Soccer Business Bits: New Jersey Spnosor & Soccer in Queens

Back from our anniversary break.  The big business story of the last few days was the announcement that FC Dallas has finally landed a full time jersey sponsor.  Texas based health and fitness company AdvoCare has inked a 3.5 year multimillion dollar deal to serve as the team’s first true shirt sponsor.  Recall that FC Dallas had a brief flirtation with for a couple of games but this is the first permanent relationship for the team.  This deal further cements a longstanding relationship between AdvoCare and FC Dallas.  According to the Dallas Business Journal, “the company has sponsored the Independence Bowl in Shreveport for the past four years, the No. 3 car of Richard Childress Racing in NASCAR’s Nationwide Series, and the Labor Day race at the Atlanta Motor Speedway.”

The relationship with AdvoCare is yet another MLS/Multi-level marketing partnership.   Herbalife, Xango and Amway are other MLM relationships. This bucks the recent iconic trend in MLS, with Barbasol and Quaker entering the fold.  The amount of deal is not yet available, other than a statement that it is worth “multi-millions”.  For reference, the recent Fire deal with Quaker  is a reported $8million over 3 years.

Some time ago we reported that Major League Soccer’s efforts to place a team in New York had pivoted to focus on stadium location rather than owner.  The league had made a concerted decision to seal a stadium location before finding a willing owner.  Now the Wall Street Journal is reporting that the league has settled on a location in Queens near the US Tennis Center and Citi Field.  MLS is reportedly in talks with various municipal officials about the prospect of the privately financed stadium.   The league is determined to place a team in New York, and the subway accessible Queens location is probably a good location.  There are many hurdles before a deal can be finalized, but the league has its sights set on Queens and this story bears following.

Wedded Bliss

On a day with some big business news in MLS, including some movement on the New York stadium front and a sponsor for FC Dallas, I am celebrating my 8th wedding anniversary.


So…to ensure the domestic tranquility, no new posts tonight, but I will cover the above stories in depth tomorrow.

Covering the Coverage

Soccer coverage in traditional daily newspapers is typically spotty and often ill informed.  Yet such articles are important for a sport trying to reach markets beyond those who frequent soccer websites, sports television and other media that regularly covers the game.  Every so often we like to take a look at those outlets and their coverage of the beautiful game.

We’ll start with the Atlanta Journal Constitution.  Although not home to a Major League Soccer franchise, Atlanta has a rich soccer history and the AJC does offer occasional takes on the beautiful game.  Here, Doug Roberson of the AJC weighs in on local product Sean Johnson, the starting ‘keeper of the Chicago Fire.  The feature piece devotes a substantial amount of ink to Johnson’s negative performance in a friendly against El Salvador.  To review the piece, click here.

Jose de Jesus Ortiz of the Houston Chronicle weighs in with a nice piece looking at Geoff Cameron’s efforts to move to Europe.   Ortiz posits that Cameron may depart the Dynamo during the upcoming transfer window and provides the type of rumor mongering common to coverage of other sports but atypical.  This type of coverage is great for the league and provides great story lines for those developing an interest in the sport.  You can find the article here.

Finally, the San Francisco Chronicle weighs in with this piece about the San Jose Earthquakes’s run in the US Open Cup.  The Cup is a unique tournament that is starved for coverage.  To read Tom Fitzgerald’s article, click here.

Soccer Ratings

Every American soccer fan interested in seeing the game succeed in the States tends to keep an eye on television ratings as marker of the sport’s appeal to a domestic audience.  With Euro 2012 and the MLS season back in gear, now presents a great time to take a snapshot of soccer ratings in 2012.

We’ll start with EURO 2012, where the Sunday broadcast of England v. Italy drew an outstanding 2.4 rating on ESPN.  The mark represents a 50% increase over comparable matches from the 2008 version of the tournament.  The earlier matches of the tournament saw similar success, with more than 1 million viewers tuning in for some of the weekend games. Weekend viewership has ranged from 1.7 million to 2.1 million per match, solid numbers on cable in the middle of the day.  Per Awful Announcing, “in Canada,  TSN pulled in an average audience of 707,000 over the first six games (which would be their second-highest average audience amongst season-long sports, behind only hockey), and hauled in 1.1 million viewers for the Italy – Spain match.”

