The Return of Beckham: The Business of the FSC Broadcast

becks2The big story in American soccer is the return of David Beckham to MLS and the Galaxy lineup.  As we have on a number of prior occassions, we thought we would blog about the business of the TV coverage of an important American soccer game.  As is typical, FSC started with a 30 minute pre-game.  The pre-game was sponsored by Geico, and included a Beckham interview, a Grant Wahl interview and the usual FSC personalities breaking down the game.

Advertisers for the broadcast included a slew of national companies, including Home Depot, American Airlines, Sketchers, Adidas, Quiznos, Panasonic, Dick’s and more. During the game, there were on screen logos for Home Depot, Adidas, Panasonic, Glidden, Dick’s, USSF and Makita Tools.   Stadium advertising included VW, Pepsi, Makita, X-Box, Napa, Gatorade and more.

The halftime show was sponsored by Dick’s, but the halftime commercials were of a lesser variety, including adds for Gracie Combat, American Airlines, USSF and more. During the second run, there were commercials from Dick’s, Home Depot, Glidden and Panasonic and FSC standard, Pro Activ.

The crowd was lively and FSC did a fairly good job of conveying the atmosphere through its broadcast.  FSC did a fairly reasonable job of advertising the upcoming Gold Cup matches both in game and during the pre/half time. Max Bretos was also sure to promote the CONCACAF and UEFA Champions League competitions on FSC.  They also did some promotion of the AC Milan/Galaxy match.   Beckham fawing was largely kept in check.

US/Mexico 2

tv soccerYesterday we posted the following:  There are a couple of interesting TV notes surrounding US soccer this week.  The most significant is the announcement that the English rights to the USA/Mexico World Cup qualifier belong to……Telemundo.  According to Mr. Goff, Telemundo will show the game in Spanish on its main channel and in English on “mun2″ a station available in only 30 million households.  Telemundo is owned by NBC.  According to Goff, ESPN attmpted to purchase the game from Telemundo, but the rights were not for sale.  Given the strange start time (4:00 p.m. ET) for the midweek game, the match will likely not be a ratings dynamo.  Yet, the lack of availability in English will dramatically impact the ability of the work crowd to catch the game at a bar and of the college/school crowd to watch the game at home.  This is the biggest World Cup qualifier in years, and Telemundo’s power play will likely deny millions of American sports fans the opportunity to watch the game.  In the last 24 hours, the issue has generated a substantial amount of publicity.

Here is another post from Match Fit USA on the issue.

There is an online petition circulating in order to convince Telemundo and its parent NBC to move the game to a more traditional english langugage network.  Go here to participate.  The American run in the Confederations Cup generated a substantial amount of interest in American soccer and there is no bigger US soccer event than then a World Cup Qualifier against Mexico.  Given that confluence of factors, it is a shame that the game will not be on traditional US TV.  While the benefit of online petitions is dubious, we recommend that you participate.

Soccer Business Bits: Soccer on TV

us-soccerThere are a couple of interesting TV notes surrounding US soccer this week.  The most significant is the announcement that the English rights to the USA/Mexico World Cup qualifier belong to……Telemundo.  According to Mr. Goff, Telemundo will show the game in Spanish on its main channel and in English on “mun2” a station available in only 30 million households.  Telemundo is owned by NBC.  According to Goff, ESPN attmpted to purchase the game from Telemundo, but the rights were not for sale.  Given the strange start time (4:00 p.m. ET) for the midweek game, the match will likely not be a ratings dynamo.  Yet, the lack of availability in English will dramatically impact the ability of the work crowd to catch the game at a bar and of the college/school crowd to watch the game at home.  This is the biggest World Cup qualifier in years, and Telemundo’s power play will likely deny millions of American sports fans the opportunity to watch the game.

In other TV news, FSC landed the big match (for viewership purposes) of the MLS season to date.  Beckham’s Thursday night match in NY and return to MLS should be a ratings draw in prime time for the soccer network.  FSC has done a good job of promoting the game during the Gold Cup broadcasts.  At the same time, ESPN2 definitely drew the short straw for the week (yet a better game), with a 1:00 ET Saturday Toronto/Houston match.  The Toronto game is probably the better match-up, but the Galaxy contest is the sexier game.  Saturday times were not historically successful for ESPN, and a 10:00 a.m. Pacific start time (even in Toronto) will probably continue that trend.

Finally, the semi-finals of SuperLiga are upon us, with a two match doubleheader at Gillette on Wednesday night.  The game promises to be lightly attended (although the Revs are including this in their season ticket package).   All SuperLiga games are televised on Telefutura, yet the semi-finals have also been picked up by English language TV in New England on Comcast SportsNet.  The game will be shown in Mass, Conn. and Rhode Island using the Revs usually play-by-play man Brad Feldman.  superliga

Soccer Business Bits: Deals, Deals and More Deals

crew-jerseyAs we do every few weeks, it is time again to take a look around MLS for ticket offers and bargains.  The Columbus Crew are offering the “July Mini Ball Pack“.   Starting at $19 per ticket, the package includes a mini-ball per ticket.  The package requires the purchase of 4 tickets and 4 balls.

