What David Blitzer and Ryan Smith’s ownership of Real Salt Lake could mean financially for the club


Real Salt Lake for the past few seasons has operated on a tight budget. When an inaugural coach or general manager would introduce himself, the club chose to promote from within rather than bring in someone more expensive from the outside.

On the pitch, RSL relies heavily on its academy and Real Monarchs to promote players to the first team. Certainly, the organization brought in players from other clubs or from abroad – for example Damir Kreilach, Everton Luiz, Anderson Julio and others – and they worked very efficiently and effectively. But none of those players are asking for a price commensurate with the talented international players that may have filled some of the holes in the roster for RSL over the years.

But that could change now with David Blitzer and Ryan Smith own the franchise. The two entrepreneurs, along with Arctos Sports Partners as a limited partner, agreed to buy RSL and everything related to it on Wednesday, including Monarchs, academia, two stadiums and a training facility created in Herriman.

Football analyst Brian Dunseth, a former RSL and Major League Soccer player who comments on the team’s live broadcasts, said a Blitzer and Smith lead would “change everything” simply because how much more financial resources they can invest in the club than Dell Loy Hansen’s previous ownership.

“You are talking about monopoly money,” Dunseth told The Salt Lake Tribune. “With this kind of backing, this kind of ownership group, it completely changes what this club is [has] are financially active, both in terms of list discretionary spending [and], equally important, the continued development of infrastructure. ”

Blitzer, Smith and MLS Commissioner Don Garber appeared together Thursday afternoon to question the new ownership of the RSL. The first topic covered is the new owners’ money plans to invest in this area.

“The reality is that Ryan and I are incredibly competitive individuals and we want to see Real Salt Lake win the MLS Cup,” Blitzer said. “That’s very clear.”

Blitzer’s comment alone may have disappointed fans as Hansen, a billionaire, also indicated that he wanted to win the championship but was constantly hesitant to spend the money he could possibly have to do. so. But Smith may then have given fans a reality Optimistic reason.

Smith mentioned that the Utah Jazz and Philadelphia 76ers — the NBA teams Smith and Blitzer own — are among the top spenders in professional basketball.

“If you look at both the Jazz and the Sixers, we could be fifth and sixth on the payroll in the NBA and people still criticize us for not spending enough,” Smith said. “So I think our track record here is pretty good.”

RSL has managed to sign the likes of Anderson, Rubio Rubin, Bobby Wood and Toni Datković despite not having any extra money their fund has to spend to improve the squad in 2021. The club The department also signed a multi-year contract with Pablo Mastroeni to become a permanent member of the team. head coach and did so without new ownership. Those moves alone speak to how general manager Elliot Fall and the rest of the front office want to operate as if nothing has changed.

However, experts in the sports business who spoke to The Tribune are cautious about how Blitzer and Smith will affect the future of RSL from a financial standpoint.

Blitzer has money tied to the sports world. He owns teams in the NBA and NHL, and invests in several European soccer teams. He’s also financially on an NFL team, and is said to be close to buying a big chunk of an MLB team. And now he’s bought into the MLS.

It’s a situation that has Andrew Zimbalist, a sports business expert and professor of economics at Smith University, wondering how much bandwidth Blitzer will have for RSL.

“There was a bit of anxiety when he had one franchise in Philadelphia, another in upstate New Jersey, and another in Salt Lake,” Zimbalist said. “In terms of his own engagement and connection with the community, I think it’s going to be a bit more spread than you’d like.”

Some fans may be confused to learn that Blitzer won’t be the unquoted local owner. But maybe that’s where Smith comes in—a Utah native who just bought the biggest sports franchise in the state and has been trying to improve the community while doing so.

When asked if he always anticipates finding a local partner to invest in RSL with him, Blitzer said, “100%.”

But Stefan Szymanski, a professor of sports management at the University of Michigan, doesn’t find a local link to RSL ownership so meaningful.

All that local knowledge is largely irrelevant because, honestly, that’s what you pay your managers to do, says Szymanski. “Maybe you hire locals to run your community engagement programs and all that. But they can do all that without making sure you’re connected to the local environment.”

The concern of some experts is who among the new RSL holders will have the final say in decisions. Yes, Smith is someone who has connections to the state and therefore may have more emotional investments in the club and community. But when the pressure comes to a head, the financial decisions may fall to Blitzer and what he feels is the best investment – and that may not align with what fans want.

“I am not trying to say that having a local owner is not a good thing. This is a tried and true tactic for many years, says Gil Fried, an attorney and professor emeritus at the University of New Haven. “But you have to look at the basic agreement. Will they be equal partners? One will become a 51% partner, which means they have the power to change what’s going on? If they own 51% and they put in the remaining 49%, they still make all the decisions.”

Blitzer addressed this a bit on Thursday. He says he believes in empowering people to do their jobs and that he has “excellent people” at RSL.

“I think about the big decisions, of course Ryan and I talk to each other, to our partners and to our management team about those decisions,” Blitzer said. “But day in and day out, I let the management teams do their job.”

This year’s Jazz is one of the strongest teams in the NBA with what many basketball analysts say is at least a solid chance to win the championship. Blitzer teams have had varying degrees of success.

While those teams’ win-loss records may not be as indicative as it is in relation to the RSL, a recent situation could arise. Ricardo Pepi, who previously played with FC Dallas and has appeared with the United States Men’s National Team, has sold for $20 million reported to FC Augsburg of the Bundesliga. Blitzer is a minority owner and investor in FC Augsburg and is credited with driving that deal successfully.

Victor Matheson, a sports business expert at the College of the Holy Cross, said: “If it’s the right team, it’s a good sign that he’s not afraid to spend money because it’s a historic transfer. Continuity for Pepi. Matheson added that fans shouldn’t expect exorbitant spending from Blitzer because that’s not his achievement, but they shouldn’t expect him to make every penny either.

“Don’t count on Messi coming back to Utah here after he finishes playing in Europe, or Ronaldo,” said Matheson. “But don’t expect this to be a group of BYU players playing in the minimum division to just make money and not put the product on the pitch.”

However, Dunseth is in fact looking to the potential that Blitzer and Smith can bring to his former club.

“I couldn’t think of a better outcome for the fan base and for the club that for the past year and a half have been sitting around and trying to figure out what the future might hold,” Dunseth said. What David Blitzer and Ryan Smith’s ownership of Real Salt Lake could mean financially for the club

Beth Allcock

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