USA Today is reporting that the Portland/Vancouver Cascadia match drew an overnight of .6 following the England/Italy match.  Although the paper suggested that the .6 was disappointing, the .6 actually represents the high water mark for MLS on ESPN this year and a rating well above the league norm.  The rating was also negatively impacted by a mid-game switch from ESPN2 to ESPN.   On NBCSN, MLS has flat-lined, averaging less than 100k per game.  While there have been games over  100k, some of the numbers have been disappointingly in FSC range over the last few games.

Monday After

Busy times in Major League Soccer.  While soccer fans around the world were being treated to the quarterfinal stage of the Euro 2012 tournament, MLS fans had a wide sampling of games to enjoy.  Viewers of EURO 2012 were again treated to ESPN’s excellent coverage of the event, with Ballack, Lalas and others continuing to shine in the studio shows.  Picture quality remains excellent, and while I will never understand the  FIFA love a slow motion fan reaction to a missed shot, the replays and camera angles are top notch.

Speaking of replay, it appears that FIFA is close to making a decision on goal line technologies.  To me, it seems obvious that MLS is a great test league for such technology.  American fans are extremely comfortable with replay and it makes sense for FIFA to let a league outside the bright lights of Europe become the test case.

On to the attendance numbers, where the mid-week games were almost universally impressive.  In Seattle, more than 46,0000 fans showed up for their Wednesday tilt, while a 20k plus sellout crammed into Rio Tinto. Houston continued its strong start to attendance in their new digs with more than 21k.  Vancouver continued the 20k plus trend while Chivas managed just over 10k.  Colorado crept past 13k at DSG to close out the Wednesday night matches.

The big numbers continued over the weekend where TFC started the Saturday afternoon with almost 19k watching them spit up a late game lead.  Montreal was shockingly disappointing with just over 12k at the second game in newly renovated Saputo Stadium.   More than 18k saw Philly’s blowout win, while Chicago got a great number at Toyota Park with more than 17k for their rivalry game with Columbus.

FC Dallas fell just short of 14k on Saturday night while Los Angeles crossed the 21k mark at the Home Depot Center.  Rio Tinto hosted another 18k plus crowd, but again failed to record a victory before the home audience.  On Sunday, both Portland and New York managed sellouts in big rivalry games, capping off a very impressive five days for MLS attendance.

Selling Tickets in MLS

MLS is back with a vengeance after breaking for Euro 2012.  A full slate of mid-week games followed by a block of weekend matches should be enough to satisfy any fan of the domestic league.  It is also time for teams to start promoting their July 4th matches.   As we do every so often, here is a look at some of the promotional efforts MLS teams are employing to bring fans to the park.  However, we will start in New York, where the Red Bulls are employing a bit of cross cultural marketing with the New York based Kicking and Screening Film Festival.  The festival will feature Thierry Henry’s documentary and fans can score a 15% discount to the festival by using a promo code.  The deal does not include a discount for tickets.

The Rapids are typically the July 4th kings of Major League Soccer and the team is aggressively promoting a full slate of events for their home match against Vancouver.  In addition to the obligatory fireworks display after the game, the pre-match festivities include multiple musical acts, circus performances, crafts and more.  For information about the event, click here.

DC United is pushing its typical College Night $20 tickets for the team’s June 30th match at RFK.  The deal includes access to  a pre-game tailgate.  The $20 ticket represents a discount of $12 off the usual ticket price.

The Chicago Fire offer this list of promotional nights for the rest of the season.  Giveaways include pennants, towels, mini balls and more. Some of the games have presenting sponsors.


Soccer Business Bits: San Jose Stadium, Arrests & More

Over the years we have repeatedly written about efforts to build stadium for the Earthquakes in San Jose.  After multiple fits and starts, the team appeared to cross some final hurdles and appeared ready to start the construction process.  Now come reports that the date for stadium completion remains in flux and could move into 2014.  According to the San Jose Business Journal, the Quakes are working on stadium designs and have not yet obtained their building permits.  Obviously, the team has yet to break ground.  A while back, the team held a ceremonial ground breaking at the start of the demo process.   Although the event included a fair amount of pomp and circumstance, the demolition does not guarantee construction.    A rendering of the proposed stadium is here.

