The Monday After & Media Matters

We’ve decided to take a different approach to our Monday After posts from today forward.  Rather than focus on attendance, we thought we look at any business issues that arose over the weekend and focus on one or two significant “gates” on either the high side or low side.  We are also starting a new regular feature called “Media Matters” when we will comment on the presence of soccer coverage in mainstream media.  If you stumble across such coverage, feel free to drop us a line at footiebusiness@gmail.com

On to the weekend.  For MLS fans it was a great Saturday night on Direct Kick, with games kicking off at 7:30, 8:30, 9:00, 10:00 and 10:30.  Add in the FSC game from Houston and there was plenty of soccer to choose from.  Attendance was generally poor across the league despite generally good weather nationwide.  Perhaps most dissappointing was the 15,400 in Los Angeles where the undefeated Galaxy beat expansion Phill 3-1.  Los Angeles is off to a great start this year and the franchise generally draws well and has had plenty of games in the Beckham era near the 27k capacity at the Home Depot Center.

WPS attendance has also been disappointing this year.  The weekend was notable for the 8k that saw Washington win 3-1 at RFK.  The match was part of a doubleheader with stumbling DC United.  Less than 3k were in Philly for the expansion franchise’s win over fellow newcomer Atlanta.

A couple of notes in our media matters section.  Two soccer stories in the most recent edition of Sports Illustrated.  One was a great feature on Jozy Altidore.  With the World Cup 6 weeks away, we should anticipate a number of these types of features in mainstream publications.  The other piece was in the “Scorecard” section that analyzed MLS’ status at the gate.  The article provided a neat two sided argument that compared MLS to the NBA and NHL with respect to attendance and provided reasons both in support and against the staying power of American soccer.

Keeping with the media theme, ESPN has certainly ramped up its World Cup coverage across both the internet and television platforms.  Ads for the World Cup are omnipresent on all programming on the ESPN networks and ESPN.com is running an article every day.  The WorldWide leader has invested an enormous amount of money in the World Cup and they are working hard to push their coverage

The Monday After: Week Four, Week Two & More

Before we get into our look at attendance in MLS and WPS from the weekend, a couple of other business thoughts.  It was a good weekend for MLS MatchDay Live as the online game server seems to have shaken most the problems that beset the new service over the past few weeks.  In DC, the United game was still not available on local television, as conflicts with hockey and basketball have created significant problems in making the games available.  Similar problems impacted the Revolution this weekend, as a conflict with the Celtics forced the Revs’ game onto a variety of different “alternate” channels that didn’t necessarily work as planned forcing many fans to miss portions of the game.

With respect to attendance, it was a fairly disappointing weekend for the league.  Things started well in newly expanded BMO Field where almost 22k saw TFC hold off Philadelphia.  In Houston, just under 15k saw Houston hold off Chivas USA.  More than 35k were in Seattle for the Sounders’ late victory over KC.  A solid 18,500 were in DC where United again failed to win.

In San Jose, less than a sellout (under 10k) saw the home team beat the Revs.  While on Sunday, less than 10k were at DSG for the Rapids win over TFC.  However, the most distressing result for MLS fans was the paltry 13k that were at Red Bull Arena for the New York/Chicago game.  Bad weather certainly didn’t help, but the Red Bulls (and the league) were certainly hoping for numbers closer to 20k for most of the season.  The next home game (involving rival Philly) will likely be better, but attendance for unheralded Western Conference opponents might be a problem for the rest of the season.

In WPS action, 3700 saw FC Gold Pride defeat NJ at Castron Valley Athletic Stadium.  We couldn’t find attendance for the other two games.

Soccer Business Bits: Salary Comparison, WPS Attendance & More

In an ESPN.com article about UCONN star Maya Moore, LZ Granderson provides some interesting detail about salaries in the WNBA.  Because fans often look at the WNBA for purposes of comparing MLS TV and attendance, we thought the salary numbers would also provide an interesting point of analysis.  Here is the passage from Granderson’s article: “The salary range for WNBA rookies drafted 1-4 is $44,064 in the first year and taps out at $56,182 in the fourth year of their contracts.  The max any WNBA player can earn is $95,000.”  From this sentence, it is apparent that WNBA salaries are well below those in Major League soccer where the minimum salary under the new CBA is $40k and a healthy percentage of players make in excess of $100k per year.  Moreover, the $95k cap on salaries is well below the higher end salaries in MLS.

