Archive | The Business of Soccer

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WPS signs Citi as back shirt sponsor

Posted on 12 March 2010 by ASN Staff

© Women's Professional Soccer

Women’s Professional Soccer today, March 12, announced that Citigroup Inc. had signed on as a founding partner for the league. As a result of the deal, Citi’s logo will be placed on the backs of all the team uniforms below the numbers, the first-ever national jersey partnership for WPS. The league also released information about ticket sales and sponsorships as part of the announcement. Read the story on our WPS page.

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Thursday MLS sweep: Garber wants (additional) foreign investors

Posted on 04 March 2010 by Breton Bonnette

The Soccer Don

Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber realizes the standard of play in the United States will lag behind that of its global counterparts if we aren’t . So partnerships, investments, more preseasons in Europe or South America, anything that will make MLS more global is what he’s talking about. Mainly, however, in this instance, he wants investors. Plus player signings by Toronto FC and Colorado Rapids and more from ASN Philly.

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ASN forms strategic partnership with The Midnight Ride

Posted on 11 February 2010 by ASN Staff

AmericanSoccerNews.net is pleased to announce a partnership with The Midnight Ride, whereby TMR’s sole proprietor, Hank Alexandre, will become managing editor of ASN’s New England Revolution page. In this role, Alexandre will oversee the creation and publication of all content on Revs.AmericanSoccerNews.net, and will continue to write his own stories that to date would have appeared on TMR. He will also serve as the point person for all business development in the New England region.

The Midnight Ride site will continue to serve as the home of all past and future recordings of its popular weekly podcast The Midnight Ride, which will now also be accessible via Revs.AmericanSoccerNews.net . The layout and design of Revs.AmericanSoccerNews.net will continue to follow ASN’s template and will remain part of the ASN brand.

“I’m very happy with this deal and thrilled to be working with Hank Alexandre, whose work with The Midnight Ride I have of course followed for some time,” said ASN Managing Editor Nathaniel E. Baker. “This is one of those ‘win-win’ situations and I expect both sides to benefit greatly as a result.”

“I am very much looking forward to working with Nathaniel and the American Soccer News network.” said Alexandre. “This partnership will give TMR the infrastructure to extend its podcast audience through ASN’s online presence, and also provide access to resources not generally available to the podcast media.”

Alexandre’s Internet broadcasting career started in 2006 as a weekly guest on CSRN’s MLS show, Around The League in 90 minutes, where he served as a correspondent covering the New England Revolution. In 2009, Alexandre launched The Midnight Ride Podcast, a Revolution focused podcast which runs weekly during the MLS season. Alexandre is joined on the broadcast by long-time Revolution reporters Sean Donahue and Brian O’Connell.

The Midnight Ride Podcast is the official podcast of The Midnight Riders (an independent New England Revolution supporter’s group). For more information on The Midnight Riders, visit their Website midnightriders.com.

American Soccer News.net is a collection of individuals devoted to beautiful game and dedicated to growing its presence in this country. We are an all volunteer force of soccer writers scattered throughout North America. You will find us in the press box at MLS stadia and everywhere the U.S. men’s and women’s national teams play their games.

Cyber Soccer Associates LLC is our legal name. Now in its 14th year, ASN was originally created to provide America Online (AOL) with MLS reporting during the league’s inaugural season. After two years on AOL and a year on our own independent Web site, ASN established a firm Web presence in 1999 when we became the major information supplier to the now-defunct SoccerSpot.com. The current site was relaunched in March 2008.

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Don’t be surprised if DC United are sold–and moved

Posted on 02 February 2010 by Nathaniel E. Baker

Yesterday’s report about D.C. United seeking new “investment partners” did not set off alarm bells among Major League Soccer fans in the nation’s capital. But it probably should have.

At first glance, the wording of the announcement looks benign. “D.C. United owner Will Chang has hired sports investment firm Inner Circle Sports and begun to search for local or strategic partners who would be interested in investing in the Major League Soccer club,” it says. The report goes on to state, reassuringly, that Chang “hopes to keep the group relatively small and…plans to remain the club’s majority owner.” Indeed, Chang reiterated his commitment to the club “despite mounting losses” in an interview with Steven Goff of the Washington Post.

But as anybody with any experience in the investment banking or private equity arenas knows, the news means only one thing: Chang is seeking a buyer for the club. He may be satisfied divesting a minority stake, but the firm he hired does not traditionally engineer deals of this type. In fact, some of the biggest recent takeovers in the world of professional soccer involved the New York investment bank; Ellis Short’s acquisition of Sunderland FC in 2008, Liverpool FC’s 2007 sale to Tom Hicks and George Gillett among them. Inner Circle’s Web site has some of the other deals advised by the firm, very few of which were for minority ownership.

