At A Loss….And Some Real News

What to say?  The eyes of the American soccer fan are focused in only two directions right now:  South Africa (and by extension Amsterdam) and a bargaining table in New York.  The “deadline” for CBA negotiations has come and gone and there is no deal, no strike and no lockout.  What does it all mean?  Everyone has a different opinion.

Some say the players are holding the strike option for the most opportune time, right before the season or mid season.  Others think that the players don’t have the votes or the will to strike, while others think that the threat of a strike can do real harm to the owners because it will slow the ability of teams to sign sponsors.  Regardless, we are now one month from the season and there is no labor agreement and no labor peace…yet the games go on.  We will keep monitoring the situation, but for now….

Some final notes on the PPL/Union deal:  The stadium will run completely on renewable energy, the first MLS stadium to do so.  According to the Philadelphia Daily News, the field’s turf will be Patriot Bermuda grass, a dense, high-performance turfgrass known for its ability to remain lush in extreme conditions.  The paper also reports that more than 10k season tickets have now been sold.

TFC continues to do it right. The Reds are one of the teams participating in the inagural Walt Disney World Pro Soccer Classic.  They are televising the pre-game tournament going on in Orlando providing their fans a glimpse into what the season holds.

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Soccer Business Bits: Philly Deal Finalized, DeRo’s money & More

As we discussed a couple of weeks back, PPL will be the naming rights sponsor for the new Union stadium on the Chester waterfront.  The deal was just officially announced.  The agreement has been announced at $20 million dollars for the life of the deal and the new facility will be called PPL Park.  In addition to stadium naming rights, PPL will also get hospitality events and experiences at the stadium, TV and radio advertising, signage boards and sponsorship rights in the youth soccer programs in which the Union have a foothold.  Given Pennsylvania’s recent de-regulation of the power industry, PPL is making a calculated gamble that now is a great time to enter the world of sports marketing. Despite economic conditions, the deal compares favorably with those of other MLS stadiums.  Dick’s Sporting Goods Park is a 20 year, $30 million dollar deal, BMO is 10 years and $23 million and Toyota Park is 10 years and $7.5 million.  The outlier is the 10 year $70 million dollar deal for the Home Depot Center.

The article also mentions that season ticket sales are almost at 10k with about one month until the season starts.  Individual game tickets are also now on sale for the home opener with tickets ranging from $28-$100.  The new stadium will open on June 27 after the first set of games will go forward at the Linc.

The Globe and Mail has an intersting story on the financial plans of midfielder Dwayne DeRosario.  The article provides some interesting insight into how a forward thinking athlete can plan for his financial life after the sports career ends.  It is pretty infrequent that athletes discuss their finances so openly and it is a credit to DeRo that is so forward thinking and willing to share.

Finally, you can take your pick of dire CBA news, from Grant Wahl to Jeff Carlisle to Andrea Canales.  Since a fair amount of what we do here is cover the media that covers soccer, it has been interesting to monitor the “big” names in American soccer press cover the CBA negotiations.  In some ways, the livlihoods of these scribes depend on the viability of MLS while their success in many ways depends on their sources within the game   As a result, there are some competing interests at play as sports journalists are forced to cover an unfamiliar topic while relying on agenda driven information.

A Peek Behind the Curtain: A Look Back

We are on the road on a snowy New England night so we thought we would offer up a post that has been getting a fair amount of hits lately, probably because of the CBA negotiations.  We first wrote this post in March, 2009.

Few sports leagues guard their finances more closely than MLS, but efforts to bring a franchise to Portland brought many long hidden numbers to light.  In a report prepared  by HVS, many MLS financial numbers became public for the first time.  The report is here.

The report projects MLS finances from 2011 (when Portland enters the League), until 2015 and aggregates data from past seasons.  Total  MLS stadium revenues for 2011-2015 are projected at $14-15 Million per year.  This includes ticket sales, advertising, naming rights, concessions and more.

The report also addresses season ticket sales for 2007 and 2008 with Toronto the high (16,641 in 2008) and Chivas the low (837 in 2008).  The report does not include Seattle’s 22k for 2009.  Most teams fall in the 3-5k range, but the League did show a 26% increase from 2007 to 2008 (including the addition of San Jose in 2008).

Because the report focused on the viability of a stadium in Portland, many of the numbers focus on seating, concessions, merchandise and other game day items. Around the League, Club prices range from $5,000 (both L.A. teams) to approximately $1,000.  Suites range from $154,000 per year (Galaxy) to $21,000 per year (KC).  Some teams sell suites by the game, while most offer only annual purchases.

Stadium naming rights are also discussed; The Home Depot Center is a $70 million deal for 10 years, while Pizza Hut Park is $25 million over 20 years.  Dick’s Sporting Goods Park is a $40 million two year deal and Rio Tinto is a $1.5-$2 million dollar annual deal (for 15 years)The report also projects annual ticket sales in Portland (well below the mean), ticket prices, revenue from non-soccer events and more.

This is a facinating picture of the League’s current, past and future finances. Based on these numbers, the City of Portland and presumably investors in Vancouver, Portland, Philly and St. Louis were eager to buy into MLS.  The report makes for fantastic reading (in its entirety) and will definitely make for interesting conversation.

What are your thoughts?  Are their numbers in the report that surprise you?  Impress you?  Let us know.

The CBA: Perspectives

Yesterday we stated that we have stayed away from the CBA because it has been so thoroughly covered elsewhere that there was no need to address it here.  However, a couple of recent statements in (and by) the press stoked our interest and are worth noting. We also thought we would offer some links to recent analysis and commentary about the issue. It also gives another chance to show our great collective bargaining photo!

