INTERVIEW WITH KARTIK KRISHNAIYER OF THE NORTH AMERICAN SOCCER LEAGUE
This past off-season, was rife with dispute in the North American Soccer community, the much maligned labor agreement between Major League Soccer and the MLS Players Union his much of the civil war that was roiling in the lower divisions of US and Canadian soccer.
A feud amongst disgruntled owners of the United Soccer Leagues First Division teams, who all had differing and diverging views on ownership, marketing and league control led to a splinter group of core teams founding it’s own league. This league would become the North American Soccer League. A name synonymous with the founding of soccer on the continent, the North American Soccer League.
One of the first things the fledgling NASL did was to find a person who had a deep knowledge of how the sport is communicated in North America; the internet. It seems, in hindsight, that selecting Kartik Krishnayier for the post of Director of Communications and Public Relations was a no-brainer. His familiarity with the history and traditions of the league, his desire to take the sport to a higher level in North America and his seemingly endless amount of energy in the world of soccer blogging and new media.
In 2006 he began writing for the EPL Talk Network and in 2007 launched a sister site, Major League Soccer Talk. He has managed an endless stream of blogs and has hosted as many podcasts including the MLS Talk Podcast and the American Soccer Show, the EPL Talk podcast.
It made sense for the NASL to get a guy who knew how to connect to the soccer masses in North America, but more than that, to be able to get those millions of fans involved.
Here then is the first part of the interview I was fortunate enough to get with Kartik, who discusses the purpose and direction of the NASL.
YGB – What is the new North American Soccer League and how does it fit into the American Soccer structure?
KK – The North American Soccer League (NASL) was established in November 2009, and will be submitting an application with the U.S. Soccer Federation to become a sanctioned league in 2011. The NASL’s nine member teams – Carolina RailHawks, Crystal Palace Baltimore, Miami FC, NSC Minnesota Stars, Montreal Impact, Rochester Rhinos, AC St. Louis, FC Tampa Bay Rowdies and Vancouver Whitecaps FC – will all compete in the 2010 USSF D-2 Professional League, a second division league established and administered by the United States Soccer Federation. In 2011, the NASL will be joined by teams in Atlanta and Edmonton. The NASL and its member teams are committed to building on their long tradition of providing a high level of soccer to fans across the United States and Canada in 2010 and beyond.
YGB – How much of the NASL’s tradition has been brought to the new league?
KK – The tradition and legacy of the original NASL is a big part of what we are building on, going forward. I’ve heard from fans all over the world that are excited about the return of the NASL. We’re tapping into some of that excitement.
YGB – FC Tampa Bay has taken the colors of the original NASL Tampa Bay Rowdies, and use the name ‘Rowdies’ in some capacity. There was also some strong sentiment that FC Edmonton, entering the NASL in 2011 would be called the Edmonton Drillers, again a throwback to the classic NASL. Will there be a continued resurrection of classic NASL teams, manes and colors?
KK – Perhaps some expansion teams, and re-branding of current teams into old NASL names. Their appears to be strong momentum in south Florida to re-brand Miami FC as the Fort Lauderdale Strikers or maybe just the generic Strikers without a city name. No decision has been made on that as of yet, but the fans in that market are pushing the Strikers name. This owes itself to the NASL name for our league as well as the massive success of the Seattle Sounders name in MLS.
YGB – What is difference between NASL and the USL?
KK – NASL proposes to be a team ownership run league like most around the globe whereas USL is run by an outside business interest. NASL will follow all FIFA statutes and mandates, which has not been the case through the years with USL.
YGB – What is it like working with the USSF as opposed to USL?
KK – The USSF is much more serious about promoting the cause of soccer and maintaining stability in Division Two than USL has been. In the past, USL didn’t work to solidify local markets and did little if any outreach to local media. They also failed to properly ascertain in advance if owners who paid an expansion fee could maintain a franchise long term. These factors led to the demise of professional soccer in several key markets like Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Nashville, and of course Atlanta. It’s hard to believe the city that Atlanta, which boasts the world’s busiest airport in 2009 doesn’t have professional soccer while the city with the second busiest airport in 2009, London (Heathrow Airport), has eleven teams in the top three divisions of English football currently.
USL officials were rarely seen in the major markets where the league had D-2 teams. I had team official tell me he had seen the top USL brass outside of Tampa (where USL is based) exactly once in the past nine years. Of course USL did a good job with its AGM/Soccerfest, but still that was too little hands on contact in most of these markets.
The USSF this season is working diligently with Federation officials traveling throughout the league so that whatever decisions are made about D-2 are made with proper working knowledge of the situation and ensure the long term future of second division soccer in North America. Under USL’s watch, a number of major league sports cities lost professional soccer, and the USSF does not want that to happen again as we move into a new era of where Soccer’s time has come in North America.
YGB – What does USSF provide for the NASL?
KK – The USSF has provided us with assistance with operations and media this season. They are seasoned professionals doing the best job they can in the midst of a busy and exciting world cup year.
YGB – Where does the NASL see itself in 20 years?
KK – It’s too early to answer that question, but our owners are prepared to be on the soccer landscape for the long haul. This process has been carefully thought out by our owners and we do internally have a strong vision for where we’d like to see NASL and second division soccer in the near term and the long term.
PART TWO OF THE GOODMAN BROWNE INTERVIEW WITH KARTIK KRISHNAIYER WILL BE POSTED THIS FRIDAY.