SBD/July 23, 2012/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Foreign Clubs Look To Boost Market Share With U.S. Exhibitions; A Win-Win For MLS

Liverpool will play AS Roma at Fenway Park on Wednesday
Many European soccer clubs, in “an effort to extend their fan bases in the emerging soccer market of the United States, are doing so with summer tours of the country," with exhibitions such as Wednesday's Liverpool-AS Roma game at Fenway Park, according to Amalie Benjamin of the BOSTON GLOBE. Int'l soccer is “promoted and encouraged” by MLS, which in recent years has “made strides … but still lags far behind international soccer in terms of passion, talent, and financial resources.” MLS Commissioner Don Garber said, “There’s certainly enormous overlap today between the international soccer market and the MLS soccer market. Our goal is to continue to convert those people who begin their soccer fan experience through a connection to an international, whether that be through the EA (video) game or watching the Premier League on television. Then we work hard to convert those fans into being a passionate supporter of a local team.” From July 18 to Aug. 15, 35 games are scheduled in the U.S. and Canada involving international teams, the "most in recent history.” That includes the MLS All-Star game, in which "the best of the U.S. league will take on EPL club Chelsea.” Garber said, “People are curious to see how we do fare against a world-class competitor.” He admitted that even the “best of MLS is not close to on par with the best of Europe.” Still, MLS “believes it’s a win-win, that by bringing European teams into the fold, that the soccer audience increases, helping international clubs looking to expand market share and domestic clubs looking to increase interest in soccer.” MLS average attendance “has grown from 14,862 in 2001 to 18,626 in 2012” (BOSTON GLOBE, 7/23).

TRYING TO CRACK CHINA: In London, Mark Ogden writes the biggest names in the EPL “have been trying to ‘crack’ China for years, with [Manchester] United, in particular, working overtime to position themselves as the number one club in a nation of over one billion people.” ManU has played in Beijing, Guangzhou and Hangzhou, plus the Chinese territories of Hong Kong and Macau in recent years, but “there is a sense within the club that they are still attempting to scratch the surface in China.” Manchester City had “attempted to persuade United to agree to a derby clash in Beijing, rather than the eventual date against Arsenal, but the idea was knocked back by United, who believe their brand in China is strong enough to prosper on its own, without the help of a box office meeting with their neighbours.” While ManU officials “claim to have millions of supporters in China, tapping into their popularity there has not proven to be as straightforward and financially-rewarding as in the likes of Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand.” ManU, Man City and Arsenal are “all in China this week to chase the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, despite the difficulties in locating it” (TELEGRAPH.co.uk, 7/23).
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