We will start with a quote gathered by Grant Wahl from MLS President Mark Abbott when Wahl asked him why free agency was such a big concern in a salary capped league.  Abbott’s response:

“This is a key point. While there is a salary budget in place for teams within the league, teams in England, Germany, France, Spain, Denmark aren’t subject to the salary budget. So in a typical North American sports league, if Team X doesn’t want a player or is unable to reach an agreement, they go to Team Y, all within the salary budget. But they still remain within the league. The difference here is the player could leave the league — and that’s a very different dynamic that takes place in our league that the other leagues don’t face. That’s why the salary budget, although it governs internally, since international clubs aren’t subject to it, it doesn’t provide the same level of certainty that the player will remain in the league as it does in other North American sports.”

I must confess that the answer confuses me.  I think Abbott is saying that free agency will cause players that MLS wants to keep to flee the league because of the option to play elsewhere.  However, if a player is out of contract, yet can only negotiate with one team in MLS but any team elsewhere, MLS only has one chance to retain the player.  \

Elsewhere, Steve Goff penned an open letter to Phil Anschutz.  Definitely an interesting read, although the comments section of Goff’s blog seem to have ascribed their own bias onto much of what he is saying.  I think the point of his piece is simply to note that there are no winners in a work stoppage and that it is time to find a resolution.

For more commentary, click here for some analysis of free agency from MatchFit, SoccerLaw weighs in with some detailed commentary and Major League Soccer Talk offers its own solutions.

Soccer Business Bits: Union Ink Sponsors, RSL TV News & More

No, we are not burying our heads in the sand when it comes to the labor issues in MLS.  There are are obviously enormous business implications if the players strike, the season is delayed or there is another form of work stoppage. We’ve kept our coverage of the CBA negotiations  fairly minimal, simply because it is a topic that has been adequately and aggressively covered elsewhere. Presuming there is a deal, we will discuss the implications of the features of any agreement at great length.

The Philadelphia Business Journal reported last week that the Union have signed a deal with Turkey Hill Dairy to be the team’s official ice cream, ice tea and lemonade provider at their new stadium. They will also be the “official” ice cream of the Union.  These deals typically include player appearances, signage boards at the stadium and other promotional relationships.   Turkey Hill also announced a relationship between Turkey Hill and the Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer Association (there is now a “Turkey Hill Cup”). The Union has also recently signed deals with Herr’s foods, a PA based snack maker and SCA Tissue, NA, a Swedish company with its US headquarters in Philly.

The Deseret News is confirming that all RSL games will be televised in 2010.  Games that are not nationally broadcast will be on KUTV, the local CBS affiliate.  In the alternative, some games will be broadcast on the KUTV sister station, digital 2.2.  In other RSL news, the MLS Cup tour continues.  RSL is bringing the trophy to just about every county in the State of Utah in a great combination of celebration and promotion.

One final note.  Check out this story at CTsportslaw.com about a lawsuit in Greenwich, CT brought by parents of a youth soccer player who was injured while playing on a Town field.  Notably, the parents are claiming that their son will not be able to play sports collegiately because of the injury.  What is the value of not being to play soccer collegiately?

Soccer Business Bits: US Soccer Bonuses, WPS Schedule & More

Great stuff from Steve Goff on bonuses for members of the USMNT.  Using data from the last cycle, Goff states that in 2006 players were awarded $37,500 for making the final world cup roster, $3,750 for each cup match played by the team and more money for each friendly.  The article discusses bonuses for moving through the tournament and the importance of these bonuses to the players, especially those on limited salaries in MLS.  This is an informative an intersting piece that is definitely worth a read.  Fans have long discussed the paltry bonuses in MLS.  It will be interesting to see if the new CBA changes the bonus structure to really put a premium on making the game day 18 and winning matches in the regular season.

In WPS news, the full 2010 schedule has been announced along with FSC nationally televised events.  Each team will play 24 regular season games and the season will extend from April to September. FSC will televise Sunday games including the Atlanta home opener on May 9, in a soccer specific stadium built for the team.

The Red Bulls got a sizable turnout for their Red Bull Arena job fair.  The stadium will offer 500 part time jobs.

We recommend you check out Soccerlaw.net, a new blog focused on legal issues in soccer both in the US and abroad.

Red Bull Update: Ticket and Stadium News

Big Apple Soccer is reporting that Red Bulls’ tickets for the first two home game are on sale now.  Specifically, tickets are being offered for the “soft” Santos opening and the official home opener against the Fire on March 27, 2010.  The article also notes that midfield and sideline seats in the 100 level are already sold out unless a Red Bull ticket plan is purchased.  For as little as $36 total, fans can purchase one ticket to each match in the Supporters section or for $46 corner flag seats can be purchased.

One of the interesting aspects of Red Bull ticket sales is that the best seats in the house have been the first to sell as season tickets.  That is important for a number of reasons.  First, it shows that season ticket holders are willing to invest in the most expensive seats.  Also, it means that walk-up fans will have access to the least expensive seats, which are typically favored by fans looking for seats at the last minute.

The Red Bulls are also offering family packs for both the Santos match and the Fire opener.  The packages are offered in groups of 4, 8 or 12 and include a $20 concession voucher. Prices range from $84 to $160.  The team is also selling 4 and 8 game packs in the 200 level of seats.

Although covered in snow, here is the latest interior webcam of Red Bull Arena.