MLS was in the news for the wrong reasons over the weekend, as three members of TFC were arrested while on the road in Houston.   The players were cited for public intoxication after getting involved in an altercation outside of a Houston hotspot.  This was the second soccer player arrested while sampling the Houston nightlife during the 2012 season.  Recall that earlier this year.  For more, click here.

Coverage of Euro 2012 continues on ESPN and according to this article, ratings have been quite strong despite the mid-day start times.  Weekend viewership has ranged from 1.7 million to 2.1 million per match, solid numbers on cable in the middle of the day.  Per Awful Announcing, “in Canada,  TSN pulled in an average audience of 707,000 over the first six games (which would be their second-highest average audience amongst season-long sports, behind only hockey), and hauled in 1.1 million viewers for the Italy – Spain match.”


La Roja: An Interview with Jimmy Burns

Euro 2012 is moving to the quarterfinal stage and Spain has booked its entry into the quarterfinals.  The national team is arguably the best in the world, home to some of the top clubs in the world and home base for Messi, Ronaldo and a host of top players.  Today, Footiebusiness is pleased to provide our chat with Jimmy Burns, author of La Roja, a fascinating book about Spanish soccer.  Mr. Burns looks at the rise of the game in Spain through the context of history and politics, a unique approach befitting the Spanish team.

Mr. Burns spent thirty years as a senior writer at the Financial Times. He has also reported for the BBC, CNN, National Public Radio, and other outlets. The winner of the Somerset Maughan prize for nonfiction, Burns is the author of, among other titles, When Beckham Went to Spain; Maradona: The Hand of God; Barca: A People’s Passion; Papa Spy: Love, Faith and Betrayal in Wartime Spain; and most recently La Roja: How Soccer Conquered Spain and How Spanish Soccer Conquered the World.

Thanks to Mr. Burns. In  La Roja you look at the history of Spanish soccer through the lens of the historical and political events that were forming the nation of Spain.  Do you think that Spanish soccer is more interwoven with national history than other soccer nations?  If so why is Spain unique in this regard?

Jimmy Burns:  You can’ t really explain or understand the development of Spanish soccer without looking at the impact politics has had on it over the years.

And what makes the story of Spanish soccer particularly fascinating is the fact that its  coincides with a period during which Spain has evolved from being one of the most backward countries in European to being a modern democratic state with all its channels and complexities. Politics gives Spanish soccer its particular narrative and its dynamic.

FB: Barcelona and Real Madrid are the most recognizable clubs in Spain and its most significant rivals.  How did culture and regionalism help form that rivalry?  Are those factors still relevant today?

JB: This rivalry, which is probably the  most intense and enduring rivalry in the history of sport, had its early beginnings at the start of the 20th century- a post-imperial period for Spain when  the centralized nation-state based in the Spanish capital Madrid faced challenges from Catalonia, and other regions with a growing sense of its own cultural and social identity, including flags and language, different from the rest of Spain.

During the long dictatorship of General Franco-1939-1975-Real Madrid came to be identified by its enemies as the team of the regime, while Barca became what its motto says- mes que en club– more than a club in the sense that it became equated with a whole cultural and political movement unique to Catalonia. Denied political freedoms, the Catalans found expression for the frustrated demands in supporting their soccer club. 

While it would be unfair and unrealistic to say that Real Madrid remains Franco’s team so long after his death, the tensions between central government and Spain’s most powerful region Catalonia remains as intense as ever as does the rivalry between two great soccer clubs.

FB: The Spanish national team has risen to the top of the world soccer powers.  Has the cultural divide between Catalonia and the rest of Spain been a significant factor in the nation’s rise to soccer superiority?

JB: I think the flair and brilliance one identifies with Spanish soccer is the result of  a convergence of foreign influences- English, Latin American and Dutch in particular-  and native talent in a system of play which has been developed almost to perfection at club level by FC Barcelona where the spirited physical soccer taught by the early British pioneers in Spain has given way to a much more creative, technical game. The Spanish national team has been fortunate in recent years to have had coaches like Luis Aragones and Vicente Del Bosque who have managed to bring together the best players from Spanish clubs and got them to play with the style of Barca, and the spirit of Real Madrid.

FB: Has the increasing amount of money in the game of soccer changed the dynamics of Spanish club soccer?  Are traditional rivalries fading because of player movement and foreign involvement?

