Soccer Business Bits: TV in Chicago, Going Green, Donovan Sponsorship & More

Just a couple of quick hits today.  In Chicago, the Fire announced Comcast SportsNet Chicago as their official television broadcast partner for 2010 and Univision Radio as its official radio partner.  All locally broadcast television games will be in HD.  The arrangement includes a pre-game and post-game show.  There will also be English language and Spanish language broadcasts over the internet. Radio 1200 will have the games in Spanish over the air.

Keeping with the Fire, Chicago announced a “Fire Goes Green” campaign for its April 24th match against Chicago.  As part of the initiative, the Fire will plant 40 trees,  provide re-usable grocery bags to their fans, purchase energy credits to set-off carbon use at the game and distribute recycling bins around the stadium.  The efforts is part of the Fire’s Earth Day celebration and will also include special foot menus and other “green” distributions during the match.

Galaxy star Landon Donovan appears to have a new sponsorship partner.  Donovan joined Yankee captain Derek Jeter and Falcon QB at the Gillette EA Sports Champions of Gaming event in New York.  The effort was part of Gillette’s showcasing of its newest razor.

Elsewhere, AC Milan’s Summer tour now officially includes second division, and MLS expansion candidate, Montreal.  According to the team’s website, the Italian power will visit Olympic Stadium on June 2, for a friendly.  The game will be preceded by another match with a Serie A side, as Fiorentina will visit the Impact on May 23.  This is a bold move for the lower division club and certainly makes a statement about the team’s ambitions.  Would a match against AC Milan make the perfect stage to announce entry into MLS?

Soccer Business Bits: Wizards Construction, AC Milan Returns & More

As progress continues on their new stadim, the Wizards offered an interesting opportunity to season ticket holders prior to Saturday’s home game.  Season ticket holders were invited to sign a steel beam part that was to be part of the new building.  According to Wizards President Robb Heineman,   “Construction on the stadium is moving at a rapid pace, and we’re pleased to be this far along this early in the process…inviting season ticket holders to this event is a great way to get fans connected to our club, our stadium and our vision for soccer in Kansas City.”   After the signing, the beam was placed into the structure.  This was a great way for the team to integrate its fan base into the new stadium.

In DC, Steve Goff is reporting on an AC Milan/DC United friendly in May.  These friendlies were an enormous success last year during the European pre-season, but the May game comes at the of a long campaign for AC Milan and prior to the World Cup.  Given that many of the Milan stars will not be at the match, it is quite possible that the match will draw a fairly weak crowd.  Moreover, there will not be a significant lead time for an ad campaign.  It will be interesting to monitor ticket sales for this game as the date nears.

Finally, in the wake of the successful home opener in Philly, we thought we would show you the status of PPL Park.

Soccer Business Bits: Expansion in Portland, Friendly Fun and More

rslAnother weekend of soccer is in the books and it was another full slate for the Beautiful Game in the States.  However, before we get to the weekend, a couple of notes.  First, Michael Lewis of the Salt Lake Tribune weighs in with a detailed piece looking at the business side of MLS.  Lewis notes the importance of the internet in helping fans follow their teams when frustrated with the lack of soccer coverage in the mainstream media.  He includes some interesting anecdotes about the “old days” of MLS, when Brian Dunseth found out when his team was folding.  Lewis includes some interviews with Don Garber and others and includes some interesting financials.  The article is a good read and provides a nice summary of the League’s business growth.

In Portland, the debate over the Timbers’ effort to renovate PGE Park continues.  Last week, Justin Curzi published a piece entitled PGE Park: The Numbers Don’t Add Up.  Therein, he argues that PGE’s current capacity is sufficent for the Timbers and that a renovation is unnecessary.  He doesn’t heavily rely on data, instead making a mostly anecdotal argument, but his comments drew a pretty strong reaction.  The comments to the article are definitely worth a read and at least one was published by the paper the following day.  The fight in Portland continues, while its cousin in expansion (Vancouver) has been relatively quiet. Despite the 2011 expansion date, Portland is an unsettled situation and we will continue to follow the story.

In Philly, the US Men snuck by Panama in front of 31k.  The write-up from Philly is here. It is hard to read much into the crowd, although you would like to think that a soccer hungry city, just months away from getting its own team would have generated a better turnout for the double header.  In Seattle, 65k came out to watch the Sounders play a friendly against Chelsea.  The crowd sounded great, and by all reports, were heavily favoring the Sounders.  A big crowd also showed in in Palo Alto for the Inter/America game in the opener of the World Football Challenge (on ESPN2).  Finally, a sell-out was announced for the Galaxy’s home game against AC Milan.  FSC will broadcast the match on Monday night. milan

Soccer Business Bits: American Transfer Season

milanThe transfer season is upon us and players are flying around the globe to and from MLS.  However, the most notable American transfer to date is the recently announced move of  Oguchi Onyewu to world power AC Milan.   While this is big news for American soccer fans, this may also be big business for AC Milan.  “Gooch” will be the first American in the highest level of Italian soccer since Alexi Lalas.  AC Milan will be touring the United States this summer, and will now feature a big American star.  All of the big European teams are very interested in tapping into the United States market, and featuring an American star signed for “free” could generate additional stateside interest in AC Milan.  Also, because AC Milan is regularly featured on television in the U.S., fans following Gooch will have multiple opportunities to follow AC Milan and (perhaps) become jersey buying fans.