Who might buy DC United? And where, if anywhere, would they move the team? Anybody’s guess for now, though there are a few clues. One is the Maryland Stadium Authority’s recently-announced study to explore the viability of building a professional soccer stadium in Baltimore. The study will cost $100,000 and surely has nothing at all to do with yesterday’s announcement. There are ownership groups in Montreal and Miami (among others) who could bid for the franchise as well. Don’t be surprised if an investor from Asia becomes involved in some capacity. According to a recent BBC story, Inner Circle has been busy trying to develop investor ties in China.

Of course, nothing could come of this. Investment banks are hired all the time to shop companies without a sale ever coming to fruition. Or the ownership group could indeed grow by a few names, as Chang insists (on the record at least). But make no mistake: DC United is for sale and is being shopped by one of the most powerful investment banks in the field. DCU fans might want to take note of this.

What are your thoughts on this story? Comment below and make your views count by signing up for ASN’s commenter contest!

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A business model for American (specifically MLS) soccer news

Posted on 07 December 2009 by ASN Staff

The immediate catalyst for this editorial was a post last month by A More Splendid Life, but really this topic has captivated us for some time.

As anybody in or near the media industry knows, there simply does not appear to be any way of making money as a provider of original (print) content. The Web has changed that. Advertising models have changed that and now the recession has hammered the final nail into its coffin. One’s best bet is to turn to recommending products or doing other things that “have little or nothing to do with the sort of long-form journalism and first person reporting we’ve come to take for granted from print media,” as AMSL puts it.

However, this conclusion assumes two things, both false:
1. That people are not willing to pay for content and
2. That there is no way to charge them in a way that is fair and effective and does not encourage piracy.

The first item should be a no-brainer, as human beings continue to pay money for books, newspapers and magazines. True, the latter two may not last much longer if current patterns hold. But that does not change the fact that paying for print content is deeply entrenched in the consumer psyche. The idea of receiving print content completely scott free is, by contrast, brand spanking new, having only emerged over the last 10-15 years.

The second assumption is admittedly more difficult, but it is only a matter of time before it, too, is disproved. Just last week there were reports that an “itunes model” for print publications is in the works. In fact, an announcement on its release may be imminent.

It’s about time. So how exactly would a soccer news business model work?

The idea is to have dedicated coverage for each Major League Soccer team. This is an area that has historically been underserved (at best) or completely ignored (at worst) by local newspapers. And yet the demand for news is certainly there. Just take the Philadelphia Union, the newest MLS team to begin play next season. The team has already sold 6,000 season tickets (as of six months ago!) yet does not have a single dedicated beat reporter from a major newspaper or wire service. That’s at least 6,000 individuals who are left wanting for news about their team.

Of course, if it’s going to attract paid subscriptions, such a news service has to be of the highest quality. The reports themselves have to be well written and will need to adhere to a simple, consistent style. More importantly, they will have to offer compelling content–exclusive stories, ideally–on a daily basis.

To accomplish this, a full-time beat reporter will be paid to follow the team, to attend its practices and road trips, to hound its players and coaches for interviews, to develop sources in the front office. This reporter will not only need to be experienced, but will also need to be equipped (and skilled in) the latest multimedia tools: a laptop to file stories, a Blackberry or iphone from which to send Tweets or shoot photographs; a mini camcorder to film videos. Estimated annual cost, including salary: $100,000 per team.

At least one full time editor will be needed as well. This editor’s duties will include assigning and editing stories (duh) and posting them to the Web site and filling in with reporting and writing duties where appropriate. He or she will also be expected to lend direction and management to the cause and should of course be able to edit videos as well as Webmaster the site where necessary. Estimated annual cost, including salary: $100,000 (total).

With 16 MLS teams, the cost would quickly skyrocket well into seven figures. Nobody, least of all nowadays, is going to want to put up this sum of money for a news media venture. Better to start with one team and have the editor double as a publisher, with a portion of the second $100,000 dedicated to marketing.

That’s still $200,000 for year one. What types of revenues might be expected? How much can/should such a site charge anyway?

A monthly fee somewhere in the $5-10 range should be realistic keeping in mind the cost of an individual magazine purchased from the newsstand. At the low portion of the range, an average of 3,334 subscriptions would need to be paid each month to break even at the end of the first year. That’s significantly less than the amount of people who put down season ticket deposits for the Philadelphia Union.

Obviously the math can and will change depending on the types of subscription packages that are sold. Readers could be encouraged to sign up for the whole year for a cost of 10 or 11 months, say. Various partners could get involved selling subscriptions in various capacities, in exchange for a portion of revenues.

