SBD/Issue 130/Leagues & Governing Bodies

WPS Embracing Social Networking, Allowing In-Game Tweets

Women's Professional Soccer (WPS) is "poised to become the first league to put Twitter in the hands of its players," as WPS coaches "have agreed to let players post to the popular social-messaging service from the sidelines" during Sunday's Washington Freedom-L.A. Sol season opener, according to Tripp Mickle of SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL. WPS Commissioner Tonya Antonucci: "For now, this is a one-time integration of new communication technology for the inaugural match. We'll evaluate other ways the technology could be introduced in an additive but non-disruptive manner respecting the integrity of match day" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 3/23 issue). The AP's Chris Jenkins noted WPS "still must work out some of the details, including which players will tweet and when they'll be allowed to do so" (AP, 3/21).  In California, Nick Green noted Antonucci herself Twitters under the name wpscommissioner. Meanwhile, WPS has "set up its own social network" on its official Web site where "more than 3,100 fans already have signed up to blog, post photos and the like." Also, a campaign to recruit 10,000 fans to the WPS Facebook page by Sunday's opener has yielded 9,549 respondents as of presstime (PASADENA STAR NEWS, 3/24). 

GETTING THE WORD OUT: ESPN SOCCERNET's Jacqueline Purdy noted WPS is "relying on grassroots promotion and the Internet" to market the league. WPS Chicago Red Stars President & CEO Peter Wilt "uses Twitter to provide frequent updates on the team." Red Stars GM Marcia McDermott: "We have a strong commitment to (the Internet) because ... we recognize that's where are a lot of our fans are. It's also a cost-effective way to reach a much larger audience, and that's what's important" (, 3/24). Wilt, who previously served as MLS Fire President & GM, said the Fire "spent more than $1[M] in traditional ads" when the franchise started, whereas the budget for the Red Stars is "smaller." Wilt: "But we don't need as much because there's Twitter and Facebook and other avenues" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/24).

SECOND TIME'S A CHARM? In N.Y., Jack Bell noted WPS is trying to "re-establish a top-tier league from the ashes" of WUSA, which folded in '03. Antonucci said of WUSA, "They got blinded by the exuberance from the wildly successful 1999 World Cup and believed that would translate to a successful sports league. We have recast those expectations, playing in some new, smaller soccer stadiums, and with a business plan that can be sustained with attendances of 4,000 to 6,000" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/24). In DC, Bob Cohn wrote WPS "has the philosophy, business plan and history lessons to ensure its success." But Freedom F Abby Wambach said, "That's yet to be decided." Expectations and expenses are "more realistic" in WPS, as WUSA "provided a blueprint of what not to do." Salaries for WPS players "generally range from about $20,000 to the low 30s, although the stars earn more" (WASHINGTON TIMES, 3/20). WPS Boston Breakers President & GM Joe Cummings, who also served as GM for the WUSA Breakers, said of the differences between the leagues, "Without having the responsibilities of covering the losses of other teams, that's the biggest difference. We all have to operate our business within the business model that was set up for us and the operating agreement" (, 3/24).

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