Not surprisingly, the Red Bulls are promoting David Beckham’s trip to Giants Stadium this week.  The nationally televised game on FSC is being paired with the Gold Cup Final as part of a “Combo Pack“.   Sideline tickets are being combined for $80 with lesser seats for $55.   For the Beckham game alone, the Red Bulls are also offering the same tickets for $220 (for 4) and $180 (for 4).  These packages also include a $20 food and beverage credit.

Speaking of Mr. Beckham, the Galaxy are also pushing a “Beckham’s Back” effort for the AC Milan/Galaxy game next week.  After promoting the game through a number of different combo deals, the Galaxy are now selling the tickets on a stand alone basis. Standing room seats are selling for $50.

The Chicago Fire, are pimping an array of packages for the rest of the season.  These include a “4-4-4″ that includes four tickets, four drinks and four hot dogs for $79.  Other Fire offers include 3 game packs, 5 game packs and a 20 game flex pack.  Finally (and somewhat surprisingly), RSL is still offering discounts for the upcoming All Star Game.  These include $35 vouchers obtainable through local KFC locations.   The link for stand alone All Star tickets on the RSL website is currently down.rsl

MLS vs. US Soccer: Anecdotes of a Gold Cup

revsI made the trip up to Foxboro this weekend for the Gold Cup Tripleheader.  It was a night of perfect weather, a great US/Hati match and a stinker of an MLS game.  I made the trip with a buddy with whom I played soccer in college.  While I have immersed myself in MLS and US soccer over the past decade, he had been neither to an MLS game nor a US game.  He drove up from the City of Brotherly Love and is a big Philadelphia sports fan.  He has expressed some lukewarm interest in the Union, but wanted to “see the product” before he buys.

His experience was unfortunately instructive.  The US game was scintillating.  Fans of both teams were into the game, the soccer was back and forth and there was tension throughout.  The Revs/Wizards game was a different animal.  The soccer was of poor quality, the crowd quiet and the match lacked drama.  On the way back (sorry Grenada, we didn’t catch the third game), my buddy expressed how entertaining the US match was, while noting that he almost fell asleep during the Revs game.

In defense of MLS, both teams were missing many of their best players both to injury and the Gold Cup, and every League, all over the world, puts up stinkers. Yet a common issue on this blog is the big question facing MLS; how does the League bring the multitudes of American soccer fans into the fold?  Displays like Saturday night are not the answer.

The new franchises (TFC, Seattle, RSL) have managed to bridge this divide.  The Revs, Red Bulls, etc… have not.  Behind me at the game was a teenage youth player of an apparently high level.  He was at the game with a relative who knew little about soccer, yet this youth player regaled his relative with the biography and history of all of the US players.  This youth knew nothing about the MLS teams involved, knew none of the players and was dismissive of their skill. “Individually they are ok, but they can’t play in tight spaces.”  Of course the player that commented was directed at was two time Argentinian World Cup veteran Claudio Lopez.  This youth player had no idea that athletes of that caliber were plying their trade in MLS.

The League is making strides; we’ve documented those repeatedly.  Yet it was remarkable how many fans came to the triple header after the Revs game was over because they had zero interest in MLS.  I’m not describing anything new; we’ve certainly posted about this issue many times.  However, I thought the anecdotes were instructive.  My friend? He promised to give the Union a try, but has decided against season tickets.

Soccer Business Bits: MLS Attendance, Superclassico and More

mlsA while back we wrote about the “war of words” between the New York Yankees and MLS Commissioner Don Garber.  MLS-Daily has taken the baseball/soccer attendance analysis to a new level with a clever look at year over year attendance between MLB and MLS.  The comparison is instructive because it shows the challenges of drawing at the gate in the current economic climate.  With both Leagues showing similar attendance drops this year, MLS cannot be too disappointed with its attendance (although there is a bit of a Seattle skew). With expectations of a big second half for attendance, 2009 might still be a good year for MLS attendance.

In other news, Chivas USA has announced that it will open the upper deck of the Home Depot Center for the upcoming SuperClassico against the Galaxy.  FSC will televise the match on Saturday (and they did pump the game during the Gold Cup).  This match always shows well on television, so the USA match provides a nice platform to promote the game.

Speaking of the Galaxy, this report suggests that the Galaxy will be touring Tanzania in the off season for a three game exhibition.  This would certainly have the effect of spreading the Galaxy message to a new fronteir.  Somehow, I don’t foresee Mr. Beckham making the trip.

