Announcing the MLS All-Star Game wasnt the only order of business Sporting Kansas City President and CEO Robb Heineman addressed Thursday.
By TOD PALMER
The Kansas City Star
During a more intimate interview after the All-Star news conference, Heineman talked about the clubs naming rights not only for the stadium but the teams jerseys.
There is continuing speculation that Sporting KC may distance itself from Lance Armstrongs charity, Livestrong, whose name adorns the 19-month-old stadium in Kansas City, Kan.
While he refused to say a change was imminent or even likely, Heineman said the continuing controversy surrounding Armstrong and performance-enhancing drug use was weighing on Sporting Club.
The thing thats most important is what goes on in the stadium and the fans that fill it, Heineman said. The thing were committed to is the vision of what Livestrongs about, which is helping people afflicted with cancer.
Sporting KC has always maintained that its partnership was with the cancer-fighting charity known for its yellow bands and formed by Armstrong, who is a cancer survivor more than the disgraced cyclist.
The arrangement Sporting KC is donating $7.5 million over five years to Livestrong came under intense scrutiny last summer when Armstrong was banned from competition and stripped of his seven Tour de France titles after the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency concluded hed orchestrated a sophisticated doping program throughout his career.
A lot of things around the situation are unfortunate, Heineman said, but (changing the stadium sponsor) is something we would think through very carefully and closely before we did anything.
As for a jersey sponsor to adorn Sporting KCs uniforms, Heineman is hopeful for an agreement before the season opener March 2 in Philadelphia.
Were very close, he said. Theres nothing imminent on that either, but I feel very good that well have something on that by the time the season starts.
For us, its been a very deliberate process. Theres very specific things that we want to shirt sponsor to embody. Thats made it tough for us. You cant always get what you want, but the companies that were talking to now fit.
Signing on with another charity for jersey sponsorship wasnt an option, Heineman said.
We want to set a different tone around that, he said. Obviously, we did the charitable piece on the stadium, but at some point in this whole thing you have to make some money. Its easier to do that off commercial sponsorship than off raising ticket prices to fans.
Heineman said Sporting KCs ownership group is committed to keeping ticket prices down.
We have no desire to do that, so weve got to build our commercial business to achieve some of those objectives, Heineman said.
He is hopeful that Sporting KCs success, which helped manager Peter Vermes squad land 13 games on national television for the 2013 season, will help make a jersey sponsorship attractive despite a tough economic climate.
We used to have to beg to get on national TV four or five years ago, Heineman said. Now that weve got 13 (games) on various networks, thats a huge thing and its a huge media value obviously for whoever the partner winds up being.
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