Can the WUSA, or something like it, be a sucessful business?

Discussion in 'NWSL' started by FanOfFutbol, Oct 19, 2003.

  1. FanOfFutbol

    FanOfFutbol Member+

    May 4, 2002
    I have been thinking about the WUSA and what went right and what went wrong. Thinking is always dangerous and at my advanced years it is more dangerous than ever.

    It is clear that the problem was NOT the players, the level of play, the quality of the games, or the coaching.

    Nor was it choice of venues, fan appeal, or TV contracts (Except as covered below) or any of the obvious problems that many have stated.

    It also, in spite of what some think, was not the level of refereeing.

    I believe that the problem was exactly one thing leadership.

    That is NOT the leadership of the players but the leadership in the offices.

    Based on interviews that I have heard and a few that I have had direct dealings with the league was run by a bunch of soccer enthusiasts with the business sense of the average 12 year old.

    Tony Diccico was, and still could be, a great coach but a business executive he is not. Going on down through the ranks it seemed that virtually every person involved in the business side was out of their depth and had no one above them with the ability to help them and still get the job of the upper levels done.

    This created a bureaucracy with no leaders and no one at any level to pick up the slack. That kind of business structure is doomed from the start and without VERY deep pockets doomed in a short time.

    When/if the WUSA or something else resurfaces it needs to have BUSINESS people at top levels. They need soccer advisors with a lot of input but the BUSINESS must come first in all decisions. We may not like some of the business decisions that will have to be made but having a viable league is more important that the purity of the sport.

    AS much as I disliked it the MLS’s shootout was a business decision that seemed to help acceptance of the MLS a bit. Purists, thankfully, got it replaced with the current system but the current system is VERY Americanized and seems well accepted.

    I would LOVE for pro soccer in its purest form to be played in the US but any league that survives can be molded but if it folds it does no one any good.
  2. StarCityFan

    StarCityFan BigSoccer Supporter

    Aug 2, 2001
    Greenbelt, MD
    Washington Freedom
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Weren't like the top three WUSA executives the first year pure business types with no soccer experience?

    Maybe what's really needed is a combination: not soccer fans who think they just need to raise a flag to have people flock to it, nor people more used to selling cereal than sports (I think the CEO in year 1 came from Quaker Oats), but executives who have experience with other sports leagues in marketing and selling.
  3. dcajedi

    dcajedi Member

    Jul 16, 2001
    boy does that ever sound like don garber. wow.
  4. seahawkdad

    seahawkdad Spoon!!!

    Jun 2, 2000
    Lincoln, VA
    DC United
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Yep. The job he had before the MLS was selling NFL football to Europe. So he just switched sports and continents and continued doing what he had been doing--selling a new game to a public with entrenched sporting interests.

  5. Fah Que

    Fah Que Member

    Sep 29, 2000
    San Jose Earthquakes
    WUSA needs business people with a lot of influence and mostly importantly, connections with all major corporations or potential sponsors. The decision whether a company would decide to sponsor WUSA is not always about dollars and sense. Things such as politics, image, emotions, and knee jerk reactions factor in business as much as numbers and logic. Have a business people with proper connection is a must have. In fact, that's how Peter Kenyon got pouched away from ManU to Chelsea dispite the fact that he is incompetent on the negotiation table. He got the job because of his massive connections with all major business people in all major companies in the world.
  6. Hot Dutch Pants

    Hot Dutch Pants New Member

    Oct 20, 2003
    So Cal
    Maybe I haven't been looking in the right places, but I haven't seen too many comments (good or bad) on the atmosphere at the games. I was a season ticket holder for the first two years, and was consistantly disappointed by the scene. Clearly, much of the pre-game festivities with clowns and face painting was to keep the kiddies interested, but there was SO MUCH of it that the games seemed to become secondary to the overwhelming attempt to collect autographs.

    The crowds seemed to have a exhibition-game-vibe to them. Cheering wasn't really appreciated by other fans, and booing the other team was met with dirty looks.

    I waited two years for the crowd's intensity to catch up with the intensity on the field, but it never happened.

    Capturing the soccer-mom market is necessary, but a balance must be struck between the soccer-moms and the sports enthusiasts who are there to watch the game. To me, it seems as this is necessary for WUSA to be successful.

    And for goodness sake, would it KILL someone to sell some beer?!?
  7. Dread_I

    Dread_I New Member

    Mar 11, 2002
    Atlanta, GA
    I guess you never went to a Beat game. As well as the usual soccer kids, there was the hard core section 106. We booed the referees, we booed the opposing players. One of the AR's was impressed when he started to be heckled by name. He felt the fans were arriving.

