For many sports fans, there is a wonderful “ignorance is bliss” feeling about sports. Go to a game, or watch a game on television, and it transforms into a three-hour entertainment package ranging from guess on strategy to feelings of euphoria and anger. However, the acknowledgement of the politics of sports business does not exist even though sports is backed by government support and money in virtually every country in the world. The owners of the Orlando City franchise in Major League Soccer are attempting to take the politics of sports business in a new direction. They are looking for wealthy non-American citizens to put $500,000 into a privately funded soccer facility in exchange for a perk that is coveted by many– a United States Green Card.
The Orlando City owner, Flavio da Silva, is taking advantage of a President George HW Bush era program named EB-5, which allows non-Americans to invest in infrastructure. The program is used by developers for more than the original intent building in rural areas and inner cities where banks would not invest. This is the first time foreign money is going to be used to build a stadium if da Silva can get investors from his native Brazil, China, Russia and elsewhere. The green card allows the investor, along with family members, to work and reside in the United States, a program that quickly allows those with money to buy their way into America. The program started small but there are now 9,000 foreign investors who are involved in all sorts of projects and an additional project now could be the Orlando soccer stadium. Da Silva thinks the stadium will cost $152 million and would like to see half of the stadium financed by perhaps 150 EB-5 investors. The EB-5 initiative is facing scrutiny in Congress, but at this point EB-5 will be used in Orlando to help build a stadium for a soccer team.
By Evan Weiner for The Politics of Sports Business.
This article was republished with permission from the original publisher, Evan Weiner.