SBD/April 7, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

WPS Begins Critical Third Season With Hopes Of Increased Attendance

WPS is “at a critical juncture” as it begins its third season this weekend, and the league “has to make some considerable strides in 2011,” according to Frank Giase of the Newark STAR-LEDGER. The league's third year “has always been looked upon as a benchmark because the Women’s United Soccer Association, the first attempt at a professional league, folded in 2003 after three seasons.” The timing of the league’s inception in ‘09 "coincided with the downturn in the nation’s economy," and WPS “has struggled for attendance and sponsorships, both local and national, ever since.” This offseason, the league office was “streamlined to save money.” Anne-Marie Eileraas was named as CEO, and she will "run WPS as a business rather than spend time being a spokeswoman for a sports league.” Another “vital move is that for the first time, money from national sponsors will trickle down to the clubs.” But the changes “will mean nothing if attendance doesn’t rise significantly this year.” The league averaged 3,600 in attendance last year, down from approximately 4,600 in ’09. Initial projections prior to the first season “were between 5,000 and 6,000 per game, numbers that have to be legitimately reached this year without papering the house.” The “other constant has to be the stability of teams.” In a “mere two years, five teams have folded, including the Los Angeles Sol and FC Gold Pride, the regular-season champions, respectively, the past two years.” Giase wrote WPS “needs to get its act together, but if fans want to ensure a Year 4, they have to show it in their attendance and support this season” (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 4/5).
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