Yesterday we were excited to have the opportunity post #GrowTheGame weekend to indulge in some of the open and genuine conversations that happen daily online. Logging on to #WPSChat which happens every Monday evening at 5pm PST we looked forward to what was no doubt going to be a passionate debate about the state of women’s soccer and most importantly discussion on the inevitable end of the WPS.
What transpired over the next hour or so was a robust discussion (choosing our words wisely here) in what can be only described as realists vs. optimists.
This discussion highlighted all that is wrong in the game here in the U.S. with everyone being experts on how to create a sustainable future for the elite level of the women’s game yet no-one accepting the merits of each idea.
Costs are undeniably the biggest growth driver for anything and everything including the sport. Ticket sales provide the lion’s share of this and encouraging fans to attend games is number one on every clubs list. Agreed? But in this post GFC environment we need to look out of the box to find new revenue streams like crowd funding, place a greater importance on community outreach and foster new collaborations and partnerships locally to share resources (up to a point) instead of compete against each other in what is a saturated sports market.
In terms of the future of the WPS it was widely accepted that it won’t be back in its current form and that focus will inevitably shift to the WPSL and W-League. So how about we use this time to create a plan for the future not simply to pass the baton onto the leagues that are currently in existence and watch them compete for supremacy. It is obvious two ‘elite’ leagues is totally unsustainable and will compromise the quality and pathways of our future talent.
Our suggestion (and it’s only a suggestion!) is that U.S. Soccer step in to set-up a new competition which invites already established clubs to compete rather than offer franchises for new and current clubs. The business model needs to be altered to focus on playing outcomes rather than making it profitable (there are too many questions regarding demand at present) and protect the integrity of the sport’s biggest asset, the USWNT.
There could then be a second tier with a Western and Eastern Conference where a number of clubs can be promoted and promising talent can get pro experience etc that will be a welcome transition for players when they graduate from college rather than giving up on their careers if they fail to be drafted to a pro club.
It’s time to draft a blueprint for the women’s game rather than arguing why we don’t currently have one. Growing the women’s game will take time and patience but building these foundations is the only way to create a sustainable product in the future.
Reflecting back on yesterday we are happy to say we are soccer optimists and that if you don’t keep challenging the directions of the sport then you are accepting the status quo. It is obvious that the status quo is not good enough given the premier competition of the women’s competition ceased operations. Argue all you want on why this happened – funding, one bad franchise owner, the administrators of the league – but understand something needs to change and that the sports number one consumers fans & players should be encouraged to have their say.
With that in mind it was interesting to see what happened when a positive proposal was suggested by someone during the #WPSChat. The proposal came in the form of live streaming and was mentioned that it could/should be offered for free to showcase women’s soccer. This suggestion was swiftly critisized through arguments of costs (again) to produce and then issues of quality.
Our argument here is that why should we criticize innovative clubs at the behest of those that ‘know best’? Quality improves once the step forward has been made to implement it.
We can speak from experience here. Soccer Support are in the process of producing a reality TV show to showcase local talent and one of our local pro team’s here in San Diego. What was our budget? Zero. What has been the end result? A great promotional vehicle that will get exposure for the sport, the club and the players.
Watch our video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SMR5cKz5Z3I
Our advice to clubs and supporters is if you feel strongly enough about an idea and you have the capabilities of making it work then just go out and do it. If it works make sure you come back to everyone and show them how it worked and offer them your methodology for free.
We all benefit from a strong tier 1 association so let’s not find ways to impede its development and embrace ways that we can assist in its growth.