The Monday After: October Storm

No power, no heat in Hartford County following a freak storm on Saturday night.  Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to see the slate of games from the weekend.  Power is expected out for a week, but hopefully I will find a way to post in detail tomorrow.

Did the storm impact attendance?

Will 3 million without power in the Northeast impact the television ratings for the games?

Soccer Business Bits: Televising the MLS Cup Playoffs, WPS Changes & More

The MLS Cup Playoffs are under way with New York the first team to advance out of the newly minted Wildcard round.  The first playoff match was televised on FSC.  However, with the Colorado/Columbus match not scheduled to be televised nationally, MLS smartly made the match available to all fans via the website.  Fans with access to MatchDay Live will also have their usual access to the game.  The rest of the weekend games will be available on national television.  Saturday night’s RSL/Seattle match will be available on FSC, while the NY/LA and Phi/Hou matches will be part of a Sunday doubleheader on ESPN2.  The Sunday games will kick off at 3 and 5 and will provide fans with 4 straight hours of exciting soccer.  Unfortunately for MLS, the matches will be up against the ratings juggernaut that is the NFL.

The yearlong saga that has been the WPS relationship with the magicJack franchise has finally come to an end.  The league has terminated the Boca Raton franchise after just one year of ownership by Dan Borislow.  The league had been engaged in legal action with Mr. Borislow trying to stave off the termination action.   The move leaves the league with just five teams.  For more on the story, click here.

One final note:  MLS got its dream playoff match-up with New York and Los Angeles meeting this weekend. While the early playoff meeting ensures that the two teams won’t meet in a showcase Final game, the two game series ensures that the league’s marquee franchises will square off in the playoffs.

MLS Award Season: Team PR Award

It is the time of year when votes are cast in Major League Soccer.  These include the VW Most Valuable Player, Allstate Goalkeeper of the year Defender of the Year, Coach of the Year, referee awards and more (there are less with sponsors this year as compared to last year). We cast our votes earlier this week and will certainly report on the winners when they are announced.

‘  In past years, among the lesser known awards is the “Team Public Relations Award”.  However, this year, the award has mysteriously disappeared from the roster of the awards.  Because this is a site about the business of soccer, we find the PR award especially interesting.  Although there is no vote to cast this year, we still thought it worth getting your input on what team MLS PR Department/Front Office is most deserving. Leave us a comment below with your thoughts or send us an e-mail with your vote.

In past years, the Award was defined this way:  “Department recognized for consistent, accurate and proactive efforts in providing media members with information and generating coverage for its team.”    Here is how we described our vote in 2009:

After careful consideration, we elected to give our first place vote to the Seattle Sounders.  The pre-season guerrrila campaign was brilliant, the billboards were omnipresent and the results speak for themselves.  Despite the advantages of being “new”, the Sounders organization did an outstanding job of promoting their product and their players.  By the end of the regular season, a Swedish International was a household name in the city, the goalie was all over the news and the team was a lead story.

For the record, we also thought long and hard about our second place vote, and we ultimately gave that to the Dynamo.  Houston’s array of promotional events for each game, community outreach programs and other events are unmatched throughout the League.  Houston sets the standard among MLS franchises in working to promote each game to potential walk-up crowds.

What are your thoughts?

FOX Wins Big

The big news last week was the announcement that FOX was awarded the English language rights to the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cups.  FOX outbid NBC and ESPN to claim the rights for approximately $400 million dollars.  The Spanish language rights were won by Telemundo for an estimated $400 million.  The combined $1 billion bids shatters FIFA records and confirms both stations as primary player in the soccer broadcast arena.  The package includes rights to the Womens’ World Cup events in intervening years and rights to various youth World Cups.  In 2005, ESPN paid $100 million for the English-language rights to the 2010 and 2014 games. Univision paid $325 million for the Spanish-language rights.  US rights remain the most expensive in the world.

