MLL Down to Six
It was another Monday. I arrived at work and posted a social media update to promote my newest article. Then, while scrolling through Instagram, I saw something weird. “MLL Going Down to 6 Teams” was pasted in the middle of LSN’s newest post. I commented saying I was in shock, only to have another user tell me to look at the date. April 1st. “Of course,”, I thought. I just assumed it was a terrible joke. Then I looked into it more and noticed people were stating they were getting refunds for season tickets for the teams going away. The MLL officially posted on their site that it was true. So, with a heavy heart, I must report that for 2019 the Ohio Machine, Florida Launch, and Charlotte Hounds will not be playing.
The Ohio Machine and Florida Launch are completely disbanded while the Charlotte Hounds plan to be back for the 2021 season once their stadium is finished construction. The reasoning for this is explained from the MLL official website:
“MLL ownership unanimously agreed on a strategy which limits one team per owner and will restructure the organization to focus on expansion in strategic markets with the goal of establishing Eastern and Western conferences. As a result, Major League Lacrosse will not be operating the Ohio Machine, the Florida Launch, or the Charlotte Hounds in 2019. After construction on American Legion Memorial Stadium is complete, the Charlotte Hounds will return in 2021 under new ownership.” (Article linked at the bottom)
The reason we lost three teams in one day is because Jim Davis, the owner of New Balance, held the most power. With him owning three teams, he led the league’s direction. He is the reason we only have games on LSN (no offense to LSN). I don’t have insider information, but the league, as stated in the official release, wants one owner for one team; therefore, Davis must have been pushed out so the league could go in a different direction. (Some have told me he still owns a team and others have said he completely pulled back the New Balance sponsorship. I cannot confirm either way on this matter.)
An article by the Boston Herald sums up a major reason for this sudden shift:
“Part of Monday’s announcement included the league buying back its media rights, which had belonged to Lax Sports Network, a streaming 24-hour lacrosse platform. MLL had broadcast its games exclusively on LSN, which is operated by former MLL commissioner David Gross and owned by Davis, since 2016.” (Article linked at bottom)
This mean’s the MLL did this with a future television deal in mind. I believe they did all this partially because they wanted to have the flexibility to get a solid television deal with games broadcast on separate channels (think CBS Sports and ESPN both covering games). If this is what the league is pushing for, I am a fan. I feel confident saying that a real TV deal is what many fans want, so if the league did this to get media rights back for a television deal, most fans will be happy.
I believe the league is following an “addition by subtraction” model at the moment. Charlotte and Florida were the lowest in league attendance; therefore, the league may be hoping to pull these teams out and put them in more popular lacrosse spots. I think making the Florida Launch the New Jersey Launch and the Charlotte Hounds the Philadelphia Hounds may strengthen the league’s attendance (yes, the Hounds are coming back in 2021 but things could change). Sadly, the Ohio Machine were a popular team and had their own lacrosse-specific stadium. I get they eliminated them due to the ownership, but the league needs to put a priority on getting a team back in Ohio pronto.
The aspiration to create a west and east division is admirable. If the league is looking to expand westward, they should look at markets such as St. Louis or Chicago. St. Louis is a hub for multiple bordering states, so a team could draw people in from Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, etc. Chicago is a massive city and has tons of people looking to find something to do Saturday night.
After my frustration wore off, I can see how these moves could benefit the league long-term. I am a fan of the MLL and truly want it to succeed. I dream of a future where the MLL and PLL both succeed and continuously challenge each other to create a better product. With that said, the delivery of this news could have been handled better. Of all the days to release this news, April Fool’s was one of the worst. I still see people commenting (9 PM my time) that it’s an April Fool’s joke. The league doesn’t control this part, but it doesn’t help when there’s a new league getting all the attention. This announcement just makes the PLL look sexier to the average lacrosse fan. No one wants to get into a league that looks like it’s in trouble (whether it truly is or not).
To conclude, it’s sad to see that three MLL teams are going away. It always sucks when there are less lacrosse teams to cheer for. I feel especially bad for the people personally involved with those organizations. That said, I can see how the league could use this to benefit long-term. I hope this works out for the league, but the MLL bigwigs must be gritting their teeth announcing this news while the PLL is happily announcing they will be hosting an All-Star Game (aired by NBC) in Los Angeles.
The articles I mentioned above are linked below. I highly recommend checking them out since they helped me so much!