The site would probably need to be ad-free if people are going to pay for it. But readers could be offered coupons for certain products (a pint of beer at the local tavern for the team’s next away game? Discounts on team merchandise from an online outlet?) that would result in more revenue for the site.

Does this sound like fantasy? Or might it be a realistic news model for the future? More importantly, would you, the fan, pay for such a service? Why or why not? Post your thoughts on the matter below. If you happen to have $200,000 burning a hole in your pocket, send it our way. Or tell us why you would not throw money at this cause.

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MLS TV numbers don’t lie, but they can certainly be taken out of context

Posted on 02 November 2009 by Nathaniel E. Baker

Fox Soccer Channel today put out a press release on the growth of its ratings numbers over the past year, its first as a Nielsen-rated channel.

Among reports of increases in Serie A and English Premiership viewers, the statement also points out that “Major League Soccer audiences are up 89%, averaging 51,000 viewers last month vs. 27,000 over the same period in 2008.”

Taken alone, this number is indeed impressive, as USA Today’s Beau Dure pointed out. What might even be more significant is that MLS’ growth on FSC has outpaced that of Serie A and EPL on a year-to-year basis: 89% (MLS) versus 69% (EPL) and 48% (Serie A).

So far, so good. But the numbers also need to be put into context:
On FSC, Premiership viewers still outnumber MLS viewers by a wide margin (142,000 vs. 51,000).
While it is true that the average MLS match now gets more average viewers than its Serie A counterpart on FSC this is by a negligible amount (51,000 vs. 49,000) and does not take into account the other TV channels that show Serie A matches live (RAI international comes to mind).

But MLS is also shown on other channels. So too is the English Premiership. How did those do? According to EPL Talk, ESPN2 averaged 257,000 viewers for its first 13 games, or more than five times what MLS games average on FSC.

Obviously a direct comparison is not fair because ESPN2 is available in far more households than FSC is (98 million vs. 35 million, according to the USA Today piece). But what are ESPN2’s numbers for MLS? According to the Sports Business Daily (subscription required), these are up to 290,000 this season, which is more than what ESPN2 has been drawing for the EPL!

Does this mean MLS is now outperforming the EPL on U.S. television, as MLS Talk argues? Not quite.

The numbers again need to be put into context. ESPN2’s MLS broadcasts are largely during prime time. Their EPL games? Six of the first 13 were broadcast at the ungodly hour of Saturday 7:30 am East Coast time. There might be East Coast viewers willing to get up at that hour to watch, say Wolves v. Aston Villa, but how many people on the West Coast are going to pull off getting (or staying) up until 4:30am on a Saturday? Four of the 13 ESPN2 Premiership games were at 3pm on a (non-holiday) Monday, which is not exactly prime time either. If you take the three ESPN2 Premiership broadcasts that kicked off at 10am on a Saturday, the average viewership number is 298,000, which is slightly more than ESPN2’s MLS games (which kicked off at or near primetime hours).

Obviously this too is incomplete because there are other factors that can and do affect viewership. For example, what were ESPN2’s MLS broadcasts competing against? Baseball? Basketball? American Idol? Jon and Kate? (No, that’s on on Monday night. I know this because, uh, my girlfriend watches it religiously. Honest!) At least the AM hours do not have anywhere near the same type of competition. (Then again, Saturday afternoon competes directly with college football). And what about people who DVR the soccer matches? Are they accounted for? If not, the real EPL numbers are probably going to be higher.

With regards to the ESPN2 numbers we also need to remember that the sample size of 13 EPL games is significantly smaller than what FSC has to go by. Also, these are early days in the Premiership season. Come next spring, its viewership numbers will undoubtedly increase once the title chase goes down to the wire. Meanwhile, how much has David Beckham inflated MLS’ numbers on ESPN2? The USA Today piece says the network averages 409,000 viewers for Beckham’s games. What does this say about the games not featuring Beckham? How low must they be?

So really, comparing ESPN2’s viewership numbers for MLS and EPL is a tangled web. It probably makes a lot more sense to view FSC’s numbers as the more reliable (though still flawed) comparison tool. And these indicate MLS has a long way to go before it catches up to the EPL.

None of this should undermine MLS’ growth as reflected in the FSC report. So let’s also accept that MLS numbers are up across the board, which is undoubtedly a good thing for the sport’s growth in this country.

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Football Partnerships launches regional networks

Posted on 15 April 2009 by ASN Staff

Football Partnerships, which bills itself as “the leading business-to-business networking group for football industry professionals” is launching regional hubs to better serve its upcoming functions. (p.s. by “football” they do in fact mean soccer).