In the Gold Cup, advertisers for the USA/Honduras match (other than male enhancement) include DirectTV, Honda, Corona, Geico and Verizon.  There were also some credit relief services, 5 hour energy and of course ProActiv. There was also some pimping of the Barca-Galaxy game coming in August.   The half time show was fairly low key with Bretos handling the duties from RFK.  The crowd at RFK showed well and sounded good.

Soccer Business Bits: American Transfer Season

milanThe transfer season is upon us and players are flying around the globe to and from MLS.  However, the most notable American transfer to date is the recently announced move of  Oguchi Onyewu to world power AC Milan.   While this is big news for American soccer fans, this may also be big business for AC Milan.  “Gooch” will be the first American in the highest level of Italian soccer since Alexi Lalas.  AC Milan will be touring the United States this summer, and will now feature a big American star.  All of the big European teams are very interested in tapping into the United States market, and featuring an American star signed for “free” could generate additional stateside interest in AC Milan.  Also, because AC Milan is regularly featured on television in the U.S., fans following Gooch will have multiple opportunities to follow AC Milan and (perhaps) become jersey buying fans.

The biggest outgoing MLS transfer of recent days involves the pre-contract signing of Yura Movsisyan.  The RSL forward is on his way to Danish club Randers.  Movsisyan made a name for himself in MLS last season by scoring some important goals on RSL’s run into the playoffs.  This is a disappointing transfer for MLS, because the Danish League is not typically considered a “big” League.  Players obviously want to move to bigger leagues to increase their income and their exposure.  In this case, MLS apparently cannot compete with the salary offered by a mid-sized team playing in a stadium smaller than those featured in MLS.  In order to increase its level of play, MLS must compete to keep its mid-level players, and losing players such as Movsisyan is a step backwards.

Also making news is the proposed incoming transfer (to Toronto) of Canadian International Julian de Guzman. de Guzman The signing of such a prominent internatinal caliber player as a “Designated Player” would be an intriguing business move for TFC.  One of the primary rationales  for the Designated Player rule was to bring additional fans to MLS  games, yet TFC sells out all of its games.  Moreover, de Guzman is not the type of player that would increase road attendance for TFC.

Nevertheless, the addition of de Guzman may be shrewd business move by MLSE.  After a number of disappointing seasons, a short term contract offer to de Guzman may placate suffering TFC fans.  Such a move would also likely increase TFC’s television popularity in Canada, while increasing the team’s international profile.

More on Jaqua: Deeper Legal Analysis of the Complaint Filed Against the Seattle Sounders’ Forward

xboxBased on some requests that we have received, we thought we would dig a bit deeper into the recently filed civil allegations against Nate Jaqua of the Seattle Sounders. The primary cause of action against Jaqua sounds in “battery”.  Under Oregon law, a battery is simply described as a “voluntary act that is intended to cause the resulting harmful or offensive contact”.

We touched briefly yesterday on the vicarious liability portion of the complaint (i.e. the allegations against MLS and the various teams).  In part, such a cause of action requires a showing that the primary actor performed the alleged battery in the scope of his employment.  In a recent juvenile sexual assault case, the Oregon Court of Appeals found that a priest who had been alleged to committ certain sexual acts during the course of working with a youth did not commit those acts within the confines of his employment.  The Court found that simply assisting the claimant with a knee injury was not sufficient to rise to the pastoral duties required under the priest’s job description.

While the facts in the Jaqua matter are still emerging, it is difficult to see how the complaint sets forth sufficient facts to show that he was acting in the scope of his employment.  Using the analysis from the Archdiocese case above, it seems that plaintiff faces a difficult hurdle in relating the alleged battery to Jaqua’s soccer career.

One interesting procedural issue may arise because of the potential jurisdictional issues raised in the Complaint.  The plaintiff resides in Canada, MLS is located in New York, the Galaxy in California and Houston in Texas.  The defendants may seek to “remove” this case to Federal Court because of this diverse citizenship, thereby taking the matter from Oregon State Courts.  As a practical matter, this would likely have the impact of moving the case more efficiently, as Federal Courts tend to move faster than their state counterparts.  Perhaps more importantly, Federal Court judges (who have a lifetime appointment), are usually far more receptive to motions aimed dimissing the complaint prior to trial.  Such a tactic may especially benefit the teams and the league, because the of the difficulty in proving the vicarious liability portion of this case.

We will hopefully return to the world of soccer and business tomorrow, but will certainly keep our eye on this case.