Keeping with women’s sports, we pulled some attendance nuggets from WPS Commissioner Tonya Antonucci’s media conference call.   According to her statement, season ticket sales for returning teams are up 20% and local sponsorships are up 150%.  WPS averaged over 4,600 fans per game in 2009 and the league is shooting for a a 5-10 % increase in 2010. Other bits from the call include an announcement about a two team expansion in 2011 and discussion of the new stadium in the Atlanta area.

Finally, a quick note on the stadium effort in Houston.  The City Council approved the deal for the stadium that will be shared between the Dynamo and Texas Southern football.  The county will vote to approve the arrangement on Tuesday.  In addition to the $15 million dollar city contribution to the land, the team will foot the bill for the additional cost of stadium construction.  Total cost of the projected 21k seat stadium is expected to be about $80 million with the Dynamo ownership (primarily AEG and Golden Boy Promotions) funding about $60 million.  The rest of the funds could come from tax credits,  the TIRZ money and from some of the stiumulus money floating around.  The TIRZ program will also provide the property for the stadium.   Another round of voting is required to move the project forward.

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.

The Morning After: MLS & WPS Business Recap

barcaAnother weekend is in the books, as both MLS and WPS continue their march to the playoffs.  However, perhaps the highlight was the Barcelona/Galaxy friendly that drew more than 93k to the Rose Bowl.  Another huge crowd and another sign of the popularity of soccer in the US.  Stay tuned the rest of this week for a series of posts addressing this issue.  We have spoken with folks across the spectrum of soccer fandom to find out what would either make them MLS fans or make MLS more popular.  We will post these reports over the next couple of days.

Elsewhere, it was a wild week on the field in MLS, but a fairly disappointing one at the gate.  Just over 12k were in Foxboro for the Revs/TFC draw.  14,500 were in Chicago for the Fire/RSL game and just over 10k made the trip to Dallas to see the Hoops destroy KC.  In Houston, just under 15k were in attendance while Colorado pulled less than 11k.  10k made the trip to San Jose. These are pretty bad numbers, however this may simply reflect the presence of four of the worst home draws hosting on the same weekend.

This weekend was notable for the second free preview of Direct Kick offered during the year.  The first was opening day, and the League is again promoting the service for the stretch drive.  This still remains one of best deals in televised sports.

In WPS action, 5k saw St. Louis and Boston play to a 1-0 score line in the Gateway City.   A very poor crowd of 2300 also saw the home team win as FC Gold Pride held off Washington on Saturday.   Midweek, 3100 saw Boston and Washington play in DC.  For a very frank interview with Tonya Antonucci about the business state of the League, please click here.

Soccer Business Bits: Confederations Cup, MLS and More

us-soccerIt has been a very busy last few days in American Soccer.  The Confederations Cup has moved through the group stage, MLS is reaching the halfway point, Superliga is under way and the WPS is moving forward in its inagural season.  The big soccer business controversy of the week occurred on Wednesday night when the highly anticipated Seattle/DC match from Qwest Field was bumped from ESPN2 for extra innings of a College World Series game. Despite a 30 minute pre-game show buffer, it was into the second half before the baseball was over and the soccer game on the screen.  Unfortunately for MLS fans, the 3-3 tie was one of the best of the season and could have served as a great showcase for the League. MLS fans were (wrongly) angry with ESPN for failing to switch off the baseball to show the start of the MLS match.

Unfortunately for soccer fans, ESPN has a policy of staying with live events until their conclusion.  The game was made available on ESPN360 and replayed later in the evening.  Moreover, soccer fans must realize that the College World Series generates better ratings than MLS on the ESPN networks.  Commissioner Garber addressed the situation in his latest “Commissioner Speaks”.  MLS has done the right thing by making the game available for free on its website.

ESPN made another interesting programming decision during broadcasts of the Confederations Cup.  On Sunday, the Italy/Brazil and USA/Egypt matches were played at the same time, yet interestingly, ESPN chose to put the USA game on ESPN2 while the other game was on ESPN (complete with a 30 minute pre-game show).  Italy and Brazil are certainly two of the most prominent soccer playing nations in the world, but we strongly disagree with the decision to  have the USA play second fiddle in its own country.  However, it does say something about the relative popularity of these teams within the United States.  ESPN made its decision based on what they believed would draw the most interest.