We’ve received feedback from fans via both e-mail and comment with one simple question.  What does it mean for fans of Major League Soccer?  ESPN is the biggest name in sports media and its promotional might reaches into the living rooms and pockets of the major consumers of sports.   Although fans often complain about the lack of soccer focus on the Worldwide leader, ESPN does offer occasional MLS highlights, includes soccer content on its shows and cross promotes the league through its other soccer properties.

In 2014 the ESPN and newly signed NBC rights deals with the league expire and the Fox relationship will have long become a memory.  Will ESPN and NBC have an interest in MLS with no World Cup property to promote?   Fans of Major League Soccer are probably right to be concerned.  MLS  is not ratings juggernaut for ESPN and despite the network’s much documented interest in soccer via John Skipper, the league needs ESPN more than ESPN needs the league.  NHL fans still believe that ESPN’s failure to secure rights to that property caused the NHL to largely disappear from network broadcasts.   ESPN has the power to keep MLS on the minds of the mainstream spots fan in the US.

Yet all is not lost.  If MLS ratings grow over the next three years, the league can still be a valuable property for a broadcast partner.  Moreover, ESPN does aggressively promote properties (e.g. softball, little league) that are not tied to a bigger event.  On the NBC side, the network will need attractive live sports coverage for its new sports network.  MLS programming can fill hours of vacant prime time space with valuable live sports.  Unfortunately, only time will tell if the new FOX deal spells doom for MLS.

Concussions in Youth Soccer: Chat With Steve Goldman

Last week, Seattle-based Korrio and Wisconsin-based Axon Sports, teamed up to gather information about and raise awareness of concussions in youth soccer through a new joint initiative. Korrio CEO Steve Goldman was kind enough to take a few minutes to chat with us about the new initiative. Mr. Goldman has 25 years of experience in the technology industry, with a history of building emerging companies into market leaders. As the CEO of Isilon Systems (ISLN) for four years, he led the company’s revenue growth from $1M in 2003 to $89M in 2007 and executed one of the most successful IPOs in 2006 with a market capitalization in excess of $1 billion.Prior to joining Isilon, Steve spent six years as a senior executive at F5 Networks (FFIV), where he led the global sales, marketing and services organizations through rapid growth, from $1M in 1997 to $110M in 2000.  Why is Korrio interested in concussions in youth sports?  Why is this an issue that you have selected to invest Korrio’s resources?

Steve Goldman:  One of Korrio’s top goals is keeping kids safe, on and off the field.  We approach this through a variety of ways in our sports automation platform, Playflow.  For example, every web page that users access is encrypted to ensure that hackers can’t access sensitive information.  Playflow also has a sophisticated privacy viewing system that ensures that only the appropriate individuals are able to view the right information.  Another way that Korrio will contribute to keeping players safe is to raise awareness about concussions in youth sports and make it easier for families and sports organizations to help prevent and manage concussions when they do occur.

FB: What is the goal of your new initiative?  What efforts are you making to engage the youth soccer community in your program?  How many soccer clubs are participating?

 SG: Our goal is to collaborate with Axon Sports to raise awareness about the dangers of concussions in youth soccer and address clubs’ and teams’ growing interest in implementing proactive concussion management plans.

We have created a Concussion Education Center on that will provide information on concussion management best practices and baseline testing.  For clubs and teams, we will be adding sample concussion management plans to help them get started with a framework for building and implementing their own plan.

All of the clubs and teams that are signed on to use Playflow will be emailed information about our Concussion Education Center and have access through  We also intend to promote concussion awareness in our ongoing Korrio marketing efforts and through our social networking communities.

 FB: What efforts are you making to spread the word about your efforts?  What type of publicity do you hope to generate?

 SG: We hope to generate more discussion about concussions in youth soccer in hopes that concussion management plans can be considered and put into place and to make sure coaches are educated on recognizing the signs and symptoms of a concussion to protect players from further injury. 

Ultimately we would like to see youth soccer’s governing bodies mandate baseline testing for all players and build it in as a requirement at the time of registration.  With 18 million kids playing soccer across the U.S., it makes sense to have a uniform set of standards in place to protect players and have an effective set of concussion protocols to be followed by coaches and organizations.

