I’ll toss this into the “maybe tying pay to revenue isn’t such a good idea” argument, and please don’t take one part out of context …
Over the past week, per the daily Soccer America newsletter, eight MLS games and one CONCACAF game had better attendance than the WNT’s game in Tampa.
What does this mean? Let’s ponder.
Marketing: You may argue that the WNT game wasn’t properly marketed. Possibly. I don’t know how to quantify it. I just know people said that about MLS for years.
If I knew where to advertise, my books would sell more and my blog would’ve made money. So I’m the last guy to ask about that, and I’m interested in hearing ideas.
Maybe MLS teams have the advantage of being in town all year every year. But at the same time, fans can see them play whenever, and how often is the WNT in Tampa? Shouldn’t fans be taking advantage of that rare opportunity?
No, MLS isn’t the MNT. Maybe the MNT isn’t properly marketed outside of Mexico games, either. You can support the WNT’s legal case and still say the MNT games should be treated better – or ticket prices should be lower. If it becomes either/or, everyone suffers.
But in any case, drive-by media pundits who only know World Cups and Olympics miss the boat with WoSo attendance triumphalism. They have no idea that tens of thousands show up to see Zlatan. Rooney. Martinez. Tim Howard’s farewell tour. Jordan Morris. Efrain Martinez. (Google him.) Would you rather see the since-departed Almiron or the MNT? Thought so.
Maybe it would help if everyone, including the drive-byers, paid more attention to the NWSL. Then they’d have the advantage of a consistent community presence that MLS teams enjoy.
Not that the NWSL has done particularly well in marketing, either. Maybe a new broadcast deal will help. Assuming they get one.
The international challenge: Women’s soccer won’t thrive on the SheBelieves Cup alone. Nor can it rely on a big boost every quadrennium with a win or thrilling run to the final in the World Cup or Olympics. Not with European teams turning up the heat. England has crashed the party. France, propelled by two big-spending clubs, has been there for a while. Germany and Sweden never really left. Then all those teams were bested in Euro 2017 by the Netherlands and Denmark. Then those teams fell far short in the Algarve Cup, in which Norway beat Poland in the final.
Yikes. Then factor in Canada, Brazil and Japan. Don’t count out Australia.
And this isn’t a bad thing. We all want the game to grow internationally. Look at the struggles softball has endured because it’s basically a three-country sport (USA, Japan, Australia). No one’s kicking women’s soccer out of the Olympics as they did with softball. The competition’s too good.
The revenue argument: So suppose the WNT and MNT both tie their salaries (WNT) and bonuses (WNT and MNT) to revenue. Looks great for the WNT — now. Suppose the WNT doesn’t make the final in either the World Cup or Olympics over the next two years. That’ll make a dent in revenue, and that’s actually when we’ll want U.S. Soccer to spend more on women’s soccer.
If U.S. Soccer was really as dastardly as people say (and, at times, it has been), they’d say, “Oh, tie it to revenue? Sure!” Then they’d cackle as the revenue drops when 2016 proves not to be a fluke.
As I said in the last post, I don’t have answers here. I just know that yelling “equal pay for equal play” and other slogans won’t solve the problem. It’ll take some serious attention to detail.
So I’ll write these wonky posts. And maybe the handful of you who read them will be able to ask questions and advocate for things to be better — not just with a short-term victory for Jeff Kessler but (also?) a long-term victory for the sport.