Soccer Business Bits: Copa Mundial, TV & More

propaneWorld Cup Qualifying continued around the globe on Tuesday and once again American soccer fans were treated to soccer matches from around the globe, on a variety of networks, in a variety of languages.  It is a great time to be a soccer fan in the United States, with club soccer and international soccer available almost nonstop.  There was actually some buzz surrounding the Egypt/Ghana match televised by beIN Sport.

Keeping with that theme, the Sports Business Journal is reporting that US based sports networks are starting the process of bidding on the rights to the Champions League starting in the 2015/2016 season.  According to SBJ “Several suitors are expected to make bids for rights to the European soccer league, including Fox Sports Media Group, which is the current rights holder, NBC Sports Group and ESPN. Sources suggest beIN Sport will look into making a bid, as well.”  SBJ is reporting that UEFA is seeking around $100 million per season for the rights despite the mid week/mid-day start times.

Our final business note goes back to the familiar topic of MLS expansion to Miami. Pro Soccer Talk is reporting some additional details about the roll of Steve Ross in the expansion effort.  According to PST, Ross’s roll will be limited to the provision of sports marketing services and a temporary stadium situation at Sun Life Stadium in Miami.  This quote sums up the thoughts on the possibility of a stadium: “Seriously, it would be a terrible place for soccer, the next ginormous and ill-fitting Gillette Stadium or Giants Stadium waiting to happen. Hasn’t MLS covered this booby-trapped ground before? Shouldn’t we be past it? Shouldn’t we adopt an official stance of “Fool me once … and can’t get fooled again?””

Tuesday After

advocareApologies for the technical difficulties yesterday.  Before we get to the attendance numbers, the big business story of the day involved the NY Daily News story that suggested that MLS is strongly considering a move to a European calendar as early as 2014.  Eventually, the league denied the story, but debates about the wisdom of the move raged on the internet for hours.

I have previously come out against such a move.  The idea of a Winter match in the cold climbs of the Northern United States gives me pause.  Perhaps more importantly, the suggested August start date conflicts with football (college and pro) and runs alongside the MLB stretch drive and the entire NHl/NBA season.  The current schedule allows the league to breath during the Summer as the only game in town other than baseball.  Also, the Spring-Fall schedule makes for good weather in most cities. RSN’s are more starved for live content during the Summer months.

On to attendance.  There were three mid-week games, and attendance was a mixed bag.  San Jose managed its usual 10k plus while Seattle saw a crowd of just over 38k.  The mid-week start time hurt the crowd in BBVA Compass  Stadium.

The weekend started in Montreal, with a bit under 20k for the Impact’s loss to the Revs.  Also on Saturday, just over 11k were at RFK as United continues to play out the string on this disappointing year.  There were just over 14k in Dallas on Saturday night.  Not surprisingly, the Cascadia Cup drew yet another sellout in Portland.

Monday After

Sorry for the lack of a post today.  Firefox crashed as the post was going up.  Back with a full Monday After tomorrow.

Trivia Answer

When MLS began in 1996, the league included a team in Tampa. Who owned that team?

When Major League Soccer opened in 1996 with ten teams, the structure for ownership was that each team would be 51 percent held by the league and 49 percent held by an owner-operator.  Seven of the original 10 teams had owner-operators working in partnership with the league.  Three teams were entirely owned by the league and operated by the league.  They were Tampa Bay, Dallas, and San Jose.

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

Trivia & Promotions

columbusAs the MLS season hurtles towards the playoffs, now is a good time to see how franchises are working to pack a few more fans into the seats over the last home games of 2013.  We can take a look at some of the end of the year promotions MLS squads are rolling out.

