Monday, July 31, 2006

Mig's views on the future of US Soccer

Mig of du Nord wrote us this little piece for the Carnival today, and I agreed to host it, as it's not the usual duNord fare:

When MLS started they thought that the drive to the top of the American sports world would be relatively quick and decidedly massive. So they went ahead and booked American Football stadiums as their home venues and figured it would only be a matter of a couple years till they were full of raving lunatic fans.

Then things went and got all realistic (ie. ugly-empty), and after a few seasons - aw hell who am I kidding here, it's been 11 years for the sad empty canyons of Arrowhead, Foxboro, Giants, Mile High (for 9 more months), and RFK – some of the money-power people decided it was time to get something a little more economical to drive around in, a.k.a. their own stadiums.

In comparison MLS has recently been touting a brand new television broadcasting deal with ABC-ESPN that will pay the league some money etc, and in addition ABC-ESPN has bought the rights to show things like the UEFA Champions League and the World Cup.

So my question is: How many years will it take MLS-ABC-ESPN to realize that having announcers/producers act like they are working NFL-MLB-NBA-NHL games is completely the wrong way to go?

From reading the words being spewed by the television executives and on-air personalities lately, it seems that this realization could take a long time.

They don't seem to care at all what actual soccer fans want. In some cases they seem to actually despise us real soccer fans in America and see us as the enemy. And that attitude being directed at us game after game will be a lot harder to stomach in the long run then seeing empty seats. (You do know that ESPN's much beleaguered commentator Dave O'Brien is about to become the voice of MLS on ESPN2 don't you?)

This is not progress.

Why are the big money people who run soccer having to learn all these hard lessons one at a time? Isn't there a point where it all makes sense and several things can be updated at once? Why can't they just suck it up and make the very important leap to simple quality broadcasts right now? No, really. Why not?

Mark my words though, like other things in American soccer, they will come around. But it will take time. It will be with a regime change at the top of the organization that puts on the productions, and it will happen without acknowledgement that they were wrong.

Let's hope that by the time these changes are implemented that MLS will be well down the road to figuring out other very important aspects of their business plan like:

-Teams spending more money on talent. (I highly doubt that giving each team the chance to hire one massively over-paid just-over-the-hill Eurostar is gonna do the trick – Ronaldo, Zidane, Beckham etc. – use same argument for big stadiums and terrible TV production values.)

-Teams will actually have to advertise all season long about upcoming matches at their new stadiums, including non-league and playoffs games.

-And, hey, marketing just to families and kids is turning off all those 20, 30 & 40 something's that are the immediate future and have their own cash in their pockets to spend.

Etc etc etc….. (More on those another day perhaps.)

Let's all start by getting the pressure applied to broadcasting issues for right now, cuz I think it can have the biggest, and quickest impact. I implore you to make calls, and write letters & emails. Tell everyone you know to do the same. And don't just start & end with ABC-ESPN. Get after your local teams broadcast standards too. They can all be better. It is massively important to our sports future in America.

PS. If you claim to be a supporter of US Soccer at its highest level, but don't support your local club team (on whatever level you have in your town or region) with your hard earned dollars and beg your friends to do the same, then you aren't a supporter of any soccer in America. It all starts at the local level, and with the bottom line. Without them, we have nothing to build the real long lasting foundation on top of. Now go get 'em tiger.


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