FB: What is Korrio’s Playflow sports automation platform?  How can it assist you in this initiative?

SG: Playflow is a sports automation platform that combines the administrative capabilities that sports organizations require (eg: registration & payment, team formation, roster management, scheduling, etc.) with the things that teams and families need to manage their sports life (scheduling, communication, alerts for last minute changes, social network, etc.).  Here is a link to a quick online tour of Playflow:

In the near future, through Korrio’s partnership with Axon Sports, players will be able to take baseline concussion tests online in a few short minutes and store their results in Korrio’s Playflow platform, rather than having to visit a health care professional’s office to take the test.  This convenient online approach will make it easy, affordable and better equip families to manage concussions should they occur. The peace of mind knowing you have a current baseline test is the start to protecting your child.

FB: Is this an altruistic endeavor for Korrio?  Do you believe there is a long term business opportunity for your company in this developing area?

SG: This endeavor fits well into Korrio’s overarching goal of keeping kids safe on and off the field, and as parents of youth athletes this issue is important to us, so we want to be at the front of the parade in raising concussion awareness and promoting management plans.  From a business perspective, this fits well into Korrio’s long term goals of becoming the standard automation platform for sports organizations while also being the place families go to manage their sports lives.  The more we can do to accelerate these larger goals, the better it is for our business and our customers.

The Monday After

Busy final regular season in Major League Soccer, but before we get to the attendance numbers, here are some quick hits from the weekend.  First, the big story on Friday was the Fox and Telemudno victories in securing the 2018 and 2022 US World Cup bids.  The total bid price was approximately one billion dollars. What is the significance of the big Fox victory?  We’ll discuss this more detail in our post tomorrow.

The regular season finished out with a full slate of games in MLS.    The week started with a thriller in DC and just over 14k were in attendance as United’s post season hopes were dashed at RFK.  On Thursday night, the Red Bulls clinched a playoff birth before an announced more than 25k despite a slew of empty seats in the arena.   Early Saturday, the Revs avoided the Wooden Spoon before 21,600 at BMO Field in Toronto.  Vancouver finished with 21k, while DC played a meaningless match before almost 16k at RFK.    Chicago and RSL both cracked the 20k mark in their regular season finales.  Chivas also broke through the 20k mark on Saturday night, while San Jose played out the string before just under 11k.

In sum, it was a great attendance year for Major League Soccer.  We’ll have more to say about this in a later post, but 2011 was a banner year for the league in the stands.  The additions of Seattle, Portland, Philadelphia and Vancouver over the last couple of years have continued to increase attendance.  New stadium situations in New York and Kansas City have also added to the impressive numbers.


More Thoughts on World Cup Bidding

Just some quick thoughts on the FIFA bidding process. For more detail on the ongoing effort to secure rights fees for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, take a look at some of the other posts below.

Last night Grant Wahl tweeted that the FIFA World Cup bidding process was not quite finalized.  Despite expectations that the winner of rights to the 2018, 2022 World Cup (along with other events including Womens World Cups and youth tournaments), would be announced Thursday or Friday, Wahl has reported that FIFA has requested new bids.  Wahl’s suspicion is that request means that FIFA is looking for higher bids. So how much money is at issue?  Bids are expected to go well past the combined $425 million bid for the 2010-2014 US rights package.  However, this round of bidding includes two host countries (unlike Brazil) in “unfriendly” time zones for US audiences.

In what other ways does FIFA make money?  Tier-One FIFA World Cup sponsors pay almost $125 million for the right to reach 30 billion sets of TV eyeballs and almost 3 million stadium attendees.  Add in the enormous investment necessary to leverage the FIFA relationship (through ad materials, hospitality events, commercials, etc…) and only a serious company can join the elite group of eight World Cup partnerships offered by FIFA.

