Atlanta aims to boost their global standing by embracing the global game, leading to the formation of an Atlanta "Soccer Cabinet" made up of local civic and business leaders. The group's motto is "Soccer is good for Atlanta, and Atlanta is good for soccer," and the membership is thick with big names, big money, and impressive titles.
What this means for the chances of an MLS expansion team isn't clear, but the committee does appear to have the goal in mind. It's interesting to note that although Arthur Blank is nominally on the committee (he'll be represented by someone else according to the article), the group intends to work under the assumption the he will not be the owner of a prospective MLS club. Perhaps that means Blank is no longer interested in bringing MLS to Atlanta, or the committee is simply working to find new interested parties in addition to the Home Depot founder.
A major American city (note: Atlanta is the largest U.S. TV market without an MLS franchise) forming a committee like this is a strong sign that soccer is viewed as an important part of their domestic and international image. That so many of the city's CEO's will presumably take part should give soccer fans reason to hope that Atlanta will be a player in American soccer going forward. I would imagine that the USA World Cup bid committee will be taking note of this "cabinet" as the day of FIFA's decision gets closer; should the US win a bid for 2018 or 2022, Atlanta's case for a host city spot can only be helped.
The effectiveness of the group is obviously open to question until they do something meaningful. They have no budget, the chair will rotate, and meetings will likely be rare. They met last Wednesday and plan to do so again in September. If all they do is talk and issue statements, they serve little purpose.
That being said, I hope to see them find potential MLS owners locally at the very least. Just two or three of the names on the list could scrape together some change and pay the expansion fee. MLS desperately wants to expand their footprint back into the Southeast, and this group might be the people to help make it happen. I'll be curious to see what comes out of their next meeting.
Atlanta "Soccer Cabinet":
Robin Loudermilk, CEO of Aaron’s, co-chair
Jeffrey Bowman, CEO of Crawford & Company, co-chair
Carl Adkins, COO of Georgia World Congress Center
Yum Arnold, CEO of Leapfrog Services
Paul Beckham, partner, Hope-Beckham
Ken Bernhardt, chairman of Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau (ACVB) and marketing professor at Georgia State
Kathy Betty, CEO of Atlanta Dream
Frank Bifulco, SVP of marketing of Home Depot
Arthur Blank, CEO of the Falcons (to be represented by Jim Smith)
Dan Cathy, CEO of Chick-fil-A
Dick Cecil, CEO of Cecil & Associates
Harry Coaxum, Southern Region vice president of McDonald’s
Dan Corso, executive director, Atlanta Sports Council
Clark Dean, managing director, Studley
Margaret DeFrancisco, CEO of Georgia Lottery
Rene Diaz, CEO of Diaz Foods
Dean Eisner, CEO of Manheim
Rob Farinella, CEO of Blue Sky Advertising
Thomas Gallagher, CEO of Genuine Parts Company
Bob Hope, partner, Hope-Beckham
Fitz Johnson, CEO of Atlanta Beat
Mark Ketchum, CEO of Newell Rubbermaid
Glenn Lurie, President of Emerging Products at AT&T Wireless
Bernie Mullin, CEO of Aspire Group
William Pate, CEO of ACVB
Don Perry, entertainment and sports attorney, Greenberg Traurig
Michael Reene, International Events Group
Spurgeon Richardson, former CEO of ACVB
A.J. Robinson, CEO of Central Atlanta Progress
Mark Rudnick, vice president of marketing, Aaron's
Gary Stokan, president of Chick-fil-A Bowl
Sam Williams, CEO of Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce