Trivia & TV

bostonHappy Friday everyone.  First, the trivia answer.

Here is the Question from yesterday:  What outdoor soccer organization that exists today began as a five-team indoor league?

Led by Francisco Marcos, the Southwest Indoor Soccer League started in 1986 with teams in Albuquerque, New Mexico; Amarillo, Texas; Garland, Texas; Lubbock, Texas; and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.  It added teams and an outdoor schedule, gradually giving up indoor soccer for a time.  The number of teams grew so much that the league split into different divisions and was renamed a couple times until it settled on United Soccer Leagues.  It now governs USL Pro and several other leagues below Major League Soccer.

Excerpt from The First American Soccer Trivia Book by Jamie Clary; Copyright 2007  FreeFalling Graffiti; www.soccerprofessor.com

On to a couple of tv notes.  First, America’s club soccer network, NBC, while offer 6 hours of Major League Soccer programming this year.  From the official press release:  “NBCSN presents six hours of MLS coverage, beginning on Friday evening with a new episode of MLS Insider. This Friday’s show features the emotional story of New England Revolution goalkeeper Matt Reis and his family’s experience at the 2013 Boston Marathon at 7:30 p.m. ET, and will be followed by the Western Conference match between two playoff-bound clubs, Portland Timbers vs. Real Salt Lake, at 10 p.m. ET. Saturday’s coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. ET with a new MLS 36 featuring New York Red Bulls’ midfielder Dax McCarty and the New York Red Bulls hosting rivals D.C. United at 8 p.m. ET.”

 

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Trivia & More

chivasFirst the trivia and then a thought on some other quick business items.

What outdoor soccer organization that exists today began as a five-team indoor league?**

A couple of other quick thoughts.  The Los Angeles Galaxy are keeping Landon Donovan, continuing the trend of teams retaining top American talent at sizable salaries.  These are hug signings by the league and remain an enormous sign of the league’s health and proper priorities.

One other business issue.  At long last Chivas USA has a television deal for the 2013 season.  It wasn’t long ago that we praised Chivas’ front office for some of their creative marketing strategies and clever promotions.  Yet over the last two years, the team has spiraled downward and taking almost a full season to ink a tv deal is the latest insult.  You can read more here. 

 

** The trivia questions come courtesy of Jamie Clary.  Mr. Clary is the author of the First American Soccer Trivia Book, available through soccerprofessor.com. He has played, coached, refereed and reported the game. During national team games, he often works with USSF compiling stats and helping media. Goalies, he feels, get too much respect from officials. Mexico and France, respectively, are his most hated teams. He plays and lives in Hendersonville, Tennessee.  The excerpts are from The First American Soccer Trivia Book by Jamie Clary; Copyright 2007 FreeFalling Graffiti

Soccer Business Bits: Checking in with Al Jazeera, Soccer Ratings & More

soccer statsThe launch of Al Jazeera America drew a wide range of coverage from the US Media.  However, the always excellent John Ourand of the Sports Business Journal recently checked in on the status of Al Jazeera’s sports cousin beIN Sport.  beIN Sport came onto the scene just over a year ago with the intention of becoming one of the leading American sports networks.  I have derided their production values, but the network has certainly invested resources into content, including USMNT matches, European club matches and more.  Yet, as Ourand notes, the first year has been less than stellar.  Ourand notes that  “to jump-start that growth, beIN is starting a digital and print marketing campaign this week to improve brand recognition with consumers. One print ad has a picture of the Statue of Liberty holding up a yellow card alongside ad copy that says: “beIN Sport: America’s International Sports Network.” Ads will run in major national dailies and select soccer trades.”

NBC PR has been touting its Premier League numbers.  According to the official press release, the Manchester United/Chelsea match “averaged 536,000 viewers – tops for an NBCSN Premier League match this season and ranking #2 all-time among weekday, early season (prior to December) Premier League matches on U.S. television (540,000 for Manchester United-Tottenham, 8/22/11 on ESPN2).”  Further, “among Men 18-34, NBCSN’s Premier League average audience (147,000) topped all Monday sporting events – finishing +18% above the second-most watched telecast in the demo (Cincinnati-St. Louis MLB game in primetime on ESPN; 125,000 average viewers).”

Finally, efforts in Orlando are continuing to seek full municipal support, including $20 million from the City Council for a new stadium.

The New Breed of Owners

columbusJust less than one month ago, the Columbus Crew announced a change in ownership when longtime team operators, the Hunt family, sold control of the team to Anthony Precourt, an investment banker by trade who announced plans in 2012 to diversify his holdings into sports and entertainment.   He doesn’t have a clear soccer background (he played college lacrosse) and is fairly young to have the assets required to purchase the team.   Precourt’s purchase is just the latest example of the new breed of young, hungry owners taking over the league.

Recall that the owner of the Timbers is Merritt Paulson.  Barely 40 years old, the Harvard MBA has operated the Portland franchise (and its NWSL) franchise since its inception. He has worked  Paulson is a regular presence on Twitter and engages fans and media.  After a career at the NBA and HBO, he jumped into sports ownership and was instrumental in the conversion of PGE Park from minor league baseball park to professional soccer stadium.  Here is a great feature on Paulson from last year.

Sporting KC’s Robb Heineman is similarly aged and also remarkably successful.  He is also the Managing Partner of Sporting Innovations, a technology company focused on innovation in sports and entertainment.  Heineman has been involved in sports ownership since 1992 as an owner/operator of the Sioux Falls Skyforce of the NBA Developmental League.  Heineman isn’t the only owner involved in OnGoal LLC.  The five principals of OnGoal include the following leaders in the Kansas City business community: Neal Patterson, chairman of the board, chief executive officer and co-founder of Cerner Corporation; Cliff Illig, vice chairman and co-founder of Cerner Corporation; Greg Maday, chairman and chief executive officer of SpecChem, LLC., and co-founder of Rock Island Capital, LLC.; and Pat Curran, founder and principal of C3 Capital, LLC.