Before we get there, here is this week’s trivia question:

When MLS began in 1996, the league included a team in Tampa. Who owned that team?**

On to promotions, where we can start with a creative effort by the surging (at the gate) Columbus Crew.  Every fan that enters the stadium on the day of the last home game will receive a team scratch off ticket redeemable for prizes from the team. Every ticket is a winner and the list of available prizes includes gift cards, tickets, jerseys, discounts and more.   This is a clever promotion that recognizes the team’s sponsors (free shaving cream!!) and promotes the team brand through gear and ticket offers.

Elsewhere, the Houston Dynamo will honor longtime star Brian Ching with a testimonial match.  It is a fitting event for a good soldier in the league.  Importantly, Proceeds from the match will benefit Ching’s charitable initiative, The House That Ching Built, and Habitat For Humanity. The Brian Ching Testimonial Match, presented by BBVA Compass, will be held on Friday, December 13 at BBVA Compass Stadium.

***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: MLS TV Deals, NYCFC & More

soccertvThe Sports Business Journal is reporting that Major League Soccer has started negotiating its next television deal with current partners ESPN and NBC Sports.  SBJ is reporting that both networks are in exclusive negotiating windows to re-up their deals before the league’s rights are open to all bidders.  Recall that MLS intentionally set its deals to expire at the end of the 2014 season in order to capitalize on the buzz surrounding the World Cup next Summer.  However, the exclusive window provides ESPN and NBC an opportunity to parlay their current relationship into something longer term.

Although ratings are down on both networks, the SBJ article suggests that NBC is working hard to keep MLS and that the league is seeking to grab deals worth close to $50 million per year (well above the current $18 million per year for English rights).  As the article correctly points out, “hese negotiations are unique in that they involve two properties — MLS and U.S. Soccer — being sold as one package. Both properties are managed by Soccer United Marketing, MLS’s marketing arm. By tying them together, the popular U.S. men’s national team matches can bring a much higher rights fee than MLS games could on their own.”

In other business news, the presumed next Mayor of New York City Bill de Blasio continues to come out against a stadium in Flushing for NYCFC.  Although a stadium in Queens had been a priority outgoing Michael Bloomberg, the proposal may run into a brick wall in the form of de Blasio.  Per the New York Times, “[h]e argued that the city had already ceded too much parkland to what he termed “corporate entities,” and called the stadium idea a “bad deal for New Yorkers.””

One final note.  With the World Cup Qualifiers on the near horizon, ESPN announced that the Friday night match between the USA & Jamaica will be televised on ESPN at 6:30.  That will follow a swath of mid-week MLS games on Wednesday night that will have significant playoff implications.

Expanding to Orlando

celebrationThe quest to bring top division soccer to Orlando took another enormous step forward on Monday.  Per the league’s official website,  “The City of Orlando Board of Commissioners voted through the approval of funds for a new downtown, multi-purpose soccer stadium on Monday, the next-to-last piece of legislation needed to secure a new home for the USL PRO club. The vote was unanimous among the six commissioners as well as Orlando mayor Buddy Dyer.”

Orlando has been moving aggressively towards an MLS franchise for quite some time.  The City (through Disney) has been successfully hosting the Pro Soccer Challenge for a number of years.  Per the Orlando Sentinel, The $94.5 million agreement approved by a 7-0 vote of the Orlando City Council also includes another $25 million in tourist tax funding for the Dr. Phllips Performing Arts Center, $12 million for the Citrus Bowl; $27.5 million for tourism ads; and $10 million for improvements to the Orange County Convention Center.

The next level of approval comes at the County level, with a vote scheduled for October 22.  If that vote is successful, Orlando will be on the doorstep of announcing an expansion deal with MLS.  With more than 2 million people, the Greater Orlando Metropolitan Area is the 26th largest Metro area in the country, and seemingly a ripe market for soccer.  The area is growing fast and is a major tourist area and a popular convention city.  For professional sports, Orlando is home to the Magic of the NBA, but no other professional sports franchise.

This seems like a perfect market for MLS.  Big population underserved by the sports world, with a young population.  One possible sticking point is the proximity to Miami.  With an expansion team possible destined for Southbeach, there could be 2 MLS sides within 3 hours of each other.

