Monday After

sporting kansas citLost in all of the transfer talk and Superdraft, was the announcement of the 2013 MLS Club award winners.  As readers know, the Footiebusiness Team PR Winner for 2013 was Sporting Kansas City (as voted on by you).  The league awards are not voted on by the media as our the more traditional awards, but they still provide a window into what the league views as important in the business aspects of the game.  Take a read through and let us know your thoughts.

Doug Hamilton Executive of the Year – Mike Golub, Portland Timbers

Ticketing Executive of the Year – Chris Lawrence, Seattle Sounders FC

Ticket Sales Team of the Year – Sporting Kansas City

Ticketing Sales Innovation Award presented by the National Sales Center – FC Dallas

Marketing Executive of the Year – Mikkel Strøjer, Vancouver Whitecaps FC

Corporate Partnerships Executive of the Year – Matt McInnis, FC Dallas

Corporate Partnerships Team of the Year – Real Salt Lake

Partnership Marketing Team of the Year – Toronto FC

Local Digital Editor of the Year – Yvan Delia-Lavictoire, Montreal Impact

Social Media Activation of the Year – #fishcam, Vancouver Whitecaps FC

Public Relations Team of the Year – Sporting Kansas City

Club Broadcast Staff of the Year – Seattle Sounders FC

Merchandiser of the Year – Jon Waldron, Colorado Rapids

Marisa Colaiano Community Relations Department of the Year presented by MLS WORKS – Portland Timbers

Operations Staff of the Year – Portland Timbers

Match Presentation Staff of the Year – Seattle Sounders FC

Supporter Liaison of the Year – Chris Wilson, Portland Timbers

Best Game Day Experience for Visiting Supporters – New York Red Bulls

Security Staff of the Year – Portland Timbers

MLS Team Administrator of the Year presented by Sportscorp Travel – Jason Gove, New England Revolution

MLS Athletic Training Staff of the Year presented by Mueller Sports Medicine – Real Salt Lake

Equipment Manager of the Year – Nolan Myer, Seattle Sounders FC

Draft Thoughts

concaveTraveling tonight, but here are some quick hits on the SuperDraft.

1. Solid coverage by ESPNews, but getting shifted to the lower tier ESPN channel makes MLS seem less than major.

2. Interesting to hear some of the reported statements by Commissioner Garber.  He indicated that the league is close to making an announcement about the future of a possible expansion team in Miami. He also indicated that there will be a resolution of the Camilo situation soon.

3. Interesting to see how quickly some of the drafted players took to Twitter to reach out to new fan bases.  This can be great for these players and fans, but is also a fraught with potential danger.

4.  Finally, one of my favorite parts of the draft is how it brings local coverage of the league from non MLS markets.  When local college players are drafted, local dailies tend to cover the player and the league bringing additional exposure.  That was never truer than the Hartford Courant, which had coverage of the draft within minutes of UCONN and the University of Hartford landing players in the top 8.

Soccer Business Bits: Transfer Madness, Draft Coverage and Ticket Sales

E42040_Adidas_Official_World_Cup_Match_Ball_2010_tnWith the Combine complete and the Superdraft right in front of us, teams have been wheeling and dealing over the last week creating soccer’s version of the hot stove.  There have been DP sightings in Toronto and Philly, rumors of big name players (Xavi anyone), trades for draft choices, players moving within MLS and fading stars (see Chivas).  This is a great time to be a soccer fan.  Soccer rumors are driving supporters to Twitter and keeping MLS beat writers busy as the draft approaches.

The draft will be televised on ESPNNews, a development that started last year after some more prominent airtime on ESPN in seasons past.  Those with access to Watch ESPN can also view the goings on from afar.  Of course, MLSSoccer.net will provide its own draft coverage, and that will include analysis, chats and more.  Whether the importance of the draft is diminishing has been a popular subject this year, with international and homegrown players sapping both the roster spots and quality associated with the drafted.  Nevertheless, the draft is an important milestone in the short MLS off season and an important connection between the league and its American sporting roots.