Soccer Business Bits: Bids Submitted, Vancouver Strike & More

Earlier this week we wrote about the bid submission process for television rights to the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cup.  Those bids were submitted today in a closed door meeting.  English and Spanish language rights are both in play.  An announcement on the winner could come as early as Friday.  As we said a couple of days back,the stakes are especially high since both ESPN and NBC have rights to MLS through 2014.  Will the losing network in Switzerland have lessened motivation to promote the domestic league? Will a loss to NBC deprive MLS of the wall to wall coverage only ESPN can offer its properties?

The opening of BC Place was supposed to be a banner moment for Major League Soccer and the Vancouver Whitecaps.  However, just a few weeks after the grand opening of the new soccer facility, the Whitecaps’ last game of the season is in doubt because of a potential strike by workers at the facility.   The union issued a 72 hour strike notice which would enable them to strike in advance of the team’s final match of 2011. However, a deal could still be reached or the union may elect to not strike on the day of the game. For more on the story, check out this story in the Vancouver Sun.

Finally, the league has formalized plans for the Montreal Impact’s expansion draft at the end of November.  Teams must submit their protected list of 11 players by November 21.  Two days later, the Impact will have the opportunity to select 10 players for their 2012 rosters.  Non graduated Generation adidas players need not be protected, and there is no obligation to protect Designated Players.  For more, click here.


Davies Brings Suit

It has been a while since we have had to put our lawyer hat on to look at an issue facing American soccer.  However, the news just broke that DC United forward Charlie Davies has filed a $20 million lawsuit against various parties stemming from his car accident in 2009.  The defendants in the suit include the bar that hosted the event where he spent his night and Red Bull North America, an event sponsor.   As part of the lawsuit, Davies alleges that the accident negatively impacted his soccer career on both the national team and club level.  According to the Washington Post, “the lawsuit claims Red Bull hosted the event at Shadow Room and ”had a duty to be aware of the provisions” in the District’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Act that prohibits the “sale or delivery of alcoholic beverages to … an intoxicated person or any person who appears to be intoxicated.”

Many states have “dram shop acts” that allow victims injured by drunk persons to bring claims against the owners of bars and other establishments that serve alcohol to an intoxicated person. It is my understanding that DC does not have a traditional statute, however, according to MADD, District of Columbia common law (i.e. decisions by judges rather than statutes) imposes liability on shop owners. If that is correct, it will be interesting to see how Davies’ lawyers attempt to apply the law to Red Bull North America, the company that simply sponsored the event.  The irony of Red Bull and DC being competitors is an odd side issue in what promises to be an interesting case to follow.



World Cup Bidding On Deck

Just a few months back, soccer fans around the world eagerly waited announcement  of the host countries for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.  The conventional wisdom suggested that an award of future World Cup to the United States was essential for the ongoing development of the sport in this country.  The results were disappointing, but the bidding for television rights may be equally significant event for fans of the American game.  Bids are due on Wednesday, and whatever the ratings appeal of MLS, the World Cup has become a tv juggernaut.  Americans love an event, and the television success enjoyed by ESPN in 2010 suggests that there are significant opportunities as the beautiful game gains an increasing foothold in the United States.

Perhaps more important than television ratings is the relationship between the broadcast of the World Cup and coverage of Major League Soccer.  Many Americans shudder at the thought of an ESPN not fully invested in soccer.  The Worldwide Leader’s coverage of 2010 in South Africa was outstanding and the network’s dedication to MLS has steadily increased over the years.  Prior to 2010, many fans hoped that the experience in South Africa would lead to improved ESPN telecasts, and objectively, it has.  Fans are wary, however, about the impact of ESPN losing the bid.  Many allege that the NHL largely disappeared from ESPN highlights shows, commentary and radio after the league signed with NBC/Versus.  With NBC and its new sports channel the leading competitor for American rights, a similar situation is possible.

The stakes are especially high since both ESPN and NBC have rights to MLS through 2014.  Will the losing network in Switzerland have lessened motivation to promote the domestic league? Will a loss to NBC deprive MLS of the wall to wall coverage only ESPN can offer its properties?  Spanish language rights are also in play.  The questions, concerns and opportunities are many.

Grant Wahl of SI weighs in with a great piece outlining the issues and players, here.