Another man, another plan: Reviewing Eric Wynalda’s long-awaited manifesto

In less than 48 hours between my sprawling recap of the week in Philadelphia and my podcast on the week and the election (with Charles Boehm), one interesting thing has happened …

I’ve received a lot of pushback on the notion that Eric Wynalda is the front runner.

No, it’s not Sunil Gulati and Don Garber calling. These are people who are plugged into soccer politics, in some cases even moreso than I am, even after my obsessive coverage in the past few months.

I’m still not convinced Wynalda isn’t the front-runner. I understand that some people have an “anyone but Wynalda” attitude, just as some have “anyone but Carter” or “anyone but Carter and Cordeiro.” I still think that Carter has a very difficult road to 50%+1, and I think the opposition will eventually join forces behind one candidate, and the most likely candidate fitting that bill is Wynalda. But I could be wrong, and perhaps we’ll see a compromise between the “no Wynalda” and “no Carter” camps that gives us a President Martino or Gans or Winograd or I Have No Idea.

But one thing has become clear: Wynalda’s stock dropped in Philadelphia. The forum in which he promised solutions, truths and the gloves coming off, with none of them happening. Fairly or unfairly, some voters may resent the truck with the nasty protest, even though he disavowed it.  (He did not, of course, disavow the statement implying Kathy Carter and Carlos Cordeiro are not “soccer people,” a message that didn’t sit well with a lot of people and tends to undermine his anti-elitist stance.)

Then consider this from the New York Times piece:

ew-board

“Fine,” you might say. “He’s the insurgent attacking the status quo.”

But consider the voters. Adult Council. Youth Council. Pro Council. Athletes’ Council. All of whom combine for about 95% of the vote. All of whom also elect representatives to that board.

None of this means that Wynalda’s campaign is sunk. I still think he has a better chance of winning than any other candidate. But that chance is probably less than 50%. There are eight candidates, after all, and you can’t really rule many of them out.

So when we heard yesterday, when Wynalda called in to Jason Davis’ show to say he’d finally be releasing a plan of some sort, the stakes were raised. This could put him over the top or not. (And we have to wonder whether it’s too late — all the state reps with whom I spoke in Philly seemed to looking at the convention as the last bits of info they would take home to their boards before making decisions.)

He released the plan today. It’s 14 pages and seems to be a little more digestible than the massive Kyle Martino plan. Let’s take a look.

PAGE 1: Cover sheet.

PAGE 2: Inclusive. Consensus-building. Experience — player, coach, technical director, owner, TV. “Move toward future compliance with FIFA standards” — a point that really needs to be explained, especially when we keep hearing about this inaccurately named “international calendar.”

And this is not the comprehensive plan. Position papers are forthcoming. Clock is ticking. But let’s see what’s here …

PAGE 3: Table of contents

PAGE 4: A picture of a calculator. People still use those?

PAGE 5, PART 1: Registration Rewards Initiative. He wants to return the $1/youth and $2/adult fee back to the youth and adult organizations. He says there will be a $1 “bonus allocation” for meeting certain criteria. These fees, he says, can really help the youth/adult organizations, while USSF is no longer dependent on them. The numbers back him up on this.

PAGE 5/6: >$5 Million in Annual Support, Grants and Scholarships to Membership Groups. He’s really talking about 5% of “unrestricted investable assets,” saying this is in line with how nonprofits use their endowments. “Many candidates talk about funding new programs but have yet (sic) identify definitively how to develop funds for those purposes.” Someone who gets fund-raising and nonprofit finance better than me will have to explain how this works and how it will impress voters more than, say, Carlos Cordeiro saying the federation is already planning to spend its $150 million-ish reserves down to about $50 million. Wynalda’s plan might be more of a long-term cash stream, while Cordeiro may be talking about a set of one-time investments. I don’t know.

PAGE 6: Internal Loans. Wow, I really don’t understand this. Literally. He seems to be saying state organizations and other organizations could get loans from U.S. Soccer. Someone will need to do a study to see if that’s actually an improvement on just funding programs.

PAGE 7: Monetize the U.S. Open Cup. “Multiple media executives have asked why the US Open Cup has not yet been packaged and monetized in a meaningful way and have identified themselves that it is a grossly undervalued asset and represents an untapped source of funds for the USSF itself.”

Let’s get this straight — and this echoes something he said in Philly. Is he saying there are multiple media executives who, instead of contacting the people who actually run the U.S. Open Cup, decided to ask Eric Wynalda? Or are there people at U.S. Soccer who heard a pitch to monetize the U.S. Open Cup and said no? Did they ask the Open Cup Committee, which has actually done some pretty good work to build up the tournament? (Eric, I know you’re reading — please let me know what you mean here.)

PAGE 8: A picture of Soccer House

PAGE 9: Transparency starts here with Apply for a public credit rating with Moody’s or Standard and Poor’s, which would obligate USSF to another annual review on top of what’s required for the 990. Seems like an interesting idea, but again, I’ll need to hear from nonprofit econ experts.

Then …

The USSF should create a non-voting sub-committee of the Board that includes a diverse selection of membership that is expected to attend all USSF Board meetings and that would be encouraged and supported to share their opinions and voices on public matters. The USSF management team would be obligated to host a conference call with this subcommittee no less than two weeks ahead of each scheduled USSF Board meeting to update members, provide information on planned agenda for the Board meeting, and to share public materials that will be discussed at the Board meeting itself.

At the very least, the wording here is poor. A “sub-committee of the Board” would be composed of Board members. If he means some sort of group of non-Board members that would be like a shadow Board, I think he’d want to go back and see why the board (sorry to switch cases here) went from 40 to 15. That was following what the USOC and others were doing at the time.

I get what he’s saying, but I think there’s another way to do this. Why tell a subcommittee what’s on the board agenda and not the whole membership?

PAGE 10: Clearly Defined Competitive Bidding Policy. This will be popular, and probably with good reason.

PAGE 10: Develop Conflict of Interest and Risk Management Policies. The board has done and is doing this, but there’s certainly room to ask whether they’re doing enough.

PAGE 11: Office of Ethics, Integrity, and Inclusion. It’s the sort of idea that sounds good in a vacuum. The question is whether it’s really better than the mechanisms that are in place now. Do you need to replace the mechanisms or replace the people?

Included in this: Restart the Diversity Task Force, and I know no good argument against that.

PAGE 12: Picture of scarves.

PAGE 13: Establish Membership Services Team. Sounds kind of like what Steve Gans has been saying.

PAGE 13-14: Support Network for National Team Players. OK … I guess? The idea of having a group to guide players into a post-playing career sounds good, but why would we limit it to national team players? Why not help players who probably made a lot less money?

PAGE 14: Consulting. In conjunction with the internal bank.

And that’s it. Until the position papers come out.

So … I don’t know what to make of this. Some of the ideas are obvious (and good), some are less obvious and still good (the Registration Rewards Initiative is, at the very least, worthy of future discussion), others just seem arcane and off-the-wall. Do we really want the U.S. Soccer Federation to turn into a USAA for soccer? If someone more knowledgeable about nonprofits can tell me if this works, I’d be happy to hear it.

Then some of it seems surprisingly elitist. A subcommittee that shadows the board but just seems to be an unnecessary bulkhead between the board and the membership? Mysterious media executives who aren’t approaching the Open Cup Committee (Mike Edwards, Todd Durbin, USL’s Jake Edwards, USASA’s John Motta, NASL’s Rishi Sehgal and retired MNT player John O’Brien) with a plan to invest megamillions but are approaching Wynalda?

I don’t get it. Someone feel free to explain it to me.

 

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