What Does WPS Need To Do To Survive?

Discussion in 'NWSL' started by Mister Crossbar, Jan 31, 2012.

  1. Mister Crossbar

    Mister Crossbar New Member

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    Topic in a nutshell: Basically, if WPS is to survive, what needs to happen this year and when does it need to happen by? Or, what milestones need to occur for you to be optimistic about a 2013 season?



    I'm not optimistic about WPS existing in 2013, but if they are to exist, then I think that they need to get their act together soon, as in before the Olympics. In other words, I think that the start of the Olympics is zero hour for WPS. If significant progress is not made by that time, then barring a miracle, WPS is dead.

    Perhaps having the Olympics as a deadline for some of the key milestones (namely regarding the litigation) may not be completely realistic, but for the league to fully capitalize on whatever momentum women's soccer gets during and after the Olympics, they need to eliminate as much uncertainty about 2013 as it can. Otherwise, everytime WPS tries to promote itself, journalists will be less inclined to take WPS actions seriously. In other words, there'll be a proverbially asterisk attached to everything WPS does.


    Pre-Olympics - By no later than mid-July, the following things need to happen:
    (1) Litigation issues mostly settled;
    (2) Development of a cost restructuring plan;
    (3) Key sponsors lined up;
    (4) A firm TV deal;
    (5) Player's union is squarely on board (which may be an issue if cost restructuring impacts player's income);
    (6) The USSF is satisfied with WPS' progress;
    (7) A sixth team signed on; and
    (8) At least two serious candidate expansion teams/cities in the pipeline.

    Then, by mid-July, hold a major press event (or multiple events) where all of the above developments are formally unveiled, along with a plan for promoting WPS during and after the Olympics. The last items in the list are more optional than the others, but for positive buzz, having something new and shiny like an expansion team would be a very good PR development.

    Also, if WPS could get a TV deal with NBC Sports Network, then that would provide NBC with a good incentive to promote WPS during the Olympics.

    During the Olympics - Promotion, promotion, promotion. At least through social media, press releases, and having key people available for interviews and such. If they can afford some national commercials during USWNT matches, all the better.

    Immediately Post-Olympics - If the USWNT win golds, capitalize on that 110% (PR, signing sponsors, etc.). Otherwise, make the best out of whatever happens. Announce the WPS event schedule (drafts, etc.) leading up to the 2013 season. All teams ramp up their local promoting. Also, get on-the-fence expansion candidates on-board, ASAP.

    ***

    On the litigation issue, Hoffstetter (Sky Blue owner) "said he expects the legal battle with Borislow to last most of the year" (NJ.com article). If the litigation continues to be drawn out, then that is just going to keep a cloud of uncertainty over the league, which will keep sponsors and expansion teams away. If there's a opportunity in the next few months for the league to settle and save face, even if it means paying Borislow off with a financial settlement, then I think that they should settle so that the league can move forward.

    Regarding expansion, it seems as if the current WPS owners are confident that there will be three expansion teams in 2013 (see the same NJ.com article). And, I do think that the 2013 season needs to have eight teams


  2. hykos1045

    hykos1045 Member

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    Boston and magicjack are talking about friendlies, and WNY is talking about rejoining WPSL. I think if the league is to survive, any such "friendlies" need to be well attended, well publicized, and used as a springboard mechanism to create momentum into 2013 for sponsors, investors, and media. They can't simply be thrown together scrimmages for nostalgic reasons, they have to be over the top productions. A round robin series between any active teams shortly after the Olympics could/should be well received by fans.

    I would also like to see either an All Star game or USWNT tour, if the above cannot happen.

    Women's soccer can't just be allowed to disappear.
  3. mng146

    mng146 Member

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    WNY wouldn't be rejoining the WPSL, the team was never in that league. They were previously in the W-League as the Buffalo Flash, an amateur team. I do fully expect them to be in the WPSL this season though. Their commissioner basically put out a welcome mat in a statement he made on Monday, and the Sahlens seem committed to putting out a product this year. If it happens, one or two other teams may follow.

    The WPSL season only runs through the end of July, so late August/ early September friendlies after the Olympics would fit in well. I like the idea of a round robin mini-tournament of sorts, and the matches would need as much promotion as possible.
  4. StarCityFan

    StarCityFan BigSoccer Supporter

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    The Flash were one of two professional teams in the W-League in 2009, along with FC Indiana.


  5. doctorlatte

    doctorlatte New Member

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    I don't pretend to know exactly how WPS is setup, but I don't think it has the "single-entity" structure of MLS. Without a league for 2012 teams can do what they want - which is a good thing.

    Peter Wilt at PitchInvasion suggested big changes last month. It's an uncomfortable read, but worth it:
    http://pitchinvasion.net/blog/2011/12/02/fixing-u-s-pro-womens-soccer-a-proposal/


    I enjoyed the 2 Independence the games I went to in their first 2 seasons. I would have enjoyed them just as much if there were fewer USWNT players on each team. (No, that's not a knock on A-Rod, or any other capped player.) The team personality that the Independence has will keep me interested no matter what the rest of the league looks like. I have also been impressed with their outreach, in particular Paul Riley doing coaching demo's what seems like every other month.

    I hope the Independence stays around in some form, we'll go to showcase games in Downingtown vs WPSL, W-League, or College teams if thats all thats offered for 2012.
  6. ceezmad

    ceezmad Member+

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    What if they do not win gold?
  7. Mister Crossbar

    Mister Crossbar New Member

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    What I meant by capitalizing 110% on winning gold, is that by winning in London, the team should generate a bit of euphoria back home, which WPS needs to use to its advantage: (1) By getting as much free PR as possible; (2) Signing up sponsors at a time when they will be most enthusiastic about getting on the bandwagon.

    The Olympics is the best time this year to promote WPS, because in the USA's zeitgeist, women's soccer will be at a much higher level than normal (and probably at its highest point until the next WWC). Going into the Olympics, WPS should have one fail-proof PR effort as its main campaign. And, if the USWNT win gold, then WPS should have a second marketing campaign to convert bandwagon USWNT fans to WPS fans.

    ***

    That brings up another reason for having the Olympics as zero hour: If WPS can't get their act together by Autumn, then I'd rather see the league fold gracefully and give another group the chance to launch some kind of pro-ish league in 2013. Even if that league is some kind of interim ad-hoc thing while the new group organizes a proper pro league.

    Otherwise, the longer WPS drags this out, the worse it is for the future of any women's pro leagues in the USA.
  8. Mister Crossbar

    Mister Crossbar New Member

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    Independence owner David Halstead held a conference call today. Here's a few quotes that are relevant to what WPS' next steps are (via PhillySoccerNews.com):

    Regarding the business model, Halstead somewhat cryptically mentions aligning a revenue source with players' expenses.

  9. dsirias

    dsirias Member

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    In answer to the thread's question-- do exactly what P. Wilt recommends. Basically contains the key assumption I have maintained for years now: Women's soccer need to work within the existing soccer infrastructure. And the best of that is in MLS and USL.

    WPS can't do it alone That's just a fact. I want women's soccer to soar. I do believe by the end of this decade WMLS will be ready. The reservoir of "goodwill" ( legal definition) from running a women's side is just too deep for several MLS management to pass up, especially for the price. Until then, do exactly what Wilt recommends.

    Joe soccer dad is much more likely to buy buy his daughter an Alex morgan jersey when Alex Morgan is in the color's of (_____local team ____i.e., Fire Ladies; Lady Sounders etc ) rather than in the national team jersey. Marsailles in France figured that out years ago when it started bankrolling a women's team.

    Look at it this way: it's the beginning of something better, not the end.
  10. pressurecooker

    pressurecooker Member

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    The best path forward is for the league to take an honest look at where they are and make realistic goals toward coming back. If WUSA had started with a model similar to the WPS model they would have lasted longer. Now the WPS needs to find their sustainable model to last longer than 3 years. This is what I think their path back should look like:

    1. WPS goes dark for 2012 & 2013 to make sure all past issues dragging on the league currently are fully resolved.
    2. All franchises play in WPSL for both 2012 & 2013 with as many current players on their rosters willing to play for a semipro money.
    3. Maintain skeleton front office staffs to maintain as much of the current fanbase as possible.
    4. If the WPS teams don't play in the same division in WPSL they should arrange an exhibition game vs each other at least once a season.
    5. WPS teams arrange an exhibition game against any existing WPSL team which potentially wants to be part of a re-launch to introduce new team to current league fanbase.
    6. Must have strong solid league leadership from the commissioner, to club ownership, to player's union. Projecting strength, confidence and a solid vision forward will attract sponsorships and attract new ownership.
    7. Similar to #6. Don't make false promises, it projects weakness.
    8. Aim for relaunch in 2014 with fanbase still interested, new teams already introduced, as many sponsorships as they can attain and a solid sustainable vision that everyone buys into going forward.
  11. dtid

    dtid Member

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    First of all - start with Mr. Wilt. As someone who has worked in a number of different soccer leagues, I believe he knows of what he speaks.

    From what I've seen, there is no doubt that there is in fact a demand for professional womens' soccer. The challenge has been fitting a business model around that demand, partnered with tools to help grow the league.

    Looking at it from a distance, it appears that WPS has attendance numbers in the 3,000 to 5,000 range. Assuming those are mostly paid tickets, and making an assumption that the average ticket price is similar.... It looks like the business model should be similar to the mid-range mens Division II teams - around $2M, +/- $500k?

    I think that ought to allow for more teams - spread out across the US? Maybe eight teams in four divisions? That ought to keep travel costs down.
  12. Berchtesgaden

    Berchtesgaden Member+

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    Target Facebook employees. :p
  13. Morris20

    Morris20 Member

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    Scott French on WPS/etc. http://espn.go.com/blog/los-angeles/soccer/post/_/id/14284/wps-what-is-the-impact-on-l-a
    Beau's tweeting it like it's some kind of surprise that SA's folks think the women's league should run on no money.

    The problem is that a women's ELITE league seems to be drawing about 3-5k right now. So, strategically, do you scale down to meet that revenue stream? To me the answer is obvious: NO!!!!!!! Any effort to "scale down" will result in a revenue stream based on 3-500, and you go under. The answer is to get owners (and evidently WPS found 6, I can't believe there aren't even more) willing to INVEST - this means losing money while building a fan base - it's not a 1-3 year deal - heck, MLS hasn't really made it to break even in 17 years.

    The "French/Wilt" strategy amounts to "not growing the game" at all. What kind of business says, "we'll treat our demand as fixed" and amounts to anything? I thought the whole thing is to GROW demand, you don't do that on the cheap by not paying players or claiming D1 status.
  14. MRAD12

    MRAD12 Member

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    I agree with you. We Fire fans in Chicago still think the world of Peter Wilt. But on this subject he is off, IMO.

    In a nutshell, to me, Wilt's proposal seems to say "Well we know women's soccer will never be bigger then what it is so let's just reserve to the fact that it will always be an amateur or semi-pro sport at best".

    Peter, how long did it take for men's pro soccer in ths country to take hold? I remember growing up in Chicago going to Sting games back in the 70's and 80's and I remember the countless NASL teams that were created and folded.
    But did they give up on trying to create a viable men's pro soccer league? NO. Investors kept at it and finally we have a men's pro soccer league that can stand on it's own feet.
  15. kolabear

    kolabear Member

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    Thank you Morris20 and MRAD12. Have the three of us ever been in agreement on the same subject before?!!!
  16. Morris20

    Morris20 Member

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    I think it happens more often than not - kind of kills discussion though ;)
  17. kolabear

    kolabear Member

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    Oh, in that case I'll find a way to make trouble... :)
  18. Offebacher

    Offebacher Member

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    You can't believe there aren't even more? Look how long it took MLS before Folks not named Hunt or Anschutz were willing to invest in teams, Women's Soccer so far has not been able to attract anyone reasonably close to that kind of pocketbook. And when you do try to sell someone on being an investor for a Womens Pro Team then what does that person use as an incentive to buy in? The good numbers at WC or Olympic events, the temporary bounce in attendance in League games shortly after those events, good faith and a desire to "grow the Womens game"? All of that starts to fall apart when that persons money managers start looking at the actual numbers, past performance and the state of the Womens game at the Club Level worldwide and realize that unless they truly want to grow the game and don't mind losing a bunch of money in the process it would be an unwise investment.

