Peter Wilt on how to market soccer in America

Mia HammOn the website of the brand spanking new Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) league it says “Countdown to Kickoff: 430:05:19:21″. That’s too many numbers for me to comprehend, but it’ll be happening some time in the spring of 2009. The question is, will those running WPS convince enough people to keep watching for it to survive longer than the previous women’s professional league?

It’s certainly true that many people think it will fail, as its predecessor the WUSA did. I can give you one reason why it won’t — the people who run it realise they have to earn your interest in it.

Peter Wilt, the Chicago Fire’s popular former GM and President who oversaw the club winning the Double (MLS and Open Cups) in their inaugural year, is heading the WPS team in the Windy City. Read his words, for in fact they would be well-heeded by all executives running soccer clubs in this country regardless of the gender of their players:

On the topic of excuses, the Women’s Professional Soccer Town Hall at the NSCAA Convention seemed to be full of them as panelists tried to explain why the WUSA didn’t survive and WPS will. The most popular one was “It’s the media’s fault”. That excuse was phrased a dozen different ways in the 90 minute forum. Suffice to say that room 338 at the Baltimore Convention Center was not a safe place for Barbaro, Sea Biscuit, Whirlaway or any other dead horse. We can not blame others for any lack of exposure and attendance. It is the responsibility of the League and its member teams to reach out to our audiences in other ways – new media and grassroots direct marketing – to connect our League and teams with people who are already emotionally and economically connected to the sport.

The other theme seemed to be the social cause of gender equity. You’ve heard the argument, “You must support this league, BECAUSE it’s a women’s sport and our daughters are entitled to role models and a place to play when they grow up.” I’m sorry, but that is NOT a solid basis to support any league or sport. It may be a convenient byproduct of a women’s pro sports league, but it is not a primary reason why anyone should attend WPS games. WPS will provide competitive, entertaining games featuring the best women’s soccer teams in the world at a fair price – THAT is the reason this League should be supported.

Photo credit: century council

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