Soccer Business Bits: CBA Extenson, Sol Closed & Manchester United Bonds & More

The big news in American soccer circles is the announced extension of collective bargaining talks between MLS & the Players Union.  Talks have been extended until February 12, 2010.  Training camps will go forward as planned.  MLS released this statement from Commissioner Don Garber.  “While we still have areas of disagreement, the talks have been constructive and both parties believe it makes sense to continue to work hard to reach agreement. This extension provides both MLS and the players the opportunity to continue our discussions while clubs are in training camps preparing for the 2010 MLS season.”

In other news, WPS signature franchise Los Angeles Sol announced that it will cease operations and not participate in the 2010 season.  The League’s premier team had been the subject of sale rumors, but even that was not enough to keep the team afloat.  The Sol are led by Brazilian star Marta, but lost a reported $2 million last year despite being the only team in WPS to have a shirt sponsorship.  The deal, with Amway International, included the Amway name on the jersey, stadium signage and placement on an array of Sol items.   WPS Commissioner Tonya Antonucci said, “While it’s regrettable to lose the Los Angeles market as part of our WPS footprint, we are pleased to have two new teams coming into the league in 2010.”  The league and our ownership committee worked incredibly hard over the past month to complete the transaction. In the end, we ran out of time and came up short of where we needed to be funding-wise for the Sol in 2010.”

Finally, a couple of business related audio recommendations. Listen here to an intersting story on the Glazer family’s issuance of more than 500 million pounds worth of bonds to keep the EPL side afloat. The team is more than a billion dollars in debt!  Also, our good friends as the American Soccer Show landed an exclusive interview with Rev striker Taylor Twellman.  Some great business and CBA bits in there.  Kudos for a great interview.

Soccer Business Bits: New MLS Sponsor, Sol Sold? & More

Sports Business Daily (sister publication to the Sports Business Journal), is reporting that longtime FIFA sponsor Continental Tire has signed with MLS as a league sponsor.  The multi-year deal provides signage at all MLS matches, hospitality arrangements at games and commercials on league broadcasts.  As is typical for such league-wide deals, SUM negotiated the deal on behalf of MLS and terms of the deal were not disclosed.  Continental is now the official tire of MLS and will have the right to use league marks in its advertising and product.

Elsewhere, there have been multiple reports that showcase WPS franchies Los Angeles Sol is in the process of being sold by AEG to group committed to keeping the team in Los Angeles.  The Sol are led by Brazilian star Marta, but lost a reported $2 million last year despite being the only team in WPS to have a shirt sponsorship.  The deal, with Amway International, includes the Amway name on the jersey, stadium signage and placement on an array of Sol items.  In a separate deal, Marta signed a three year endorsement deal with the company.

Finally, the Galaxy are promoting “Galaxy night” at a Los Angeles Kings game.  Bruce Arena and Cobi Jones will be at the signing autographs.  Discount tickets will be offered for $19.  Unfortunately, the Galaxy provide very limited information about the game on their website; the link simply takes you to a TicketMaster page. Moreover, there is no evidence that the Kings are promoting the game in any day.

Soccer Business Bits: WPS, Transfers and Mun2 Ratings

wpsJust some quick takes today, we will be back in full tomorrow.   The inaugural WPS season ended this weekend with an upset victory for Sky Blue, FC.  From an attendance perspective, the game drew well, with over 7k in attendance at the Home Depot Center.  The game featured the League’s brightest star in Marta and was a home game for the best team (Los Angeles).   The first season is over, and we will take a business look back at WPS in the next few days.

There are multiple sources reporting that disgruntled Chicago defender Bakare Soumare has been sold to Ligue 1 team Boulgne.  These same reports are placing the transfer fee to be in excess of $2 million dollars.  Under MLS rules, the Fire will now have a substantial amount of money to spend to purchase and sign players. Previous writings suggest that the Fire will get 2/3 of the fee to spend with $500k going to new players and the rest to club development.  In a League with a salary cap under $2.5 million, 500k is a big number and should enable the fire to re-arm next season.

Finally, Mun2 hit a ratings high with its broadcast of the USA/Mexico match.  The mid-day game averaged almost 400k viewers (including DVR).  These ratings exclude public viewings like bars.  The Telemundo broadcast averaged 4.3 million viewers.