Monday After

LS

fansThe playoff races are definitely at DEFCON 1 in MLS right now and there were some sizable crowds befitting such a tight competition. Before we get to attendance, one business note.  Television ratings for NBC’s coverage of the NHL on NBSCN are off to a fantastic start this year.   It will be interesting of those numbers (and the promotion during the games), lift numbers of MLS viewers.  One key factor is that NBC is using the opportunity to push its EPL coverage, whereas last year, MLS was its primary soccer property.     The weekend started with a Friday night game from RFK.  In a game with enormous playoff implications for the Fire, Chicago handled United before an announced crowd of just over 13k.   Also on Friday night, Houston got a key 3 pointer over Montreal before almost 20k at BBVA Compass Stadium.

The solid numbers continued on Friday, with a sellout at Red Bull Arena for an Eastern Conference clash between the Red Bulls and Revolution.   That same night, Philly continued its strong attendance numbers with almost 19k at PPL Park.    Big numbers since the ownership change in Columbus continued, with more than 19k at Crew Stadium on Saturday evening.  Attendance has really been flying in Ohio since the All-Star Game.

Big crowds continued in Salt Lake City with more than 20k at Rio Tinto on Saturday night.  Fresh off a big crowd for the team’s US Open Cup loss, fans in SLC turned out for the second time in a week.  In another nationally televised match, there were more than 18k at DSG for a shocking 5-1 victory over the Sounders.   The Sunday Derby at the Stub Hub brought more than 20k through the gates in Los Angeles.

More Miami & Trivia

bobby vRemember when Barcelona combined with Marcelo Claure and Florida International University to submit a bid to bring MLS back to South Florid?  As MLS fans well know, the Miami Fusion entered the League as an expansion team in 1998 and were contracted just four years later.  That background, combined with South Florida’s rather weak history of supporting its teams (Florida Marlins anyone?), has lead many to scoff at any move back to the Miami area.  Add in the lack of a Soccer Specific Stadium (the team would share with the FIU Football team) and the idea once seemed dead in the water.  Yet now there seems to be increasing momentum towards MLS in Miami, and the reemergence of Claure as possible player is definitely interesting.  Claure has risen “to the top of Hispanic Business 500 with revenues over $3.6 billion and earning the title of the largest Hispanic-owned business in the United States.”

Of course the big story is the apparent competition for a Miami team.  According to the Miami Herald, a London-based investment group led by Italian financier Alessandro Butini made its pitch for MLS-to-Miami official on Tuesday, partnering with the University of Miami School of Architecture to develop ideas for a viable soccer-specific stadium, and launching a website — MIA4MLS.com — to drum up fan interest.  It has long been understood that Beckham has  a contractual option to purchase a franchise at a discounted rate.  Does this mean that option is near expiration or that Butini is potential Beckham partner?  The move towards 24 teams will definitely provide fodder for MLS fans over the next couple of years.

Now on to trivia:

Who was the U.S. Open Cup Tournament trophy renamed in honor of in 1999?

The tournament has been around since 1914, almost as long as Lamar Hunt has been investing in professional soccer in the U.S.  Likely nobody has spent so much money on soccer in the United States.  Hunt, better known as the owner of the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs (and the man who coined the term Super Bowl), owned the NASL’s Dallas Tornado, which was the league’s longest operating franchise in one city, lasting from 1967 until 1981.  When Major League Soccer began its organizational phase, Hunt was there again, becoming the lead investor in teams in Columbus and Kansas City.  He later bought into MLS’s team in Dallas and led the effort to build a soccer specific stadium for the Columbus Crew and F.C. Dallas.  For all that effort, USSF put Hunt’s name on the trophy awarded to the winner of the U.S. Open Cup.

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

Trivia Time

questionEasy question (I think) tonight.

Who was the U.S. Open Cup Tournament trophy renamed in honor of in 1999?

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