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MLS to Sell Jersey Sponsorships

Major League Soccer will become the first major sports league in the U.S. to allow teams to sell sponsorships on their jerseys when the 2007 season starts next spring. Perhaps, as many hope, this is a sign that MLS is becoming more like Europe's soccer leagues and less like America's sports leagues. Or perhaps not. Aside from Nascar, no major American sports league permits advertising on team jerseys (except for the apparel-maker's logo), although the practice has long been a staple of sports leagues in Europe, Asia and Latin America. The new MLS deal allows clubs sell their jersey rights and then keep the majority of the revenue for themselves, which is a significant departure from the way business at MLS has traditionally been conducted. MLS owns each of its clubs, and in the past most of the league's business has been handled by a central office that pools together sponsorship dollars. Other American leagues may follow, the Journal says. NBA commissioner David Stern has said the league may consider reversing its policy. Why? We live in an era of soaring player salaries and shrinking TV ratings, which means the money has to come from elsewhere. While no MLS team had any official deals to announce, the LA Galaxy is in discussions for a "multimillion dollar" deal according to unnamed sources. There's other good news for MLS, too, the Journal says. The league is in the midst of stadium boom, which should bring added revenue, as will a new TV deal with ESPN, Univision and Fox Soccer Channel that actually pays it $20 million a year for the right to air its games (previously, MLS either bought air time or shared advertising with the networks).

Read the whole story at The Wall Street Journal »

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