Soccer Business Bits: Legal Analysis of the Jaqua Situation, July Fourth Round-up and More

soundersFor the second time since the season started, a Seattle Sounders forward has had his name linked with sexual assault allegations.  The first instance involved Freddy Montero, and those charges were quickly dropped.  Over the weekend, a civil complaint was filed against Montero’s strike partner, Nate Jaqua.  The claim primarily sounds in battery, but includes graphic descriptions of alleged sexual conduct between Jaqua and the female plaintiff.  The plaintiff is a former college soccer player.  Other defendants include the Los Angeles Galaxy, MLS and the Houston Dynamo.  We will reluctantly put on our lawyer hat for a moment and discuss these allegations.

Importantly, this is a civil case, which means that while Jaqua does not face potential criminal penalties (e.g. jail), he does face potential financial damages.  In addition, the standard of proof is typically lower in civil court, where fact finders are asked to use a “more likely than not” or 51% standard.  Because this is a civil action, the plaintiff’s identity has been made public.  Moreover, this is an action that is being pursued by her and not the State of Oregon.  Reports indicate that the police have never investigated these charges.

The inclusion of multiple co-defendants smacks of significant over-reaching by the plaintiff.  While this certainly adds deep pockets  to the case (and can help settlement),  the claims against the defendants other than Jaqua sound in “vicarious liability”.  Put differently, the plaintiff is alleging that these defendants are responsible because Jaqua was acting on their behalf in perpetuating the assault of the plaintiff.  However, under the traditional framework of vicarious liability utilized in Oregon, a plaintiff must prove the following three elements to make out a prima facie case of vicaroius liability:   (1) the conduct must have occurred substantially within the time and space limits authorized by the employment; (2) the employee must have been motivated, at least partially, by a purpose to serve the employer; and (3) the act must have been of a kind that the employee was hired to perform. It is hard to see how any of those elements exist in this case.   A copy of the complaint is here.

We will of course monitor this case as it moves forward.  Suffice to say, Jaqua has forefully denied the allegations.

Independence Day has come and gone, and with it, another week of MLS, WPS and Gold Cup Action.  In Colorado, just under 20k enjoyed the annual July 4th festivities, as the Rapids came up short against Chicago.  In RSL, a dissappointing crowd of 17,400 watched RSL escape with a tie, while 20k were in Los Angeles to see the Galaxy hold off New England.  Red Bull road woes continued, as more than 14k watched New York come up short against Dallas, while a packed house saw Kansas City fall short to Houston at Community America Ballpark.  As always, we recommend that you go here for a detailed look at MLS attendance.

In WPS action, just over 4k were in Chicago for a mid-week game against DC.  A distrubingly low crowd of 1,800 were in New Jersey for a July 4th match between New Jersey and Boston. An apparent crowd of about 5k was in DC for their Sunday evening tilt with Las Angeles.

In Gold Cup play, a small crowd of just over 15k saw the United States beat Grenada and Honduras beat Hati in Seattle.  The July 3 doubleheader in Los Angeles, featuring Costa Rica, El Salvador, Jamaica and Canada brought a 27k sellout.  Games will move to Foxboro, Dallas, Philadelphia for the next rounds with the semi finals in Chicago and finals in New Jersey.

July 4th in Major League Soccer

rapidsIndependence Day has long been a big event for Major League Soccer, with certain markets becoming part of the 4th of July scene in their respective cities.  We thought we would take a look at these events for 2009.

We start in Colorado, where the Rapids will host their 14th annual 4th of July game.  When the Rapids played in Mile High/Invesco Field, huge crowds made the annual pilgrimage for soccer and fireworks.  Now in Commerce City, the Rapids should still enjoy a larger than usual crowd. Pre-game festivities will include concerts, kids events and more.  Post-game, there will be fireworks and a concert performance from The Samples.  The game itself will feature the Rapids and the Fire.  The Rapids have long set the standard for 4th of July extravaganzas in MLS, and it seems the team is lining up another fun celebration.

RSL will host its annual Independence Day celebration a night early, on July 3.  The event includes a presenting sponsor (Les Olson Company) and a post-game fireworks show.  There will be a post-game concert by David Osmond and a pre-game Carnival Real which will include a popular local cover band.

Elsewhere, the Wizards are promoting Kansas City’s largest fireworks display as part of their home game against Houston on the 4th.  At the same time, the Galaxy are promoting a fireworks event for their match against New England.  As part of that effort, the Galaxy are offering their “Family Four Pack” which includes tickets, hot dogs, sodas and a parking pass. FC Dallas is also pushing a 4th of July Event in connection with the American Fallen Heros Project. Military personell get free admission to the event which includes post-game fireworks and a concert.

MLS typicaly gets a nice attendance bump from these games and 2009 should be no exception.  With Gold Cup doubleheaders around the corner, the return of the Golden one weeks away and friendlies coming soon thereafter, MLS may enjoy a surprisingly successful summer at the gate.