FLN has learned from multiple sources that Major League Lacrosse will announce a major contraction of the league and that the 3 teams that will be folded are the Ohio Machine, the MLL 2017 Champions, the Charlotte Hounds and the Florida Launch. This is shocking in its’ timing in that the MLL College draft was held only weeks ago, and that was followed by the annual second Supplemental Draft.
The timing of this is very unusual since the Launch have gone through so much effort to relocate from a difficult lease situation at FAU to a facility that greatly reduces cost and gives the team extra revenue opportunities with event planning.
The Ohio Machine situation will carry its’ own stadium issue. Fortress Obetz was built by the city of Obetz, Ohio to be a multi-use facility, but the Machine’s use of the facility was considered the cornerstone of the project, and now we will see if there are contractual obligations that went into the move of the team to Obetz, with it being potentially a violation of the lease by the team folding.
Charlotte has played their home games at the old War Memorial downtown and has not drawn well at that site.
The likely reasons for the contraction are not difficult to speculate about. These three teams are the ones that are owned basically by Jim Davis, the founder of New Balance, who has been the financial backstop of MLL. With the new PLL formed, and with their successful raiding of basically most of the top names from last year’s MLL rosters, the need to reallocate financial resources to compete is likely a prime reason. A secondary reason would be to strengthen rosters of the remaining 6 clubs as the season enters its’ training camps.
Of course, the timing of this move does open up other speculations. MLL will put on a united front when this announcement is made but there’s certainly been more than one camp involved here. MLL Commissioner Sandy Brown, who just gave us an exclusive interview, co-founder of the league Jake Steinfeld and Davis himself, might all have had differing views, but in the end the man who signs the checks tends to get his way. And how will the private owners (defined as those who own the non-Davis teams) react to this? All of a sudden you are faced with not traveling to certain markets and will they feel misled in what they felt they were investing in? Atlanta has a new owner as of last season, for example.
The schedule was also set months ago and now that has to be completely reconfigured. Will the 6 teams now play 3x against each other or will MLL shrink to a 10-game schedule?
Many more questions will come up in the days ahead.