Without a doubt, these are exciting times in Cincinnati soccer. Two fourth tier clubs call the city home, fully professional indoor soccer looks on the verge of a return to the area, and a new billionaire-backed USL club with sky-high ambitions just set up shop here, too.
But this past week, the keen-eyed observers in the area would have noticed that another major player in the world of soccer made a stop in the Queen City.
Yes, that is indeed English/British Premier League chief executive officer Richard Scudamore. Yes, he and his son Patrick were in attendance at Great American Ball Park, home of Major League Baseball’s Cincinnati Reds, for the home team’s 12-5 win over the Detroit Tigers. And yes, that’s a bit out of left field. Pun intended.
If you’re anything like me, you might be asking yourself why in the wild world of sports would the Premier League’s head honcho be catching a baseball game in Cincinnati at the end of August?
It’s a great question. But while I’ve certainly been trying to sniff out official answers, the facts have yet to reveal themselves. And as you might expect in such circumstances, wild speculation has filled the void.
What follows is some of that wild speculation. Please, please, please don’t take any of this as fact as absolutely 0% of it has been verified. Some of it is entirely plausible — in my eyes anyway — while others are less so.
SPECULATION #1: The EPL chief was in town to watch the local professional tennis tournament, the Western & Southern Open.
The most boring of speculations could quite possibly be the most likely of them, too. Cincinnati’s stop on the professional tennis tour is considered to be one of the top ten events on the circuit, and has long attracted ritzy guests. With the final between Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic being the day before, it’s possible Rick and Pat Scudamore decided to catch a MLB game before heading back home across the pond.
If you want to shoot a hole in that theory being the primary reason, there are plenty of closer places to catch professional tennis closer to home for the Scudamores: Wimbeldon is practically in their back yard, Roland Garros is just across the Channel plus a number of other European stops.
However, if you really want to read between the lines, there’s a soccer tie in here, too. The WS Open is hosted at the Lindner Family Tennis Center, which is owned by the Carl Linder III — the billionaire majority owner behind the new USL outfit in town. Could Lindner have invited Scudamore to the tournament to help broker some future deals involving Premier League sides? Speaking of which…
SPECULATION #2: Scudamore was there to evaluate whether the Cincinnati Reds could host summer friendlies at Great American Ball Park in the future.
I’d like to believe this could totally be a plausible theory — if for no other reason than I’d love for some big clubs to finally come to Cincinnati. I’ve enviously watched friendlies come to the likes of St. Louis, Cleveland, Indianapolis and Detroit. However the Bengals have never at all looked interested in that, despite Paul Brown Stadium supposedly being built to accommodate international soccer. But when the grass was ripped out for turf a few seasons ago, that pretty much ended any hopes of international soccer at PBS. That leaves the Red’s GABP as the only major stadium in town with grass, a major requirement for many international friendlies. And with more and more baseball stadiums hosting such games — Yankee Stadium, AT&T Park in San Francisco, and St. Louis’ Busch Stadium to name a few — to help fill empty summer dates, you could see Reds wanting to get in on the action.
Adding further fuel to fire that is this speculation, the aforementioned FC Cincinnati owner, Lindner, is also a minority owner of the Reds.
But there are holes in the theory, too. For one, the Premier League doesn’t necessarily have a say in where its clubs play their summer friendlies. Two, Scudamore doesn’t have any apparent ties to Relevent Sports, the group behind the International Champions Cup, or any of the other organizers behind most other North American summer friendlies. Though he could very well know people who do. Thirdly, Great American Ball Park is known for its small dimensions — trying to shoehorn a soccer field on there might result in a smaller pitch than the postage stamp that NYCFC play on in the Bronx.
SPECULATION #3: Richard Scudamore is buying the Cincinnati Reds.
I had to throw this in there simply so I could say there’s no way Scudamore is buying the entirety of the Reds. For one, the mere idea of that seems absurd. Secondly, I doubt that Scudamore is wealthy enough to pull that kind of move off. Could he be making a minority investment in the team? Sure, that seems far more likely — but still probably not the case. And so far there’s no evidence that I’ve been unable unearth to support that happening either.
Could the ownership courting be going the opposite direction, with Scudamore in town to talk to someone about investing in a Premier League side? Reds’ owner Bob Castellini isn’t that kind of rich, so that’s out. Lindner is, however, that type of rich and he’s obviously interested in soccer investment these days. Could Scudamore be feeling him out? Possibly, but again I have nothing to point to him purchasing a second club in Great Britain.
I did reach out to the Reds and Jamie Ramsey — the guy who posted the original tweet above — to see if they would be willing to shed any more light on the situation, but thus far I’ve not received any response back.
So in the mean time, we’ll have to be content with letting our imaginations continue to run wild.