    The Beat had a beer tent behind one of the touch lines. Discounted beer whenever the Beat scored a goal!

    Atmosphere was coming, we just ran out of time.
  8. Tom T

    Tom T New Member

    Feb 25, 2003
    Soccer Wasteland
    Unfortunately, I was able to make only 1 game - Courage v. Beat at Fetzer/UNC in 2001.
    It was a good game and a good atmosphere.

    Had the "closest" team (Philly) been a little closer than 300 miles, I would have made more games.

    I was on a email newsletter thing from the Charge. I was impressed with the promotion done on that media. I don't know about other promotional efforts.

    I thought that $25 for the good seats at Fetzer was a little prohibitive though. My standard of living is certainly less than the standard in the Triangle. But, nevertheless, it seems to me that it could get a little pricey even for a local family trying to do it on a regular basis - even with cheaper seats.

    whatever the spec is, the ticket price will have to be condusive (sp?)to getting butts in the seats first and butts in front of the TV second - a distant second - maybe the play-offs/Championship only only on TV.

    The spec will have to be more of the W-league varity with grassroots/"elbow grease" promotion.

    As much as I wish it was, this is not (yet) a product worth $100 million over three years. It will be a while - if ever - before it is.

    The investment will have to be more proportional to the return.

    my 2 cents, probably not worth that much but................
  9. Tom T

    Tom T New Member

    Feb 25, 2003
    Soccer Wasteland
    How many professional sports teams actually make money? Exclude NFL, the Yankees, and a few (ever diminishing) select European teams.
    Not many.
    Most sports have many Uncle Phils keeping them afloat - and fuzzy math.
  10. Bauser

    Bauser Member+

    Dec 23, 2000
    Fredrikstad FK
    I just don't understand how a league can fold. No matter what sport it is. There must be some awful management behind such a project. Does anyone know the salaries of the average WUSA player before it closed?

    I mean, basketball is the smallest of all ballsports in Norway, but it still has a league here where players can make a few bucks. Not much, but enough to get by with a part-time job on the side. The point is that there is A LEAGUE existing and it couldn't have been created and maintained without voluntary grassroot people doing lots for free.

    Where are the grassroot people of WUSA? There must be some way to establish a national soccer league for women in America. Otherwise it would be embarrasing. Women's soccer has had a tough time in Norway as well, but the domestic league has been around for about 25 years despite being harassed, ridiculed and written off.

    So a clear message to players, fans and everyone caring for US women's soccer: Get your feet back on the ground, put on the gloves, and start working. Forget lucrative contracts, forget the glamour. Get the league back on its feet first. Then build stone for stone. I would assume a national part-time pro/amateur league is better than no league. And make it 20 teams not 10. Who can care for a 10-team league in a country the size of US? It had failure written all over it.
  11. da_cfo

    da_cfo New Member

    Apr 19, 2003
    San Francisco CA
    WUSA LLC folded because WUSA LLC wasn't really a sports league, but was a cable TV programming series.

    The investors in WUSA LLC wanted to invest in a TV programming series that they thought would get big enough cable TV ratings (1% to 3% of total audience) in order to sell enough sponsorships in the $2-$4 million range to cover all expenses.

    Revenue from ticket sales was an afterthought.

    WUSA LLC spent money wildly before the WUSA inaugural game 2001 based on the hope that the TV sponsorship dollars would flow in.

    Unfortunately for WUSA, the TV ratings were in the 0.1% to 0.5% range in every market except San Diego.

    WUSA was able to generate only $5 million in TOTAL REVENUE in 2001, against over $60 million in expenses.

    By the 6th week of the 2001 season, one cable TV investor (Comcast) decided to sell its stake in WUSA LLC (the Philadelphia franchise), and the company holding the national TV contract (Turner Sports) decided it would pull out at the end of the 2001 season.

    WUSA compounded its own misery when it rejected a TV proposal from upstart Oxygen Network for free TV time in 2002 in favor of purchasing time from obscure PAX TV network in order to guarantee that WUSA would reach 80 million homes in 2002 and 2003. WUSA telecasts averaged only around 100000 homes (0.1%) on PAX in 2002 and 2003.

    Even with all the budget cuts, WUSA LLC still cost around $35 million each year to operate.