The selection of cities was determined by local member concentration, travel logistics, and the presence of related businesses in the area.

For the initial phase of rollout, North America will be divided into four regions and Western Europe into five. Each region is comprised of two to six divisions, with some cities standing alone and others having partner cities, again, due to member concentration, geographic proximity, feasibility of travel, and demand.

The preliminary breakdown is as follows:

NORTH AMERICA

Region 1
A Boston-Portland-Quebec
B New York-Philadelphia
C Baltimore-DC
D Atlanta-Charlotte
E Orlando-Miami-Puerto Rico

Region 2

A Chicago-Ann Arbor-Toronto
B New Orleans-Nashville

Region 3

A Minneapolis
B Kansas City-St. Louis
C Dallas
D Houston
E Denver-Salt Lake City
F Mexico City

Region 4

A San Diego-Phoenix-Las Vegas-Los Angeles
B San Jose-San Francisco
C Portland-Seattle-Vancouver

WESTERN EUROPE

Region 1
A London
B Manchester
C Liverpool-Dublin
D Newcastle-Edinburgh

Region 2

A Madrid-Lisbon
B Paris
C Barcelona-Marseille
D Zurich-Lyon-Milan

Region 3

A Copenhagen-Hamburg
B Brussels-Amsterdam-Rotterdam
C Berlin-Warsaw

Region 4

A Frankfurt-Prague-Munich
B Rome
C Napoli-Palermo

Region 5

A Oslo-Helsinki-Stockholm

Additional zones and regions will be added as the network continues to grow. Further, the organization of the zones and regions may change with membership trends.

To facilitate the organization of networking functions, Football Partnerships is seeking qualified candidates to serve as ambassadors, or Networking Captains, for each region. Regions with multiple city-partners (i.e., WE 2D, Zurich-Lyon-Milan) will have multiple FPN Captains. These individuals will be responsible for performing a support function to Football Partnerships Headquarters in New York, and liaising between Football Partnerships and local venues.

To apply for a position as a networking captain, interested candidates should send a brief email containing background or CV to info@footballpartnerships.com.

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Online soccer academy launches

Posted on 03 March 2009 by ASN Staff

Former professional soccer player Jared Montz has rolled out what is believed to be the first of its kind online soccer academy. “The idea came to me this summer,” said Montz, a former defender who most recently played for the United Soccer Leagues’ Puerto Rico Islanders. “I have been working just about 24 hours a day like a mad man to get it up and ready.”

The Maudville, La., native is the owner, president and namesake of Jared Montz Soccer LLC, which has been running soccer camps in Louisiana and Mississippi since January 2006. The online academy was born of a desire to train youth players without making them and their parents travel to distant (and expensive) camps. The online academy features training videos, juggling charts and game review forms as well as a college scholarship giveaway. The program has multiple groups for all ages and skill levels.

Montz graduated with honors from Lynn University with a degree in business management in 2005. He was signed to a developmental contract by Major League Soccer’s Chicago Fire in 2006 and won a U.S. Open Cup with the squad that year. With the Fire he also suffered a hernia injury that ultimately forced him into semi-retirement. He started a video podcast, Montz TV, in December 2007.

The program appears to be taking off. “Players have already signed up,” said Montz. “They are really enjoying the program and I keep getting messages saying how awesome it is.”

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Philly signs deal with Panasonic

Posted on 12 January 2009 by ASN Staff

Keystone Sports and Entertainment, LLC, the MLS Philadelphia 2010 ownership group, named Panasonic as the “Official Technology Partner” of its new stadium and waterfront complex, according to the Sports Business Journal.

When the new MLS stadium and waterfront complex opens in 2010 just south of Philadelphia, it will be “Powered by Panasonic” with Panasonic as exclusive provider of broadcast and TV production systems, large screen LED displays, security systems and point-of-sale systems. Panasonic’s participation in the project will be reflected throughout the venue with stadium marks and logos in addition to branding on the main scoreboard and the LED signage.

“Panasonic is a name respected around the globe, recognized for their innovation in consumer electronics and business technology products,” said Nick Sakiewicz, CEO and operating partner of Keystone Sports and Entertainment. “Our fans will be treated to a unique in-stadium experience, ‘Powered by Panasonic.'”

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MLS sells international TV rights

Posted on 22 December 2008 by ASN Staff

Soccer United Marketing and ESPN have sold international broadcast rights for all Major League Soccer games to MP & Silva in an eight-figure agreement that extends through 2013, according to Street & Smith’s Sports Business Journal.

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