Finally, with respect to tickets, there is no doubt that the inking of Bradley and Defoe is having an impact on season ticket sales in Toronto.  There are multiple reports that more than 2000 season tickets were sold in the immediate wake of the signing and those numbers seem to be continuing.  There appears to be no doubt that TFC will reverse its declining attendance trend in 2014.

Business of the MLS Combine

orlandoWe are out town today, but the MLS Combine is upon us. We thought it worth re-posting our interview from a couple of years back with Buzz Carrick about the business of the event.  Enjoy the post and the great insights from Mr. Carrick.

It’s time for the MLS combine, when college seniors and Generation Adidas players showcase their wares for MLS coaches and general managers.  While the players receive most of the attention, we thought we would take a look at the business side of the combine.  Buzz Carrick, of ESPNDallas.com, and a veteran of covering MLS combines, was kind enough of to answer a few questions for us about the business of the combine.  Mr. Carrick also covers the draft for ESPN.com and provides detailed analysis of the prospect.  Thanks to Mr. Carrick for his answers.

Footiebusiness.com: In what form are league sponsors typically present?  Is there signage,
apparel and/or personnel from these sponsors at the event?  To the extent
sponsor representatives are in attendance, what role do they play?

Buzz Carrick: The only sponsor I recall ever seeing is adidas.  They have signage on
the field and the team jerseys are all provided by them.  Also the teams are
named after shoes in the adidas soccer line.  I don’t know of any sponsor
representatives.

FB: The players will stay at the Westin in Fort Lauderdale.  Are meals
arranged for players? How about travel?  Are events arranged for down time?
Do sponsors get a certain amount of time with select players? Do the players
have non-field MLS responsibilties, such as interviews with MLSnet.com?

BC: I believe meals are arranged and the league pays for travel.  The players
are required to do some combine type testing, sprints, agility etc.  I think
interviews with any media, including MLSnet, are on a request basis.  There
is a chance to talk to any player post each combine game.  Players are given
time off and there is a rest day after the first two.  The keepers run
through a training/scouting session on the off day.

FB: How has media coverage of the event grown over the years?  How many
media typically attend?  What arrangements are made for media with respect
to player/coach access?  Do team personnel make themselves available to
media during the combine?

BC: Media coverage has gone up a little bit over the years but not by much.
Usually there are between 1 or 2 professional media and 5 or 6 “bloggers” on
their own dime.  There are no specific arrangements for media other than
asking the one MLS PR person around for an interview, or just walking up to
any given player after a game.  There is also no specific method to talk to
MLS coaches.  You can either go through the team PR, or just walk over and
talk to them.  There is a press box with one person for PR who has some
basic materials.  The press can also sit in the stands on the side of the
stadium that is coaches/media only.  The public is limited to the “open”
stands on the other side.

FB: Are the players cognizant of those that have GA contracts versus those
fighting to get noticed?  How does this dynamic play itself out?

BC: Yes the players are aware.  There isn’t really any difference that I can
tell, beyond some players signed to deals in advance not playing quite as
hard later in the combine.  Players who have no deal usually play hard
through all three games.  That’s about the only difference, although I don’t
any would admit it.

extra… one thing you didn’t ask is about agents.  All of them are here, or
at least have handlers and reps.  Most of these players go into the combine
and draft without agents, so the agents are here scouting and trying to land
guys at the same time MLS is.  They are ever-present through almost
everything.

Thanks to Buzz Carrick for providing some great insight into the business of the MLS Combine.

All About Toronto

tv cameraMonday obviously belonged to TFC.  The Reds announced their two big Designated Player signings at an energetic press conference in Toronto.  The money is huge, per the Toronto Star, “TFC more than quadrupled Defoe’s salary, to $8 million a year. Bradley gets an even bigger bump, a six-year, $36 million contract that represents a 600 per cent increase on what he was reported to be earning in Italy.”  Other than revealing that soccer salaries are remarkably low when compared to those of American sports, these numbers suggest that the league and its owners are willing to spend money to bring MLS to the next level.  It also suggests that MLS still needs to significantly overpay to bring big names to the United States and Canada.