The biggest outgoing MLS transfer of recent days involves the pre-contract signing of Yura Movsisyan.  The RSL forward is on his way to Danish club Randers.  Movsisyan made a name for himself in MLS last season by scoring some important goals on RSL’s run into the playoffs.  This is a disappointing transfer for MLS, because the Danish League is not typically considered a “big” League.  Players obviously want to move to bigger leagues to increase their income and their exposure.  In this case, MLS apparently cannot compete with the salary offered by a mid-sized team playing in a stadium smaller than those featured in MLS.  In order to increase its level of play, MLS must compete to keep its mid-level players, and losing players such as Movsisyan is a step backwards.

Also making news is the proposed incoming transfer (to Toronto) of Canadian International Julian de Guzman. de Guzman The signing of such a prominent internatinal caliber player as a “Designated Player” would be an intriguing business move for TFC.  One of the primary rationales  for the Designated Player rule was to bring additional fans to MLS  games, yet TFC sells out all of its games.  Moreover, de Guzman is not the type of player that would increase road attendance for TFC.

Nevertheless, the addition of de Guzman may be shrewd business move by MLSE.  After a number of disappointing seasons, a short term contract offer to de Guzman may placate suffering TFC fans.  Such a move would also likely increase TFC’s television popularity in Canada, while increasing the team’s international profile.

Should Beckham Be Released from MLS Contract to Join AC Milan?


With David Beckham’s long rumored transfer to AC Milan seemingly imminent , it is worth examining the implications of the move.  First, a little background:  Beckham came to the L.A. Galaxy on a “free” in 2007 after finishing out his contract with Real Madrid.  While the exact terms have always been sketchy, it has long been understood that Beckham signed a five year deal including less than $50 million in guaranteed money, with most of the remaining $200 million wrapped into jersey sales and image rights.  Most importantly (for purposes of the move to AC Milan), there is an “opt out” clause that lets Beckham walk away from Major League Soccer after three years (November, 2009).

After the 2008 season, Beckham (with MLS’ blessing), secured a short term loan deal to AC Milan until March, 2009. His stated reason for taking the loan was to stay in shape for the upcoming world cup qualifying.  He was expected back with L.A. in plenty of time for the season opener at the end of March.  While in Italy, Beckham proved himself capable at playing at the highest level, and soon, AC Milan was banging down MLS’ door for a full transfer.

Given the forces at play, it seems unlikely that MLS will hold onto Beckham.  Selling him for a reasonable sum now would certainly seem to trump letting him walk for free in November.  However, a whole host of sponsorship deals and television contracts were signed with the understanding that the world’s most famous athlete would be wearing Galaxy colors.  Given the economic climate, it is not unreasonable to suspect that some of these companies may come back to the League looking for money.  Herbalife got far more than even they thought, when Galaxy jerseys sporting their logo became the “must have” uniform worldwide.  With Beckham gone, those sales are sure to plummet during the last three years of their (no surprise) five year deal.

beckhamFor MLS, the departure of Beckham is a definite mixed bag.  There is certainly an argument that his two years raised awareness of MLS to new heights both nationally and internationally.  MLS is now part of the worldwide soccer landscape and is part of the U.S. mainstream sportsvernacular.  Attendance increased league wide during his two years, especially during Galaxy away matches.  On the other hand, TV ratings stayed flat and the impression that Beckham is fleeing MLS could be taken as a black eye for the league.  There is a good discussion of both sides of this issue with sportswriter Stefan Fatsis on NPR.

I tend to think now is a good time for Beckham to be moving on.  When he came to MLS, the move was derided as a sunny retirement in L.A. for an aging superstar.  Fans of the European game refused to believe that a talented European would choose to play in the States if he was good enough to play across the pond.  Two years later, teams are clamoring for Beckham’s services, and MLS has become a destination for international talent and launching pad for budding Americans like Jozy Altidore, Clint Dempsey and Michael Parkhurst.

Off the field, I think the benefits of Beckham have peaked.   MLS raked in huge amounts of money with ticket sales, jersey sales and TV deals.  Arguably, the surge in soccer stadium construction is partly attributable to the Beckham effect and the upcoming changes in the Collective Bargaining Agreement will definitely be impacted by the increased interest in MLS.  There is no use keeping a player who wants to leave (and who can do so soon).  MLS will be best served selling Beckham for $15-20 million and perhaps reaping some additional benefits from AC Milan.  They can then turn that case into more players and as a crutch to ride out the economic storm.

UPDATE: According to Soccer By Ives, MLS has given L.A. and AC Milan until Friday to resolve the potential Beckham transfer:

With sponsorship deals under negotiation and tickets being sold, it only makes sense for the League to press.  They don’t want to get caught with sponsors claiming some sort of breach.