SuperLiga 2009 is underway with small crowds in Chicago, Los Angeles, New England and St. Louis for the first match day.  The “St. Louis experiement” was not particularly successful, with less than 6k in attendance for a Wizards “home match”.  League-wide, MLS attendance was fairly typical with a big number in Seattle on Wednesday night with 29k at Qwest.  By playing in Oakland, San Jose was able to draw 17k against Los Angeles, in a game that got a TV lead-in from the Confederations Cup.  Houston did well with about 17k and New York was a pleasant surprise with 14k in a rain storm. There were 11k in Colorado and 8k in Dallas.  As always, we reccomend MLS Daily for a great attendance break down.

Finally, in WPS action, just over 3k were in Boston for a Wednesday night game, while only 2500 were in attendance for a weeknight game in New Jersey.  Just over 2700 were in St. Louis for a match against Washington.  For a League that had been doing well at the gate, this was a fairly disappointing weekend.  wps

Soccer Business Bits: Soccer on TV and More

tv soccerIn what has been something of a recurring topic over the last couple of weeks, we thought we would again discuss the televising of soccer in the United States.  We’ll start with the UEFA Final, which drew a big number both on ESPN and ESPN Deportes.  This press release from ESPN sets forth the numbers.  A quick glance: more than 1 million English language homes and approximately 500,000 Spanish language.  This was the most watched telecast in ESPN Deportes history garnering a 9.9 Hispanic Coverage Rating; the second largest such rating in 2009.  Bear in mind, this game went off in the middle of a weekday.

The Confederations Cup kicks off on June 14 and ESPN will be showing all games live.  It will be interesting to see how these results compare to the UEFA game.  The United States will get two mid-week games and a Sunday match-up against Egypt.  The mid-week games will be televised live; it will be interesting to see if ESPN chooses to replay the matches in primetime.   The entire ESPN schedule for the tournament is here.

Keeping it with the U.S Men, a large crowd turned out to Soldier Field for the Saturday evening qualifier against Honduras.  Not surprisingly, more than 50% of the fans were wearing the blue and white.  After watching the crowd in Costa Rica (no thanks to ESPN which broadcast the match from Bristol and appeared to have little access to stadium microphones), the Chicago crowd was quite a shock.  Nevertheless, it is heartening that the Men continue to sell large blocks of tickets.  This also goes for the news out of South Africa that more ticket requests for the World Cup have come from the United States than any other country.

We will touch on MLS tomorrow, but a quick word about the WPS week.  The League offered up a mid-week game in Los Angles with just under 4k in attendance.  Four days latter the Sol were back at it, hosting Washington in front of 5500 for the FSC game of the week.  I was pretty disappointed in the FSC production of the game.  The shadows made it hard, but it was impossible to see half of the field because of the light difference.  Also, the audio was pretty weak.  The crowd shots also looked pretty sparse.  As has become distressingly routine across the League, the St. Louis Sunday match is posting attendance as N/A.wps

Soccer Business Bits: The Morning After

mlsAnother full slate of games in MLS and WPS this weekend and a world cup qualifier on the horizon.  This week represented the return of the ESPN game of the week, and the Worldwide Leader got a good one with the Thursday night Chivas/Blanco match-up.  Please see our live business blog of that match here.  Chivas USA got the attendance week off to a good start with a reported 20k+ in attendance the day after less than 9k were in Columbus for a mid-week game.

Strong attendance continued with almost 16k in New England on Saturday night (this is what passes for good attendance at Gillette these days), 16k in Houston, about 20k in Los Angeles and almost 30k in Seattle.  These are solid numbers for all of these franchises and may represent a Spring upswing for some of these teams.  Los Angeles is nowhere near the numbers of the past years, but the ability to draw a solid 20k without Beckham is a good sign for the club. Dallas and New York also deserve recognition for pulling solid numbers, with 13k in Dallas for a Sunday afternoon match and a reported 12k at Giants Stadium.

There were three weekend games in WPS, with action in Los Angeles, Washington and New Jersey.  6200 saw Marta and the Sol defeat St. Louis 2-0.  In Washington, the League continued its tradition of not reporting attendance, while in New Jersey less than 3500 were in attendance.

