(Author note: I prefer the term football over soccer, but when comparing American football and European football the terminology can be confusing in context, so for this article I will refer to European football as soccer.)
The World says America does not understand the “Beautiful Game.” American athletic polls insist the sport is growing, but the soccer world keeps saying, “When?” Well I will tell you when, as soon as the media and corporations let you know the sport is already flourishing. Bottom line American financial interests stands to lose too much of your money if soccer grows in the United States.
How you say does America lose money at soccer’s success? Lets us ponder a fictional random match up of the NFL.
When the New England Patriots travel to Dallas to play the Cowboys, or any team for that matter a team, coaches trainers, and staff board planes to fly across the Country. This make the airlines money. If it is chartered it still makes airports, crew and manufacturers money.
When Liverpool travels to London to play Arsenal the US makes no money, well maybe a tiny bit if they provided some sort of sale of the transportation, but that is minuscule.
When the Patriots play in Dallas 100,000 people pay money and taxes to enter the stadium and buy shirts, hot dogs, beer and pretzels. Then toss in some hotels for traveling fans, limos, security personnel for the players, and the media. America is making tons of money. And don’t forget who built that 1.3 billion dollar tax cow they are piled into, American unions.
When 45,000 people cram into Anfield to play Manchester City the US probably makes a few bucks flying some tourists to the game. American dollar is very sad that profit is in someone elses pocket.
When the Patriots play in Dallas on Monday night all kinds of people make money on advertising, tv rights, radio rights, newspaper and magazine sales, satellite and cable tv subscriptions, NFL TV subscriptions, you name it every medium makes wheelbarrells of money here. The dollar is raining from the sky when football is on tv, and not only in America we sell it around the world.
When Liverpool plays Newcastle a few people do make money in America. The satellite and cable companies have their respective soccer channels, and the matches do sell advertising to companies. But the outlets also pay the Premier League for the rights to air these games, so while there is money being made, a percentage of that is also money going out for the opportunity to make profit.
When the NFL airs the Superbowl the entire Country tries to make a fortune. Advertising is crazy, the tie-ins for food, featured soft drinks, official beers, prefer chips, clothing, stupid commemorative coins and books, and even the local Chinese restaurant is thrilled to deliver as late as you will keep calling.and giving them your credit card number.
When Liverpool played in Istanbul the US probably profited only from the sale of branded US manufactured Adidas wear.
And that brings me to my final point, the only companies with US interest making any money in European soccer leagues are companies like Adidas and Puma who do push the product to Americans, it is the media and corporations who have you believe it is a “boring” or “uneventful” sport and overshadow the truth.
Perfect case and point and proof soccer is growing in America. Regardless of how you feel about the MLS it does very well in the US, but judging by non-soccer media it appears to do depressingly horrible. Did you know Seattle continues to average 36,000 fans a game? Do you realize in America only the NFL draws more average fans than 36k? And across the world only the Bundesliga draws more average fans than 36k regular fans. Now this is not an entirely fair assessment due to stadium size and poor teams with bad draw, but it does show that a MLS team can perform better then average attendance rates of major sporting leagues. But if you want raw numbers, no NHL or NBA team drew 36,000 in fact they can’t, the stadiums are to small, but if we are just talking draw how can you not say they are performing to a high standard when the Boston Celtics draw 23,000 sell outs and they say it is impressive. A sport that can by size outdraw the MLS is Major League Baseball, but in reality only 10 of the 30 teams (33%) drew more than the top drawing MLS team. Want more, the MLS continues to grow every year not only adding teams, but fans. Only 3 teams saw a decrease in 2010 in fan attendance, while 3 teams also saw 10% fan growth with the NY Red Bulls drawing 47% increase in fan attendance.
If the MLS is doing so well then why hide it? Why do they want still want soccer to fail?
Because if MLS does well, then fans naturally will progress to the EPL, SerieA, La Liga, etc. America can not afford to allow the EPL to creep in on the market corner of the MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL, and NASCAR. The major sports of America are such a financier of big buildings around the country, tax incentives, tourism, merchandise sale and salaries for thousands of workers why would they want a sport from another country coming in and dipping into their profit share.
The simple sad truth is that it comes down to money. I see people at the bars, I see the jerseys, hell when America hosted the World Cup in 1994 they would had you believe there was nothing better, but when the profits go overseas, you might as well be asking for a pardon on election day.
Soccer is growing in America, but this is a grassroots movement by fans introducing new fans. Next time you see that fan in a Red Bulls jersey, don’t heckle him for liking the MLS, nod your head. Approach them and talk about the upcoming match against your home city, or ask them who they like in “your league.” Talking about soccer in America is the best way to draw people into the conversation and drawing them into watching the next match.
Now the otherside of the nickle, if soccer by the numbers is doing well in America why are we not as passionate about our game as say England or Germany. And this is just not about soccer, think all sports.
Unlike most countries Americans put their foot into everything. When you think hockey you think Canada and Russia, maybe Sweden, and Finland if you know World Hockey. But they are die hard passionate about their sport. When you hear that people live and breath soccer in other countries you think about Brazil, England, Italy, France hell most of Europe and South America.
Not to say other sports don’t exist in Europe, they obviously have a decent FIBA organization that is highly competitive, and even cricket is huge, but they are filler for the off-season of the EPL, Serie A and Bundisliga seasons.
But now think about America what is our sport? Well where do you live? Go to Minnesota and they will tell you NHL, go to Oklahoma and it will be NCAA Football, New York loves their baseball and Florida loves to make left turns all day long. Take a state like California and the southern half may say the NBA while the northern point wants the NFL. This Country has arguably 7 major sports organizations (MLB, NBA, NHL, NFL, NCAA BB, NCAA FB and NASCAR) and then you can throw boxing and MMA into the mix but they don’t have your traditional season. We are not passionate about any one specific sport in particular, maybe NFL if any more than the other in my opinion, but as we float around the Country we can see some grow as others fade depending on demographics and the actual presence of a team.
You can take this a bit of two ways. America has a place for many sports, but we give up that life long passion as a nation for one sport that binds us. While I would love for a one-sport passion that England has, could you imagine only choosing one sport out of that list? I can’t. I love my soccer, nothing is more relaxing then watching a Liverpool match at 8am on a Saturday but I won’t let my Celtics, Patriots, Yankees, Fighting Irish and Edmonton Oilers, go.
Sorry World, we do embrace soccer, but we are not ready to let go of our other sports. And our corporate empires breathe a sigh of relief…
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