There was some suggestion that these signings were somehow related to efforts to increase television ratings in advance of the upcoming television negotiations.  I don’t think that analysis is fair to either the team or the players.  Moreover, given the nature of television ratings, a Canadian team is actually a detriment to good ratings in the US for national broadcasts.  Nevertheless, the new signings should definitely bring some new eyeballs to the screen and will definitely bring additional fans to the game.

The signing drew front page headlines in Canada, with the local sporting press rightly recognizing the importance of the signings.  Coverage on SiriusXMFC was also outstanding, with the hosts taking an array of the informed, passionate and moronic calls that make up traditional sports radio in this country. Of course, these are all great signs for the league.

Monday After

tfcBig weekend for Major League Soccer, with the finalization of the Bradley and Defoe deals and the rumored end game of the coming television deal.  Let’s start with the television deal, where John Ourand (and others) have reported that Fox Sports and ESPN will be the English language partners of MLS starting in 2015.  NBC is reportedly out after three years (successful on the screen, but not with ratings).  While the deal has not been finalized, there are suggestions that it will be for a long term of at least 7 seven years and could be worth $70 million per year, which is more than double the value of the current deal.  The details of the new deal may be announced as early as this week in Philly during the draft and convention.  Obviously, it is difficult to analyze this deal until it is finalized, but the rumors are certainly promising for the future stability of the league.

Of course the other big news over the last few days involves the voyage to these shores of both Mark Bradley and Jermaine Defoe.  The analysis of how these players will fit into the long tormented TFC side will be left to others, but potentially 9 figure  outlay for these two players bears mention here.  The signing of such prominent players is certainly a welcome development for fans of the league, but MLS is continuing to risk creating the have/have not culture the league has worked so hard to avoid.  We will have more about this issue once the deals are finalized and more details emerged, but TFC has certainly puts its chips on the table for 2014.

One final note.  MLSSoccer.com continues its tradition of outstanding coverage of the combine and draft. However, I am curious to see where you all get your draft coverage.  Drop a line with your favorite combine and draft follows and sites.

The Business of Playing Soccer: Part II of Chat with Carey Talley

us-soccerEarlier in the week, we provided Part I of our chat with Carey Talley, below is the second half of that chat.

FB: Other than the increase in the salary cap, were there changes in the League during your career that made it easier for players financially (e.g. per diem increases, better hotels, etc…)?

CT: Nothing specific comes to mind. But as the league began to establish itself in the market, it seemed like contract values were slowly rising. But that took time and was not an overnight process.

FB: You also had experience with the national team at various levels.  Does US Soccer provide any thoughts to its players about life after soccer?

CT: I don’t recall US Soccer spending much time discussing life after soccer, at least not formally. The information I gathered was because I spoke to some of the veterans who were willing to share various things with me. Being in the national team locker room exposed me to players that I wasn’t always around during the season so I was able to gain insight from a broader pool of people. And this helped me see how the veteran players were approaching their post-soccer life.

FB: Finally, even though your playing career has only recently ended, with the benefit of hindsight, what guidance would you give to players now entering the League about how to plan about their post-career world?

CT: The main thing I would tell the current crop of players is that YOU are a brand. You the player and you the person are a brand. And you are constantly enhancing your brand at each training, match, and off field activity. Everything from your personality, to the way you interact with people and the way you carry yourself on and off the field will dictate whether or not people want to be associated with your brand. And they will decide if and how they want to be there with you when the soccer days are over. So as you approach each day, no matter what you are doing, always be aware that you are building towards the future, for those days when the soccer is over. I would also encourage the players to approach each season as if it is their last one in the league and that it’s never too early to start planning for retirement. There are plenty of guys that make good money but have a tendency to spend more than they earn. I would caution players not to be that guy and to live within their means. Don’t be the sixty thousand dollar millionaire.