WPS: Interview with Robert Penner

wpsOn March 29, Women’s Professional Soccer will kick-off its inaugural season with a nationally televised match-up at the Home Depot Center.  Pitting the Los Angeles Sol against the Washington Freedom, the opening match will feature Brazilian star Marta and U.S. National Team scorer Abby Wambach.

Rising from the ashes of the WUSA, the WPS is seeking to gain a permanent foothold in the U.S. sporting scene.  A  national TV deal, a partnership with MLS and a reduction in team costs are all part of the “new model” .  WPS director of communciations Robert Penner was kind of enough to chat with footiebusiness.com about some of the business aspects of the WPS.  Mr. Penner is a veteran of sports media and marketing and has worked with the A.T.P.,  U.S. Open and NBC.  Most recently, Mr. Penner worked with Puma, a founding partner of the WPS.

Footiebusiness.com: Who does WPS view as the target demographic? When affiliating with the League, who are your sponsors looking to reach?

Robert Penner: Our core demographic is of course the young female soccer player age 8-18 who plays at the club and recreational level, but we also want to reach their parents, fitness-minded women in their 20s, 30s and 40s, as well as soccer fans in general. With our world class product and athletes on the field, we think we can accomplish that. The sponsors that we have met with and those that have signed on with WPS, know that we can help deliver this hard-to-reach demographic to them through many different activation platforms.


FB: How does the media relationship with FSC differ from the media model pursued by the WUSA? What efforts are being made to secure local TV deals?

RP: First, we wanted a network that spoke to the core of what our league stands for, in this case world class soccer – so FSC was a great fit for us. In addition, we wanted appointment television so our fans know exactly when and where they can watch WPS every week. FSC has made the commitment to promote our league across their various media partners and online, so that was important to us. At the local level, we are working with two potential regional television partners and hope to know our regional TV schedule very soon.


FB: How closely will WPS work with MLS? What are the advantages/disadvantages of a close relationship?

RP: We have gained a tremendous amount of insights from MLS. They are our sales arm through our agreement with SUM, so officially we are business partners on the sales side of things. In other areas, there are overlapping synergies with operations for some teams and several teams share stadiums such as Chicago, Bay Area and Los Angeles. DC United and the Washington Freedom have announced several doubleheaders and our new franchise in Philadelphia has had a lot of discussions with the MLS Philadelphia franchise that is coming on board next year. There’s a lot we can learn from MLS, they’ve done a great job building their league to where it is today 13 years after their launch.


FB: What are the League’s goals/expectations for attendance/ratings in the first two years?

RP: We’ve said all along that we want to keep our expectations in check and we are shooting for 4,000-6,000 fans per game for the opening season, which we think is reasonable and will still make our league model profitable.


FB: We have heard about Amway’s deal with the Sol. Who is responsible for securing jersey sponsorship (i.e. the teams or the League)? Can we expect additional announcements about such sponsors prior to the season?

RP: Team shirt deals, the inventory on the front of the jerseys, is for sale by the teams. From what we’ve heard there have been some other fruitful discussions so we are hopeful that there will be other announcements over the course of the season.


Thanks to Robert Penner.  WPS opens play this weekend on FSC.

Business Bits: Opening Week, WPS and Milan

wpsAmway International, the presenting sponsor of the San Jose Earthquakes, has signed on as the jersey sponsor of the WPS’ L.A. Sol. The sponsorship will include the Amway name on the jersey, stadium signage and placement on an array of Sol items.  Perhaps most importantly for Amway, Brazilian Marta, perhaps the most recognizable star in Womens’ soccer, will now wear the Amway name.  In a separate deal, Marta signed a three year endorsement deal with the company.

In Salt Lake City, RSL has announced an “open house” at Rio Tinto Stadium.  The free event will include a Friendly with the Austin Aztek of the USL First Division, a meet the players component and plenty of family friendly activities.  With the fall 2008  opening of Rio Tinto Stadium, RSL has a beautiful new venue to showcase.  The open house seems like a fantastic way to introduce potential fans to the stadium without giving away the proudct (i.e. free tickets to games).  Rio Tinto looked and sounded great on TV during the playoffs and reports suggest that season ticket sales are up for 2009.

The Galaxy have wasted no time in selling tickets for their negotiated Friendly with AC Milan.  According to the team website, tickets are now on sale as part of a package with tickets for opening night.  While the game is free for season ticket holders, the two game package prices range from $50-$600.  It is somewhat surprising that L.A. would pair the Milan tickets with opening day because it suggests that opening day tickets aren’t selling well;  we’ll know in a week.  milan