You’ll all be happy to know that even though Real Salt Lake is up for sale — and I’ve got some great advice for making the club better — I, personally, am not planning to buy it, on account of three reasons:
1) Dell Loy Hansen would never sell it to me, although you’ve got to admit, there would be some sweet irony in that happening after the way he and Andy Carroll felt about me — blubbering like babies, taking my press credential away — after I treated RSL like a legitimate professional sports franchise by … you know, taking the kid gloves off and actually criticizing the team for its stupid management mistakes. For too long, RSL had been seen and handled by the media here as a puppy dog of a franchise, a cute little team making a cute little effort in a cute little sport that not only was unworthy of criticism, it couldn’t or wouldn’t be understood or appreciated by too many Utahns.
When it became clear that it was legitimate and should be treated as such, things got testy, which is unsophisticated, but fine because … so what, right?
2) There are other potential buyers who would be much better at owning the team, buyers who know how to run a team, know how to market a team, know how to get sponsors for a team, know how to make a team competitive, know how to make the brand grow.
3) The thing is a bit on the pricey side.
But I do know a few things the future owners of RSL, whoever they are, should do immediately to make it a thousand times better than what it has been since Dell Loy took over.
The first is, they should hire back Garth Lagerwey as the team’s general manager/vice president of whatever/king of the world. Lagerwey might not have any interest in returning to head the club because … well, he’s done all right for himself in subsequent endeavors, including winning an MLS Cup with the Seattle Sounders, one of the league’s top franchises.
But the new owners should make it impossible for Lagerwey to turn an offer down. Buy him out. Give him whatever he wants. Pay him by the truckload. Dude is smart and savvy and crafty. He knows the game, him having played and managed it for years. He knows the law inside and outside of soccer, him having been an attorney. He knows people, him having connected with players, other executives, employees — from the fancy titled to common laborers, and, most importantly, the fans. Few in the game are the high-level ambassadors that Lagerwey is. He knows how to explain things, how to sell, how to make connections, how to manage, how to win.
The second is, hire back Jason Kreis. He never should have been allowed to get away from RSL, although everyone knows he had great offers elsewhere. It never should have come to that. If Kreis had been treated properly a year in advance of his contract expiring, he would not have left. He would have been promptly rewarded for winning an MLS Cup, for helping transform RSL from a league laughingstock to a league champion, for knowing how to work the team, the players, the organization here in Utah. He’s had some bumps in the road subsequently, but the fact that he ever got away from RSL in the first place was just clumsiness stemming from ownership inexperience and arrogance. Bring the man back. He’ll coach it up, again.
The third is, hire back Trey Fitz-Gerald. He is simply the best communications director RSL could ever have. He’s the best communications guy I’ve ever witnessed in my 40-plus years of working in the sports media — in any sport, at any level. He’s gifted at more than just working with reporters, rather he knows soccer and he knows how to get business done. He knows how the world works. Get him back to Salt Lake.
The fourth is, rehire the people who have jumped ship from RSL because they couldn’t, as one former executive told me, "work for that a------, meaning Hansen. With Hansen on his way out, and with Carroll pretty much gone, and with John Kimball back onboard, the talented former employees of RSL, the ones who helped make it one of the best franchises in MLS, can safely return to boost the club back to its former glory.
The fifth is, treat whoever works for the team, and for the Utah Royals, with the respect they deserve. Make it a good place to work, a favored place. Do not bully people. Do not intimidate them. Do not make crass Neanderthal-like comments or jokes about employees or players on account of their appearances, their physiques, their figures, their skirt lengths.
What the hell. It’s not that hard.
Whoever buys RSL can do that much, can know enough to know what they know and what they do not know, and what they do not know they can leave to the experts they hire to know such things.
It can happen. Whoever buys the team can make it happen. And can be secure enough in their own talents and know-how and abilities to absorb a few shots from people on the outside who criticize a few mistakes along the way.
There’s a future owner out there who can run Real Salt Lake the way it should be run, the way the fans deserve to have it run — in a manner that will make executives, coaches, players, other employees want to come work here.
It’s nowhere near as hard as it’s been made to look.
GORDON MONSON hosts “The Big Show” with Jake Scott weekdays from 2-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM and 1280 AM The Zone.