SBD/June 7, 2011/Franchises

Timbers Launch Several Initiatives Aimed At Luring Hispanic Fans

The Timbers are the "latest team to address a question that has vexed MLS throughout its 16-year history: how to attract a Latino community already in love with soccer, but with established habits and allegiances that often don't include U.S. teams," according to Rachel Bachman of the Portland OREGONIAN. The team has launched "long-term initiatives that range from feeding local Spanish-language content to the team website to recognition awards for teams in Latino 'ghost leagues' that operate statewide outside mainstream soccer associations to partnering with media outlets who broadcast games on TV and radio in Spanish." The Timbers also "created a four-game package" that included a game against Mexican team Club America, two other Timbers games and the May 28 Mexico-Ecuador game at Qwest Field. All 100 of them "sold out." Additionally, Timbers Manager of Hispanic Business Development Kristel Wissel and club officials "met with Latino coaches about development of their young players ... and the team is considering starting a Spanish Twitter feed." Wissel: "It's a pretty aggressive agenda and event list. But ultimately we want the community to know that we're here, the doors are open and we're excited to have them." Bachman noted the Timbers' "only Mexican player, midfielder Rodrigo Lopez, has not played in a game this year." Timbers COO Mike Golub said that team officials "are unlikely to try to form a Latino supporters group or sign a star Mexican player solely for their heritage" (Portland OREGONIAN, 6/5).

SEEKING THE RIGHT FIT: In Tacoma, Don Ruiz noted 50,305 fans attended the Mexico-Ecuador game, which is "about 15,000 more than the typical home crowd" attracted by the Sounders, MLS' "attendance leader." Sounders investor & GM Adrian Hanauer said, "We're not blind to the fact that football for the Mexican-Americans, it's a duty to support their teams and the Mexican national team in particular. And we certainly have looked at Mexican players over the years." But he added, "We have to find the right player. What we’ve always said is we’re not going to pander to any ethnicity, whether it’s Mexican, Russian, Ethiopian, Japanese or German. And we’re always going to err on the side of just trying to find the right players that fit our team, our system, our ethics" (Tacoma NEWS TRIBUNE, 6/3).
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Portland Timbers, Soccer, Franchises

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