    Must be interpretation but the way I read PW's proposal is: "We know that Women's Soccer will never be bigger than what we've currently seen possible unless there are some willing investors with very deep pockets willing to foot the bill". In the meantime if there is going to be a Womens game here it will need to be on a smaller financial scale which limits the possibilities of what can be done and requires a much greater amount of patience than most people are willing to have.
  19. kolabear

    kolabear Member

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    But current owners (and potential ones) are working on a smaller financial scale and they're making it smaller still.

    The salaries, with very few exceptions, aren't near the men's game (MLS) and they've steadily chopped the payscale the last couple years as they realized that even Marta doesn't bring in revenue commensurate with the salary she originally was getting.

    They're playing in scaled-down stadiums, mainly college stadiums, not like the Home depot Center or Toyota Park.

    At this approximate operating level you have the remaining owners willing to carry on and they seem to have other ownership groups interested in joining them if some things can get resolved (like the magicjack litigation). So why issue a verdict on the business model when there's guys who seem willing to foot the bill for now?

    For what? What's the vision here? A bunch of words used to dress up W-League and WPSL? I think both leagues are good and serve a purpose. They don't, however, take the place of a professional league like WPS. If they did, nobody would've bothered to either create WPS or the WUSA.
  20. Morris20

    Morris20 Member

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    And Fake Sigi chimes in . . .

    https://soccer.fakesigi.com/women_professional_soccer_as_a_cause_business.html

    A great line. Better get some (8, I guess, is the magic number - why? because the USYSA and USSA leadership, in 1990 or so, in their infinite wisdom, decreed it based on their extensive experience . . . oh, they didn't have any experience with pro soccer at all? well isn't that nice) guys with passion and money. It's going to be a long haul investment just like every other pro league . . . but yeah, those guys are out there (obviously - WPS feels like they've got them already).
  21. dtid

    dtid Member

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    You may not like the fact that the best women's league that can be put on the field - twice - has resulted in 5,000 a game, +/-, but that isn't going to change anything. Certainly not the demand for the game.

    I'd be curious as to what investment, invested how, would result in increased demand....
  22. cpthomas

    cpthomas BigSoccer Supporter

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    I understand that there recently was a seminar of some sort involving, among others, a number of Nike marketing personnel. In discussing women's soccer, their take was that it was important to identify and market to an audience that would be particularly oriented towards women's soccer and that this was not necessarily going to be your traditional sports audience. It seems to me that this would be a starting point. In fact, it seems pretty elementary.
  23. luvdagame

    luvdagame Member

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    sounds simple enough.

    but it seems to me that this has been tried in various ways. the perpetual problem is that there's just not enough of those people to draw from.
  24. Morris20

    Morris20 Member

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    Actually, most of the folks in the business know what they need to do to make money - they've got to have appropriate venues and coupled with savvy marketing over the long term. No MLS teams renting their stadiums are making money in year 18, so your insistence on showing short term profit is more fetish than metric.

    The guys/girls who DO invest are spending $10's of millions on the understanding that you build value over the long haul - in any sport - to the extent that pro sports is a business and not a passion - NBA owners certainly don't claim to be making a profit . . . the money making is in building franchise value, a project measured in decades.

    BTW, no one is asking you to invest and you don't have the money anyway :rolleyes:

    The thing that amazed me was in a virtual media vacuum, WPS managed to draw as well as it did. When there was coverage, WNY was drawing 10-15k. A sustained marketing plan by a known entity with relationships to TV/newspaper/internet could definitely grow this business.
  25. Peter Wilt

    Peter Wilt Member

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    Where in the proposal did i say these proposed budgets are forever? What i said is the sport needs to bring its expenses in allignment with its revenues and grow the funding only when the revenue justifies it.

    This is from the original article:

    "So there you go, my proposal to blow up what I helped create and start something new intended for long term growth and sustainability. "

    I stand by this concept today even more than the day I wrote it.

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