle of Queens or Long Island (A/k/a not “the city”)

    Since apparently a big reason for this nonsense is apparently the creation of a derby with RBNY, they’ve accomplished one thing with me the last couple of days – this “club” doesn’t even exist yet and I already hate them.

  19. slowleftarm says:

    Oops, over use of “apparently” in that last post. We need an edit button on this site. Or I need to stop making mistakes.

  20. slowleftarm says:

    And by “we” you mean a team that doesn’t exist at the moment?

  21. bigprof says:

    well yeah, c’mon Neymar will bring em in droves like Pele did. Oh wait, no Neymar. Nah, the franchise wont go anywhere. If it doesnt have the biggest names, it really isnt the Cosmos. At least sign Kaka

  22. JJ says:

    Nike is offloading Umbro, so there will be no challenge in that sense. Nike plans to have them sold by June 2013.

  23. Charles says:

    Hmmm, only if in the meantime, the Sounder’s ownership has pulled the truck loads of dough out of the franchise they make every year.
    I really believe that NY struggles BECAUSE of the old Cosmos and the downhill playing field.

    Oh, wait you are NOT going to win every game and championship…nevermind then.

  24. Bobby says:

    Here’s a question,,

    The NASL has no salary cap.
    Do we think these guys are going to create a “once in a lifetime” type of roster?
    Is there anything to stop them from winning the Open Cup (and CONCACAF) with a payroll that absolutely dwarfs anything in North America?

    There are no limits other than their wallet.

  25. slowleftarm says:

    The type of player you’re talking about presumably doesn’t have a lot of interest in playing in front a few thousand people at Hofstra against the Carolina Silverbacks or whatever they’re called.

  26. BSU SC says:

    Not sure how much of a possibility that is, but it would be a fun thing to watch. I hope that’s what their game plan is going forward.

  27. BSU SC says:

    The type of player he’s talking about would be interested in getting a big paycheck first and foremost. If the Cosmos can come up with the cash, then the talent will come. The question is whether or not they are willing to invest those resources into a NASL club.

  28. slowleftarm says:

    If the player you’re talking about is that good, they can make that money playing in a better league than NASL. What level of player are you thinking of?

    Does anyone under 40 even know what “Cosmos” is anyway?

  29. BSU SC says:

    Pele had the option of going to play for Juventus but chose to play for the Cosmos. The chance to live in NY City and live in relative obscurity in the United States was a bigger draw for him than playing in front of sold out crowds every week because he had already been doing that for +15 years. When selling the idea of the Cosmos, it’s goes a lot further than just playing soccer.

    The Cosmos are like the Dodgers or the (San Francisco) Giants. They may have left town a long time ago, but they’re far from forgotten in New York. If this is done right, then the fanbase will be supportive.

  30. BSU SC says:

    …and remember that both Thierry Henry and David Beckham had the option to play in better leagues, but the money and lure of living in America brought them state side.

  31. Todd C says:

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:
    The Cosmos brand and appeal had to do with having some of the greatest soccer players on the planet at that time on the team, and the excitement of soccer actually be appreciated in the US. There is ZERO chance the Cosmos will have any true WORLD CLASS talent playing for the team…until the MLS as a league can attract ($$$) that type of player. I hope NYC does have a popular/quality franchise, but to think some retro jerseys and a “cool” stadium will bring instant success/appeal is just ignorant. Too much hype for a team that is no longer relevant but I’m all for the MLS to grow and have global exposure. #DOOP

  32. Todd C says:

    This is beyond ridiculous. To even think that’s a possibility is absurd. For arguments sake if it did happen it would only be a “Fad” and last a few seasons. No owner, no matter how wealthy, will pay greedy, non ambitious players and take a huge loss year after year. Plus it would be terrible soccer besides POSSIBLY the Open Cup final and CONCACAF final. 2 borderline meaningful games, if you can even call them that. 100% delusional and would never happen. c’mon now people. #DOOP

  33. Halford says:

    no an NASL club will not overspend just to win the US Open Cup.

    However, because there is no salary cap the Cosmos if they were to spend the money could have a balanced roster that would probably be enough to beat most MLS teams.

  34. Halford says:

    but do the Cosmos want to be in the MLS?

    if they join MLS they have to give 51% of their company over to MLS LLC don’t they?

    they then become part of MLS LLC and not an independent club.

    would much rather see them stay in nasl and build up that league so we can finally get some promotion/relegation

  35. Sounds interesting. What if Anelka and Drogba went here instead of China? Grab a few of those guys that goes to a Saudi team … you might have a good team that can just cruise in NASL, play CONCACAF Champions League, US Open Cup, and get into the Club World Cup. That would be a real retirement team!

  36. Lemmy says:

    I am all for it. Bring it on, Cosmos. They will do a lot for American footy. That being said, don’t expect an easy time from the hooligans in ATL next year. All sentimentality gets thrown out the window when you’re on our turf, SUCKAZ.

  37. Lemmy says:

    Sure they do, if they’re offered a big fat check. Look where Drogba’s playing. (But I doubt they’ll throw that much money at it in the 2nd division.)

  38. slowleftarm says:

    Drogba is making $15m a year. I guess if Cosmos are going to spend that kind of money, then it’s possible some guys would come for a last payday. But I don’t see what the point would be. To play Atlanta Railbirds at Hofstra? Seems ridiculous.

  39. Joamiq says:

    Of course there are doubters. As the piece says, so far, all they’ve done is fail at every turn.

    Do people seriously think New Yorkers are going to turn out in droves for an NASL team? NYers will laugh at the notion.

  40. Whitestarw says:

    Pele came out of retirement to play for Cosmos back in the day…I predict Ronaldo who is 35 same age as Pele when he signed could join the Cosmos or Roberto Carlos.

  41. Weber says:

    The world’s most recognized athlete is already here. It will be interesting to see what happens 5 years from now.

  42. Fred says:

    No, the team would not make it past the CONCACAF top dogs, US or Mexico.

  43. Cream says:

    I don’t doubt this, but the environment will be much more competitive than Pele’s. They might need 4 35 year old Ronaldos.

  44. BSU SC says:

    I’m not saying that they’ll be the biggest thing in NYC, but there is no reason to believe that this team is dead on arrival. On paper it appears that they’ll be able to field a NASL team without too much turmoil. It’s taking things a bit far when people are writing the obituary for this club before they play their first game. Give them a chance to prove their worth.

  45. BSU SC says:

    Don’t hold your breath on the promotion/relegation idea. Highly unlikely that we’ll see that in our lifetime.