Women’s Professional Soccer (upper case) and women’s professional soccer (lower case) are both in trouble in the United States and scrambling for survival.
I have the perspective of being intimately involved in the creation and launch of WPS from 2007 through 2009 as founding President of WPS’ Chicago Red Stars. I also have some strong opinions about the sport’s future direction. Frankly, my own failure, along with that of my WPS colleagues, to rein in expenses is the reason WPS is on the verge of collapse. While I was preaching fiscal responsibility from the beginning, it wasn’t enough. I took a sizable pay cut to join the Chicago Red Stars, but I was still paid too much (as was just about everyone else associated with the League) relative to where the revenues ended up.
Current WPS players, supporters and administrators are now begging US Soccer and anyone else who will listen for another chance, an extension, another year to get on its feet. Specifically WPS is asking US Soccer to extend its waiver of an eight team minimum standard for classification as a first division professional league even though the League has shrunk from six teams to five since the end of its third and perhaps final season. Most, if not all people commenting or considering this issue believe that there are no alternative ways to save professional women’s soccer in the U.S. other than having US Soccer grant WPS its waiver.
It may sound cruel, but I believe the best thing for the future of women’s professional soccer (lower case) in the U.S. is pulling the plug on Women’s Professional Soccer (upper case) as we know it and replacing it with an improved streamlined model that would entice more investors throughout the U.S. and Canada.
Here is why WPS is failing:
- Spent too much money on players
- Spent too much money on coaches
- Spent too much money on front office personnel
- Spent too much money on advertising
- Spent too much money on League operations and promotion
OK, so I could have saved some space there and simply written “Spent too much money”. WPS didn’t spend too much money as in “WUSA has American cable TV’s checkbook” too much money, but WPS expected that it could maintain revenue levels from WUSA while reducing overhead. It couldn’t. The spending did many good things – necessary things. It lured Marta and a host of other top international players, it kept the US Women’s National Team players in the League and it attracted a few major sponsors and a national broadcast deal. But in the end, it wasn’t enough.
It’s ironic that WPS’ cause of death will be the same as its predecessor WUSA. WPS thought it learned lessons from WUSA and spent much less than WUSA. WPS indeed did spend less than WUSA, but was dealt fatal blows on two accounts: 1) revenues fell in proportion to expenses and 2) ownership wealth had been replaced by passion. Passion can’t pay the bills.Bay Area CyberRays’ Sissi, left, of Brazil, and Thori Staples Bryan, right, carry the Founders Cup around the field after they defeated the Atlanta Beat at the inaugural WUSA Championship at Foxboro Stadium in Foxboro, Mass. Saturday, Aug. 25, 2001. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)