JB: I think that more money has translated in the case of Spanish club soccer into a virtual  duopoly where  FC Barcelona and Real Madrid tend to dominate La Liga by the privileged  access they have to the bulk of TV revenues, and major sponsorship.  I believe this makes the rivalry even more exciting with clubs fielding great foreign stars like Messi and Ronaldo while investing in the development of their youth teams.

FB: Given the rather unique combination of history and sports in the book, who is your intended audience?

JB: I hope that my book La Roja will appear not just to people interest in soccer, but also to people interested in Spanish history and politics- as I’ve said it’s what gives then narrative its uniqueness.

FB: What efforts are being made to promote the book?

JB: On Google and twitter its getting some great promo.  It’s getting a good airing across all media platforms on both sides of the Atlantic-TV and radio interviews, newspaper and magazine reviews, websites, blogs, podcasts, twitters and others social networks.

All the commentary  has been positive and much of it hugely enthusiastic- I’ve picked this up on both of what I’ve read and what I have experienced directly from my growing army of fans at the speaking events I have been doing in Ireland,Britain, and Spain.

I am really looking forward to doing a couple of events in New York in the last week of June.

FB: Finally, do you have a pick for Euro 2012?

  JB: I suppose you have guessed it already- Spain-although it’s going to have to play even better than it did in the World Cup of 2010 if it is to win the tournament. I think Germany remains an important rival but generally the quality of this Euro competition is very high. I would like Spain to win the championship on its own merit.

Monday After

First time in a while that we have a full slate of MLS matches about which to post.  Before we get there, one of our readers requested some information on the young DP rule passed last Summer by MLS leadership.  Here is a link to the official story from the MLS website.  Here is a link to a story raising some of the concerns about American players.

The weekend saw the opening of the newly renovated Stade Saputo. Obviously a big moment for the Impact, but one that will cause a decrease in the team attendance thanks to the lower capacity over Olympic Stadium.  More on the attendance for the stadium opener below.

The Euro 2012 matches continued with the final group stage games paired concurrently on the various ESPN networks.  This format always leads to high drama but necessarily detracts from per channel ratings.  Once again, Twitter has been an unbeatable companion to watching the matches.  I would be curious if there are any reader Twitter recommendations for follows relating to soccer. Perhaps this will be its own post down the road.

Now on to attendance.  Struggling Philly saw a mid-week managerial change but still managed its typical 18k plus at PPL Park.  Surging Vancouver also impressed at the gate with more than 19k at BC Place.  Beautiful weather did not translate into a large crowd at Gillette with just over 12k in attendance for the Revs.  Houston continued its strong numbers at its new home with more than 22k in attendance for the arrival of FC Dallas in a big rivalry game in Texas.

The first game in Montreal’s new digs drew just over 17k.  The game was not a sellout, despite the re-opening of the facility. This is somewhat curious and bears watching.  Despite problems for LiveStrong persona Lance Armstrong, Sporting Kansas City cruised past 20k with a solid crowd for their first home match in a while.  Chivas fell just short of 13k at the Home Depot Center.


Time for Silly Season

As Euro 2012 moves forward and World Cup qualifying gets underway, we are nearing the time of year when MLS teams become linked to foreign stars and future Designated Players.  As the calendar starts to creep towards July, the transfer window begins to open for European based players and some will look to the New World for a roster spot.   This is the time of year when players like Beckham, Henry and others made their MLS debut. Teams have been willing to spend big dollars on big names for the Summer home stretch.

It remains to be seen whether the league will make similar moves in 2012.  Does MLS still need a big name player in order to make a splash?  Is there a player of the caliber of Beckham, Blanco or Henry that is willing to make the move to the United States?  Will the league’s television partners pressure the league to bring prominent DPs to the States?

Recall that the league  significantly changed its DP rule last August with an eye towards younger DPs.  Boiled to its essence, the amended DP rule allows teams that sign players 20 and under that would count as DPs while significantly lessening the salary budget.  There is a similar reduction for players 23 and under.  In real terms, the salary budget “hit” for the youngest DP’s will be only $125,000 while the older group counts at $200,00.  This significantly reduces the percentage of salary budget taken up by younger designated players while theoretically providing teams with extra motivation to pursue rising stars around the globe.  The new rule will specifically not apply to American and Canadian players.

So will the new rule prevent teams from making the big move?  Does the financial incentive still exist?