More than 30k were in attendance to see Jamaica and El Salvador in  World Cup warm-up at RFK.  This is a big number in a stadium that has become a familiar ground for El Salvador.  As noted above, the US Men get back into action this week.  We will post a business blog of that game to touch on the ads, production and more of the match from Cost Rica.

Soccer Business Bits: The Morning After

mlsAnother week of American soccer is in the books, with a full slate of games in MLS and WPS and the annoucement of a new U.S. National Team Camp for the upcoming World Cup Qualifier.  As has been a theme in MLS this season, there were more ties than actual results, with four games ending in a draw.  This was another week without an ESPN game, but national telecasts on Fox Soccer for the WPS and MLS and Telefutura for MLS.  Advertisers such as Panasonic and Dick’s stayed as a consistent presence in these telecasts.

Attendance wise, Toronto led the way with a sellout, while KC followed suit.  Just over 16k saw a scoreless draw at RFK, while a suprising 16,500 made their way to Colorado to watch Seattle and the Rapids.  This is a big number for the Rapids.  New York and Dallas struggled again at the gate, with just over 10k at Giants Stadium and FC Dallas bringing in less than 10k for a match up against the Galaxy.  What would the attendance have been with a Beckham appearance? The big shock of the week was 12,500 in Houston.  The Dynamo generally do a great job with promotions for every game, yet, this was a small draw in a game against their shadow selves in San Jose.

In WPS action, 4,400 were in attendance when Chicago hosted St. Louis.  More than 6200 were in attendance when FC Gold Pride hosted Marta and Los Angeles.  The DC match was part of doubleheader for the United Game.  The WPS kicked off first, and reports indicate that many of the United supporters stayed in the parking lot during the WPS match.  Attendance for the two games were joined, so the WPS gets the benefit of the 16k.

Next week, MLS has a full slate with two midweek games and the return of ESPN, smartly televising the Los Angeles super classico.  We will be traveling again this week and will check back at the end of the week, perhaps live blogging some of the business aspects of the ESPN2 broadcast.

Soccer Business Bits: The Morning After

mlsIn a week without an ESPN game, MLS was busy with 14 teams in action in six cities.  On the attendance front, the League seemed to have a pretty good week with the notable exception of 8,200 in Dallas.  Most interesting was the virtual attendance tie between Chivas and the Galaxy in dueling games at the Home Depot Center.  On Saturday night, Chivas got more than 16k in hosting DC United in a 2-2 tie.  The Galaxy got virtually the same number for a Sunday afternoon tilt with Columbus.  Chivas has continued its strong attendance start, with each game seemingly building on the success of the week before. The Galaxy are way down, but the return of Becks is just weeks away.

Elsewhere, NY showed a comparatively big number by bringing about 14,500 to Giants Stadium. For a team that has struggled to top 10k on some nights, 14,500 is a good showing.  As we have discussed before, Red Bull Arena is opening up next year and there is a sense that the team is holding its advertising dollars for next season.  That is not the case in Utah, where RSL brought more than 19k to Rio Tinto.  We have highlighted RSL advertising efforts in the past, and those efforts appear to be paying dividends.

Switching focus to WPS, the Womens’ League was in action in three cities this weekend.  FSC broadcast the Sunday night game from Boston and the other two matches were available on local television.  Just over 6k attended the Sol’s Friday night game at the Home Depot Center as part of its three games in three nights this weekend.  In Boston, 4200 watched the Breakers on Sunday and just under 5k were in Chicago on Saturday.  WPS continues to hit its attendance targets, settling nicely into the 4-6 range.  As the year progresses, it will be interesting to see if the WPS pulls ticket sales from MLS.  The Revs are struggling around 10-13k while the Breakers are pulling 5k on the same weekend.  Would some of those fans be at Gillette if the Breakers weren’t in Boston?

Finally, the 2009 SuperLiga has been announced with play starting in June.  We will discuss the SuperLiga in detail as it comes closer.  This event wobbled a bit last year, after a successful first campaign. This year, some of the big Mexican teams like Chivas and America are not participating.  That should have a dramatic impact on attendance at TV ratings. Nevertheless, the soccer has been pretty good during the tournament and the atmospheres have been pretty lively.  For now, take a look at our write-up on last year’s SuperLiga.