By Marilyn Childress
With the FIFA Women's World Cup to kick off September 10 in China, where is the build-up for the new women's professional soccer league? I am very concerned about the 2008 start date as previously announced by the Women's Soccer Initiative Inc. I was so excited when I heard that there was a strong effort to bring back the play we all enjoyed during the WUSA.
Recently I tried to find more specific information on the new league. To my despair, I couldn't find out anything new. I searched the Internet for the promotions that you would expect a league starting in the spring to have for the fans, sponsors, and media. The websites that are dedicated to women's soccer have very little buzz.
The Women's Soccer Initiative Inc. press announcement in April seemed premature. Some of the investors have been identified, but much of the league's operations do not appear to be in place. Not even all of the markets and owners seem firm. The lack of organizational foundation in place has me concerned. As a promoter of women's soccer, I do not want to see another league start and fail. Soccer in the United States cannot withstand such failure. Women's sports cannot tolerate such failure.
Although the business model for the new league has not been revealed to the public, speculation is that it will be similar in part to the WNBA model by collaborating with the MLS. I hope this isn't the entire business plan. The NBA has started pulling back on the financial support of the WNBA. Although the WNBA is still part of the NBA, local, individual ownership is the trend. It has consistently proved very challenging to run two teams out of one front office.
The minimum for women's soccer success in the United States would be to have a business plan that allows at least two years of fully funded operations. This allows proper marketing and having operational front offices for the league and each team. This period allows time to build season ticket sales, to line up sponsors, and to promote the coach and players. The business plan needs to be financially reasonable for the long-term growth of the league. Owners and investors must have return on their investment, but profits should not be expected in the short term.
Everyone in soccer needs to be part of the success of a new women's league. Fans need to be vocal by spending money to buy tickets and supporting sponsors by buying their products. They need to watch games either in person, on TV, or any other media available. They also need to support the NCAA women's tournament.
Owners need to be realistic. Know your market. Know what will and will not work. An unstable beginning will lead to disappointment. I also hope that those existing organizations with women's minor-leagues and those interested in professional women's soccer will pool their talents to form a single, stable organization.
Marilyn Childress, owner of Childress Enterprises, Inc., a Georgia-based manufacturing and consulting business, is a women's soccer pioneer having led the effort to add women's soccer as an Olympic sport for the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta. She was also instrumental in developing U.S. Soccer's Women's Professional Standards. She owns Women's Intersport Network, an Atlanta, GA consulting advocate for women's sports. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org