Commentary

Man. United to set up shop in USA

By Ridge Mahoney and Paul Kennedy

Fresh off its listing on the New York Stock Exchange, Manchester United is preparing to literally set up shop in the United States.

The club will open an office in the USA, somewhere on the East Coast, the Associated Press reported Tuesday.

“The U.S. we view as a really good opportunity," vice chairman Ed Woodward said in the boardroom of
the club's London offices. “The U.S. media rights for soccer have rocketed. The 2010 World Cup, they were the No. 1 payer for broadcasting rights. It's rocketed again for 2014 in Brazil and we are expecting the Premier League to have a good outcome there for the [TV] rights given the way it's taken off from being a niche sport.”

Manchester United, owned by American entrepreneur Malcolm Glazer and his sons, consistently draws some of the largest U.S. crowds when it plays domestic friendlies, and its jersey sales are the largest among European clubs. Along with its aggressive marketing efforts in Asia, the club still sees untapped potential in the United States.

Many teams have formed player development and business alliances with American pro teams, a few have set up their own player academies, and Chelsea has created a virtual MegaStore based in North Carolina. But this endeavor will be a first, an overseas commercial office.

“There is real value there we believe from media deals, merchandising and sponsorship deals,” he said.

The Glazer family sold 8.3 million shares on the New York Stock Exchange in August with the aim of raising around $300 million. The IPO instead generated $234 million. The listing followed the club’s decision not to list on the Hong Kong and Singapore exchanges.

Woodward said the listing does not mean Man. United will be sold outright by the Glazers, though he acknowledges there are always bidders in contact with the club.

“It's a very popular business that people have interest in -- the answer is ‘Not for sale,’”Woodward said. “They are not willing sellers at all,” he added. “They won't even engage. They are long-term investors ... The excitement they have in the club is undiminished and I don't see them selling completely for many, many years.”

HUNTS BACK CREW. Contrary to recent media reports about a possible sale of the Columbus Crew, the Hunt Sports Group said in a statement released on Wednesday that it is firmly committed to the Crew organization in Columbus and it was seeking local investors, not a buyer.

“The City of Columbus, the Crew and Crew Stadium are extremely important to our family, and that hasn’t changed,” said Clark Hunt, Chairman of Hunt Sports Group. “We continue to believe that additional local investment only serves to strengthen the Crew’s standing in Columbus and Major League Soccer, and over the past two years, we have openly explored the possibility of bringing in minority investors to the club. In an attempt to emphasize the importance of identifying additional investors in the Crew, Commissioner [Don] Garber’s recent comments overstated this objective. He has since clarified his statement through a league spokesperson."

Hunt added that the HSG's goals were to add local investors, reach its goal of 10,000 season-ticket holders, secure a naming rights partner for Crew Stadium and boost support from the business community and they are all critical factors in the long-term success of the Crew in Columbus.

QUAKES LAND 7UP. The San Jose Earthquakes' first founding partner for their new stadium is 7UP Bottling, a subsidiary of the Dr Pepper Snapple Group. The six-year multi-million dollar deal includes exclusive rights to the carbonated soft drink, iced tea and water categories. 7UP will be the presenting sponsor of the Epicenter Fan Zone, both at games and for special events. The Epicenter Fan Zone will host live pregame entertainment and offer fans access to gourmet food options, activation tents and other activities. 7UP will continue an annual A&W Root Beer Float Night, which in the past two years has raised $15,000 for local charities.

SUPERCLASICO IN DEPTH. GolTV is airing Los Caminos de una Pasion (Two Teams, One Passion), the network's first documentary-style special, to promote Sunday's coverage of the Argentine superclasico between River Plate and Boca Juniors. A new episode is running each night this week at 8 p.m. ET. The five half-hour shows showcase the history of the River Plate-Boca Juniors rivalry, examining the impact it has had on each Buenos Aires neighborhood. Sunday's game kicks off at 2:30 p.m. ET.
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