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MLS’ Garber and Impact’s Gilmore Hold Press Conference

Multiple issues addressed, Commissioner apologizes for officials’ error, Saturday.

Don Garber, MLS Commissioner (left) and Kevin Gilmore, IMFC President, at the press conference this afternoon.

Montreal Impact President Kevin Gilmore held a press briefing Monday with MLS Commissioner Don Garber in Montreal.

Referees, fixture scheduling, league expansion, stadium improvements, the US green card issue and increasing the number of charter flights, all came under the microscope during the half-hour exchange.

Don Garber also took the opportunity to speak on the incident from impact’s game at Cincinnati, when Dan Lovitz was erroneously judged offside in the lead up to what would have been an equalizing goal.

He took the sensible approach, acknowledging the officials’ error.

“We had a challenging officiating incident at the weekend. I saw that play and I believe the coach probably wasn’t wrong, and I think a mistake was made. Not the first tme, not the last. I understand the frustration, but it’s not in any way related to the league’s view of Montreal. I think it’s on the contrary. This team is very close to our heart. We want to be in Canada.”

Garber had earlier answered a question about fixture scheduling by saying, “It’s not the first time the technical community will look back at the league and see challenges. In no way do we look at Montreal differently.”

Corporate Investment

Garber also favoured more corporate investment and sponsorship coming into Montreal Impact. BMO and Videotron were singled out for special mention, however he was of the opinion that the rest of the corporate community here doesn’t engage as much as it ought. He also acknowledged some of that may be down to the lack of corporate amenities and suites at Stade Saputo.

Kevin Gilmore also responded to a question on whether he felt that the Montreal Canadiens sucked too much corporate money out of Montreal.

“I don’t think anyone’s sucking too much money out of the market. It’s a question of letting partners understand the value of associating themselves with a sport that is the most popular sport in the world, which appeals to the younger demographic more than other sports, is on the upswing and can help them create a tremendous connection between their brand and our fans.”

All the right noises, but it’s clear that the Impact still have some way to go.

Impact President, Kevin Gilmore’s aim is to persuade prospective partners of the value of associating themselves with soccer and the Montreal Impact.

Stadium Renovations

Both men spoke pointedly about stadium improvements, with Gilmore keen to point out the club’s ownership is prepared to invest sensibly, but that taxes remained the sticking point and the crux of the issue. Garber backed him up on this, outlining how things are different south of the border, where clubs are not taxed on investment, but on the resulting revenues.

Kevin Gilmore did speak later about the urgency for stadium renovations.

“With each passing month and each passing year it gets more expensive, and if we’re going to perform as a Top-10 MLS club, on and off the field, we need to do it sooner rather than later, because otherwise we won’t be able to keep up with the pack.”

The US Green Card Issue

For those Impact fans perturbed about the green card issue, there wasn’t good news. It was pretty much dismissed as a non-issue by the Commissioner.

“In dealing with a cross-border league, you will have to deal with immigration laws and issues. I do not think Canadian clubs are disadvantaged. Toronto were the most dominant club the league has had and they’re in Canada. You have a good club here which I expect to see continuing to thrive, so I don’t see it impacted by issues with the American Green Card system.”

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MLS Commissioner Don Garber doesn’t see an issue with the American Green Card issue, wants clubs to have more charter flights in 2020 and would like to see the introduction of some international referees.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Charter Flights

On the issue around charter flights, Garber threw in an interesting angle. The league must find agreement with the players union on how to distribute increased investment. The Commissioner suggested it’s not a given that the players will opt for additional charter flights over higher salaries. He did say however that there would be more charter flights next season, although unlikely to be spread across all matches.

2026 World Cup

The Commissioner agreed that synergies and investment around preparations for the 2026 World Cup Finals, should provide Montreal with some better infrastructure and facilities, but what he said was also somewhat concerning ...
“We want to see the major cities in North America host big games. Montreal needs to come up with a stadium solution, and it doesn’t have long. These big projects take time.”

Earlier Start to The MLS Season

There was a hint that MLS is thinking more towards an earlier start to future seasons, but also a preference for clubs like Montreal to have more balanced schedules, negating the need for six road games in succession as experienced this year.

International Referees

Garber also spoke of his ‘personal preference’ to have more international referees enter the league as it would enhance the experience of US and Canadian officials, but was also quick to point out this wasn’t necessarily a viewpoint matched by the PRO and CSA.