Over And Out

The Women’s Professional Soccer league folded today.  Technically, it didn’t really fold–the press release called it a hiatus until 2013 to resolve the league’s legal issues with the rogue former owner of magicJack (formerly the Washington Freedom)–but effectively the league will never come back.  WPS will have been out of the public eye too long, there will be a talent drain for other leagues, and after two failures in two decades, a new women’s football top league will probably not come around again.

I am feeling such raw grief right now.  I don’t understand why women’s football cannot make it in this country.  The level of talent is astonishing, and there should be an audience.  If the WNBA can attract fans, why couldn’t the WPS?  The 2011 World Cup proved to the larger world that the women’s game is highly skilled and intense.  I see no reason why a women’s league could not be as pleasurable as the MLS, perhaps even more so.  It just needed to grow.

So why didn’t they come?

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3 responses to “Over And Out

  1. Been on your blog before, but haven’t read it in a while, so I’ll try my best to answer this question.

    Besides feuding with Dan Barislow, I think the WPS failed in terms of timing, marketing, and television. First of all, the WPS kicked off their inaugural season during the recession and hasn’t seen an attendance increase until last season when the players came back from the WWC. Also, some teams (FC Gold Pride, St. Louis Athletica, and Chicago Red Stars) folded because spending started to exceed revenue.

    Second, the WPS continued the tired tradition of marketing to “suburban moms and daughters.” To a certain extent, that is fine, but how come the WPS didn’t try to attract a more diverse audience, including men. Because marketing the “suburban moms and daughters” to a 24 year old single female (I’m referring to myself) isn’t gonna fly at all. What women sports advocates fail to understand is that passion doesn’t make sports leagues survive, but needs a solid business plan to make the league financially solvent in years to come.

    Which leads to my third point and that is the WPS got lost in the shuffle at FOX Soccer. I don’t know the terms of the WPS’ television deal with FOX Soccer–excluding the regional sports networks–but I don’t think it got that proper attention on a channel that devotes mostly to international soccer, essentially it felt like filler programming. Additionally, FOX Soccer is in fewer homes because it is part of a sports pack deal with most cable and satellite companies. The smart thing the MLS has done is signing a new three year deal with the new NBC Sports Network–that will carry 38 regular season matches, 3 playoff matches, and 2 U.S. MNT matches–because NBC Sports Network is in 75 million homes, which will continue to grow after Comcast merged with NBC last spring.

    While I was watching Sunday’s final of the CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifier between Canada and the United States, I was thinking to myself that if the WPS and Dan Barislow got their shit together, the WPS Board of Governors should consider leaving FOX Soccer for NBC Sports Network because they would have a proper home that would devoted in covering the WPS, in the same manner as the MLS.

    In terms of the WNBA, their television deal is structured as NBA: ESPN, NBATV, and RSNs (regional sports networks). Even though the WNBA has been in existence for 15 years, it still struggles in viewership and attendance (only played from May-September). The only WNBA team that is making revenue is the Connecticut Sun because of the support for women’s basketball, especially the UCONN Lady Huskies, the five time national champions.

    Hopefully, I tried my best to answer your question. Mostly, I dervied my knowledge from paying attention to trends in sports media. Also, I suggest you bookmark this site: http://www.wendyparker.org because she has writings pertaining to women’s sports and has discuss this issue many times before, so you should check it out.

    Shameless plug: I don’t know if you have twitter, but you can follow Wendy Parker (@wparker). Also, if you want to follow me for the heck of it (@ninerchick) or not 😉

    Keep up the good work because reading your blog made me a little more knowledgeable about women’s footy and footy in general 😉

  2. First, let me just say how glad I am that you posted. I am so grateful that my blog attracts such erudite comments from readers as intelligent as you are.

    I think you make a lot of good points, and indeed I believe that you are correct about the many reasons why the WPS failed as it did. (And I am sure you read Ella Masar’s post about how awful magicJack became–but if not http://www.pitchsidereport.com/2012/01/31/ella-masar-no-more-silence/).

    One thing I might quibble with you about though is NBC. From what I understand, before 2010 World Cup, NBC was horrible about MLS. In fact that is one of the reasons why they lost out on the World Cup; Chuck Blazer got a better deal with ESPN that included MLS. While I agree that Fox Soccer has not been a good home for the WPS, I am not sure if NBC would have actually wanted it. Guess we’ll never know.

    (Confession: I am not on Twitter yet, but if I ever do get on it, I will follow both you and Wendy Parker.)

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