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'The plan is to be able to still play a full season for MLS': NYCFC CEO

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NYCFC CEO Brad Sims joins Yahoo Finance’s On The Move to discuss how the club will continue to give back to those seeking relief effort and how the coronavirus could potentially push back its major league soccer schedule.

Video Transcript

JULIE HYMAN: Why don't we talk about what NYCFC is doing right now?

BRAD SIMS: Yeah, so first, thanks for having me on. And before I get into that, I'd be remiss if I didn't start with a huge thank you to all of the health care workers in New York and everyone else who is on the front lines of this, keeping our city going and moving forward. It's nothing short of heroic and inspirational to all of us. So thank you so much from New York City Football Club for all that you're doing.

We're trying to do our part as well-- a much smaller part, but trying to be impactful where we can be. You know, working closely with our community and trying to have an impact on the New York Community is part of the DNA of our club-- has been since the beginning. So this past week, we were fortunate to be able to partner with New York Common Pantry. It's a great organization that we've been partnering with for some time now to be able to deliver 100,000 meals to the residents of the South Bronx.

We play our home games at Yankee Stadium. So the South Bronx is our home. And the South Bronx-- and the Bronx overall-- is one of the hardest-hit by this crisis in the New York area and actually in the world. So to be able to do something that's impactful there to the people of that community was something that was meaningful to us and something that we're really proud of.

DAN ROBERTS: Hey, Brad-- Dan Roberts here. Thanks for coming on.

BRAD SIMS: Hey, Dan.

DAN ROBERTS: We've been tracking closely what all the different sports entities are doing at this time. You know, we've talked to the various sports apparel companies who are using their manufacturing facilities to make masks. Here with NYCFC and the Yankees, you guys are another example. But obviously, what's hard is that your core business isn't happening right now.

I mean, the MLS season has been put on hold. Where does that stand, in terms of if and when that might come back? What's the current MLS kind of status and discussion amongst the league and what you've heard from Commissioner Don Garber on when you guys might be able to resume-- because it's good to be able to do these relief projects. But obviously, you're also worried right now about your business.

BRAD SIMS: Absolutely. I mean, I wish I knew. You know, I think that for us, one thing is clear. And that's been in conversations with the commissioner and the rest of MLS-- is that we won't be back until it's safe to be back. So that's the most important part. And we were clear on that. We don't know when that's going to be.

We do believe-- and the plan is-- to be able to still play a full season. For MLS, we were only two games into the season when we kind of postponed things. And usually, the season goes through early October-- playoffs in November. There are a lot of different permutations of scheduling that they're working through to see how far back we could potentially push the schedule-- how we can condense more games into a shorter period of time and still play a full season. So that's where the focus continues to be.

JULIE HYMAN: And Brad, how does it work in terms of-- we've talked about so many other industries, where the employers are still paying workers or [INAUDIBLE] workers. There are a lot of different options out there. How does it work with something like Major League Soccer?

BRAD SIMS: Yeah, so, you know, good question. I mean, every kind of club is looking at it a little bit differently. You know, for us, [AUDIO OUT] that when we got into this situation, you know, the most important thing for us was to protect our people. I think that, you know, the community and dealing with our community and protecting our people were the two most important things.

Protecting our full-time employees, our part-time employees, our players, coaches, both from health and safety standpoint and from a financial standpoint-- that was going to be key to us. And so, you know, we continue. Everyone's working from home. We're being, actually, much more productive than probably I would have guessed. We get a chance to work on projects that maybe have been put in a drawer or things that you just wouldn't have had time to do otherwise.

And you know, we're able to really still be productive and prepare our business for when we're back. So it's actually worked out. Everyone's become experts on Zoom and Microsoft Teams and Google Hangouts and all of those kind of platforms.

DAN ROBERTS: Brad, in that same spirit of adjusting how we do business and everybody becoming experts in Zoom, and also, of course, with the understanding, as you mentioned-- no one knows anything in terms of the schedule, the outlook and when we might resume. But if I can ask you to zoom out a little, it's become an interesting story on, well, how might sports change forever, even when we do come back?

You know, there are people who think, well, gosh, I mean, this coronavirus time and the quarantining and the stay-at-home and the social distancing-- even when the coast is clear, so to speak, and businesses can reopen, American society might change forever. People might no longer want to go to the types of events where they're very close to a stranger sitting right to them. Is that something that you guys are thinking about yet, talking about, or that's kind of off in the distance-- the idea that sports might permanently change from this period of time in our country?

BRAD SIMS: Yeah, good question. I think it's definitely going to change in the short-term for sure. I don't know. I'm not a big believer that things are going to change forever. You know, I think that we think that sports is a core part of life in America. And you know, I think people fall into two buckets.

They fall into one-- they're going to be kind of reticent to get back to life as normal. And that's not just going to stadiums and arenas. That might be going to supermarkets or any other kind of crowded place. And for us, I think that there's the other side of the group, where people can't wait to get back to it-- can't wait to kind of be able to live life like they did before this and be able to experience, you know, things like going to a professional sports event or concert-- things of that nature.

So it definitely will have a short-term impact. We're thinking about that. And you know, part of the reason that we are, you know, I think focused on our people is, we want to position ourselves to be winners when we get into this new normal. And so, we want to prepare our business now. We think that this is a crucial time period, you know, whether it's two months or four months or however long it's going to be, where we're able to focus on our business and look at it on a forward-thinking basis to position ourselves to be winners in the new normal coming out.

And so, that's where we're focused, you know? And from a business standpoint, obviously I think that first and foremost is the people and what we can do in the community. And then, you know, the last thing I would say is that, you know, for us, it's been a-- something I'm proud of is our work staying engaged with our fans, because we miss our fans. They miss us. And so, the work that we're doing in trying to stay engaged with our fans, like our Stay Healthy, Stay Home platform-- which we've got a ton of great feedback from our fan base on-- those kind of things that give those people that are out there and quarantine life some kind of respite from this work-at-home, stay-at-home situation that we're all in right now.

- Brad, I just want to ask-- I know MLS was on that large phone call that President Trump held with the major sporting leagues in the country. And I just kind of wanted to see if you could kind of talk about what was discussed on the call and what the tenor of the call was. Obviously, I know Don Garber was on there--

BRAD SIMS: Yeah.

- --for MLS. But if you could kind of enlighten us as to what was discussed and how the call went, that would be great.

BRAD SIMS: Sure, yeah-- the commissioner shared with us. We had a call afterwards with all the kind of chief business officers about what occurred on that call. And what was relayed was that it was very optimistic, you know, that the president was optimistic about sports, sports returning. Specific to soccer-- very bullish on soccer as a sport in America, excited about the World Cup that is coming in 2026 in North America.

So there is a lot of positivity around getting back to playing sports again, getting back to, ideally, playing them in front of fans in stadiums. And so, that was really the main focus-- was, as it pertains to soccer that was relayed to us is, let's work on how do we kind of get this back to normal as soon as it's safe to do so.

JULIE HYMAN: Brad, thank you so much. Brad Sims is the CEO of Major League Soccer team NYCFC, thanks so much for joining us-- appreciate it.

BRAD SIMS: Yeah, thanks for having me. Stay safe, everybody.

JULIE HYMAN: Thank you-- you, too.