These three men are the new face of Major League Soccer.  Old guard owners like Robert Kraft, the Hunts and Stan Kroenke are fading into the rear.  A few years back there was talk of MLS 2.0 with new teams and the reboot of franchises like Sporting.  However, these new owners are forceful, young, successful and primed to lead the league into version 3.0

Monday After

big-seattleAnother weekend and another full serving of soccer.  MLS also supplied a host of mid-week games from both the league and Champions League, NBC offered another MLS 36 and the league’s two English language television partners both offered prime matches including Sunday  night’s Cascadia Cup match from Seattle.  If you are looking for a worthwhile business read, check Brian Straus’ piece on cnnsi.com.

On to attendance, where weak sister Chivas USA barely cracked the 7k mark for their Wednesday night match-up. With the team’s ongoing struggles on and off the field, shouts for moving the franchise continue to mount.   On Friday night, Chicago fell to Sporting before a sizable crowd of more than 17k at Toyota Park.   On Saturday, the Impact entertained a 20k plus sellout with a total shellacking of the Dynamo.  At the same time, the two worst teams in the East played to a 1-1 draw before just under 14k at RFK.

The numbers got better as the night wore on, with Vancouver hosting 21k fans for their match against surging Los Angeles.  Dallas fell just shy of 15k at home, as their gate numbers continue to rise.  RSL pummeled the Crew before almost 19k at Rio Tinto.  Chivas’ second home date of the week was played before only 8k at the StubHub.

Of course the big attendance story of the week came courtesy of the Seattle Sounders.  Clint Dempsey’s home debut and a visit from rivals Portland Timbers combined to generate a 70k plus crowd at Century Link.  Seattle’s remarkable story continues as the team has become the most impressive business story in the league.

Soccer Rating Wars?

nbcAs more and more television options emerge for fans of soccer, competition for viewers has been playing out all over social media and on screens across the country.  There has long been a theory in American soccer (to quote Don Garber) that “a rising tide lifts all boats.”  Yet with networks paying ever increasing rights fees to broadcast soccer, it is inevitable that the networks will be fighting for ratings and eyeballs.  There are now multiple soccer studio shows, European games on at least three different channels.

Fox Sports1 and NBCSN went head to head with Euro Soccer this week and Steve Lepore tweeted out the numbers.  Per his tweet:  ” NBCSN/FS1 went toe-to-toe with EPL vs. Champions League yesterday. Chelsea-Aston Villa on NBCSN: 192,000. Arsenal-Fenerbahce on FS1: 59,000.”    Whether the comparison between the networks  is fair (do people know how to find FS1), these numbers dictate advertising dollars.

At the same time, NBCSN was trumpeting that its opening weekend beat Fox Sports and ESPN 2012 week one numbers more than 67%.  Per the official press release: “More than 3.4 million people tuned in to NBC Sports Group’s television coverage on Saturday and Sunday – the most ever for an opening Premier League weekend in the U.S. — featuring seven telecasts on three networks (one on NBC, four on NBC Sports Network, and two on mun2). The five English-language games on NBC and NBCSN drew a total of 3.2 million viewers – up 52% from the 2.1 million total for the five games on ESPN and Fox Soccer last year. (Source: Nielsen Media Research, NTI Live+Same Day data).”  Yet the Monday game featuring Manchester City fell far short of ESPN’s ratings from 2012 featuring Manchester United.

The ratings competition makes for a fascinating story line and it is one that bears close watching.  With the three headed sports channel monster now raging, the networks will look for every opportunity to be the top dog.

 

Triva Answer & Some CBA Thoughts

barterOn the road today, but I did want to make sure I got the Trivia Answer posted.  Recall that we are doing a weekly business trivia question on Footiebusiness.  Tomorrow we will take a long look at television ratings for MLS and NBC’s first weekend.    For now, here is the trivia question and answer.

 

What union sued Major League Soccer on behalf of the league’s players? 

Acting on behalf of the players of Major League Soccer, the National Football League Players Association filed suit against Major League Soccer in February 1997, accusing MLS of violating anti-trust laws.  MLS teams competed on the field but deferred to the league when it came to compensating players.  There were no bidding wars between teams for players.  The NFL players wanted that centralized pay structure outlawed, fearing that the NFL could go the same way since the NFL’s revenue sharing plan was just a hair away.  Nevertheless, the players lost the suit, allowing the league to continue negotiating pay as one structure, not several competing teams. 

Excerpt from The First American Soccer Trivia Book by Jamie Clary; Copyright 2007 FreeFalling Graffiti. www.soccerprofessor.com

Remember those Leaguue/Union Mediation sessions a couple of seasons back?  What makes MLS different from the NFL and the other major American team sports?

Here was  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.”

The trivia questions come courtesy of Jamie Clary.  Mr. Clary is the author of the First American Soccer Trivia Book, available through soccerprofessor.com. He has played, coached, refereed and reported the game. During national team games, he often works with USSF compiling stats and helping media. Goalies, he feels, get too much respect from officials. Mexico and France, respectively, are his most hated teams. He plays and lives in Hendersonville, Tennessee.  The excerpts are from The First American Soccer Trivia Book by Jamie Clary; Copyright 2007 FreeFalling Graffiti