    However, WUSA could not generate more than $10 million in total revenue each season, including the value of bartered value-in-kind merchandise (supply of Coca Cola at the concession stands, value of uniforms and balls provided by vendors, etc.).

    In other words, WUSA generated much less than $10 million in cash each season.

    WUSA LLC simply cost several times more to run than WUSA LLC was able to generate cash. When that happens, a business fails.

    By November 2002, a second cable investor (Time Warner Cable) decided to sell its stake in WUSA LLC (New York and Carolina franchises).

    We found out in June 2003 that the other 3 investors all wanted to sell part of their stake in WUSA LLC. COX Communications put up the San Diego franchise for sale, while John Hendricks and Amos Hostetter put the San Jose franchise for sale.

    The salaries of the players were not the major problem.

    The problems were the outrageous cost of the WUSA front office in 2001, the outrageous cost of the consultants used by WUSA prior to the start of the 2001 season, and the cost beared by WUSA to make itself look "major" during 2001.

    Remember the "jumbotrons" in every stadium during the 2001 season? That was perhaps the most visible example of WUSA wasting money.

    If WUSA were a typical TV programming series instead of a politically-charged "sports" programming venture, the investors would have cancelled the series after perhaps 3-6 weeks.

    WUSA probably lasted 2 more years than it should have if you evaluate WUSA purely as a TV programming series.

  12. Tom T

    Tom T New Member

    Feb 25, 2003
    Soccer Wasteland
    da cfo's post

    awesome post , da cfo, just awesome!
  13. Adam Zebrowski

    Adam Zebrowski New Member

    May 28, 1999
    does oliver have any inside scoop on what will happen....

    the rumor I hear is six teams, all on the east coast, playing a very reduced schedule...
  14. da_cfo

    da_cfo New Member

    Apr 19, 2003
    San Francisco CA
    But who will pay the bills for the 6 teams?

    Two investors are gone (Comcast and Time Warner).

    The other 3 investors (COX, Hendricks, Hostetter) have cut back their commitments. San Diego and San Jose will NOT be back in 2004 even if WUSA attempts a reduced schedule.

    When WUSA LLC shut down, the 3 investors were committed to only 3 teams (out of 8): Boston (Hostetter), Washington (Hendricks), and Atlanta (COX).

    There was a pending sale of Carolina to statistical software manufacturer SAS, which made very little business sense. SAS isn't a consumer software company.
  15. CowbellMan

    CowbellMan New Member

    Dec 26, 2002
    Tar Heel State of Mi
    It may not have made much business sense for SAS to put up the money for naming rights for the stadium in Cary, either, but it did.

    If there is any reincarnation of WUSA, look for SAS to own the Courage franchise.
  16. Morris20

    Morris20 Member

    Jul 4, 2000
    Upper 90 of nowhere
    Washington Freedom
    Obvious Man

    Pretty simple if you want the league to be profitable:

    1) You need at least a dozen teams (players are cheap - travel is expensive), a six team east and a six team west makes sense, but you could also have 4 east, 4 central and 4 west. The key is to keep everyone on the bus and stay away from flying as much as possible, while having a national footprint (there's enough talent for 16 teams, actually - that could be east division, central, south, and west - then have Super Sixes or whatever for the championship)

    2) You need owners who have more $$ than the cable TV buffoons. They're out there.

    3) You need either soccer-specific stadiums owned by the league (see the profit turn around in LA this year or look at the Crew vs. teams like DC United that have to rent large stadiums), or you have to get creative partnerships with owners of smaller venues (6-10,000) that allow you to play without paying $15,000 per game. Think about it, every game the Freedom were paying about the equivalent of a player's annual salary just for the field. You're not going to make $$ on that.

    4) Use the NHL's old model (before they went nuts and put themselves near bankruptcy) - forget TV and play in front of a full house. Serve beer (lot's of it), and promote in bars and reach out to the a$$h*l< sitting at the end of the bar. He's got disposable income and time - families with soccer kids have neither (or at best one of the two). People forget that one thing the US Women did as they built up to being "the next big thing" in 1996 is they played in front of sellouts almost every time. They played at small stadiums (i.e. Rutgers, George Mason, etc.) and it was hard to get in if you didn't buy tickets ahead of time. You're always a better draw if people know they can't walk up and buy day of game tix.

    5) Since you want to sell out, make tickets pretty cheap. A kid ought to be able to get on a bus or subway or whatever and go to a game with a friend and not be over $20 if they stay away from the concession stand.

    6) Don't worry about looking "big league" or having noisy distractions. Let parents bring their own.

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