New England Soccer Today

Was Rob Stone Right to Call Out the Krafts?

Photo credit: Jeff Bernstein

On Tuesday, FOX Soccer personality Rob Stone made waves in MLS circles when he called out Revolution owner/operator Robert Kraft for a number of grievances (no soccer specific stadium, football lines, the artificial turf) on Sirius XM radio.

The following is the full text of Stone’s diatribe, along with a few points in response:

“I am so annoyed with the New England Revolution right now as a club. I don’t know what they’re doing, but it’s driving me mad. And I’m a New Englander, and I get it. In that past, that people didn’t mind driving to Foxborough. And yes, it was this regional team and you could pull people from New Hampshire, and Vermont, and Massachusetts, and Connecticut, and Rhode Island. It doesn’t work anymore.”

Comments: To be fair, it’s somewhat hard to argue the point the Revolution should not be New England’s team (as opposed to a Boston-centric outfit). The club’s home attendance has risen steadily over the years, and many fans have actually come to embrace the recent shift toward a regional identity (the incorporation of the New England flag on the kit comes to mind). Another point: the Revolution have drawn some of its highest crowds in the last three years alone. So clearly, Kraft Sports isn’t doing it all wrong. Of course, a soccer-specific stadium is the ideal, but for what the Revolution have right now, it could be much worse.

“Team Kraft, take some of those Super Bowl earnings and really, truly, invest them in your club. I am so sick of seeing that team in that empty stadium, playing on that turf with all those lines. It’s disrespectful to those players, to the club, to the fans, to the league. It drives me nuts. It drives me so insane.”

Comments: Stone has a valid point here about the investment on the pitch. Aside from the Jermaine Jones acquisition, the Krafts have largely refrained from making splashy signings. Yes, there were rumors of trying to acquire Luis Figo, Pauleta, and even Didier Drogba back in the day. But even if the rumors were rooted in truth, the fact is close only counts in horseshoes and grenades. Even after Jones departed, the Revolution filled his spot with a player who commanded less than a third of the U.S. international’s salary. Perception isn’t always reality, but given the club’s track record on high-profile signings, you do have to wonder how committed the Krafts are to the success of Revolution.

“Alexi hears this all the time on our drives to work, and he knows if he wants to rile me up — I’m not a riled up character, but he’ll just talk about, “how about the Revolution?” And I’ll go “my god, the Revolution,” and I’ll just start spinning out of control. And the stadium takes me there.”

Comments: To be fair, it is pretty damn hard for a pro club to build a stadium of any kind in Boston. Just ask the Red Sox, who’ve been anchored to Fenway Park for over a century. You can also ask the Bruins and Celtics, as the former’s ownership had to finance TD Garden entirely with private funds (and have been fortunate to defray the cost by back by leasing it to the Celtics). Boston residents have long taken a hard stance on publicly funded stadia, and one need only look at the failed endeavor that was the Boston 2024 Olympic bid as proof of that.

“And you know what? The Kraft ownership takes me there as well. I appreciate what they’ve done for this sport in the past, and what they’ve done for this league in the past, but what have you done for me lately? Nothing. They have done nothing for the New England Revolution lately. They have disrespected that franchise for far too long and I’m sick of it.”

Comments: Indeed, without the support of Kraft Sports, it’s not a stretch to say that MLS might not exist today. It’s been well-documented the league was on its death knell 16 years ago when Kraft, Lamar Hunt, and Phil Anschutz were the only owner/investors left standing. In a sense, every MLS fan owes a small debt of gratitude to Kraft keeping his stake in the league alive. That said, MLS has expanded since, and it seems to have left the Revolution behind. After DC United broke ground on its new home earlier this week, the Revolution are the lone MLS original without a soccer specific stadium.

“I would pull them out of New England and give them to another city right now, if I had my druthers. They need to re-brand. I’m sick of looking at that uniform. I’m sick of looking at that logo and those colors. Like, show me that you care. Do something, anything, to really show the fan base, and to the national perspective out there, that you guys want to go forward. I love that team. I really want to see them succeed. But they have betrayed me and I’m so agitated with them, in case you can’t tell.”

Comments: This argument might be a tad on the extreme side. Boston is a top-10 sports markets, so to pull a club out of such an attractive location would not be smart for MLS. Keeping them in Foxborough is, let’s be honest, much preferable to no club at all. So it’s safe to say Stone is probably running high on emotion on this point. As far as a rebrand: the name suits the club just fine. The recent trend of affixing “FCs,” “SCs” and “Uniteds” at the end of cities is, quite frankly, becoming clichéd (Atlanta United? Columbus Crew SC? Really?). The Revolution name works just fine. Now a new logo? That might not be such a bad idea given the dated look of the paint-splashed badge.

On the whole, Stone should be applauded for raising points other national voices have largely been tight-lipped about. There’s no doubt Stone’s sentiments are shared by a good chunk of the fanbase, which has grown frustrated with the club’s current state of affairs when new stadiums and big-name signings are popping up everywhere else. If anything, it’s a dialogue worth having, and one more national voices should speak on rather than avoiding altogether.

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