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SBD/July 9, 2014/Leagues and Governing BodiesPrint All
Galaxy President Chris Klein and MLS President & Deputy Commissioner Mark Abbott predicated that enthusiasm over the FIFA World Cup "would gradually send more fans through turnstiles" at league stadiums, according to Jim Peltz of the L.A. TIMES. Abbott: "There will be increased attendance. Over time and even this year (the World Cup) will have a positive focus. It's the long-term, continued overall growth of the fan base." Before the World Cup began June 12, attendance at MLS games this season "was averaging 18,497; it has since inched up to an average 18,503." Abbott noted that since the '10 World Cup, MLS' average attendance "has climbed 11% from 16,675." After a two-week break in observance of the World Cup, the league resumed play June 25. That meant many of its teams' initial games after the World Cup "occurred over the July 4 holiday weekend, which typically is one of their most popular weekends every year." For instance, the Galaxy "sold out a year ago when it played at StubHub Center over the July 4 holiday." MLS execs said that the fervor surrounding this year's World Cup "would benefit the league because the connection among U.S. soccer fans was unlike any World Cup in the past." Klein said the World Cup "may have turned some people's eyes" toward attending MLS games for the first time. But he added, "The World Cup threw gasoline on the fire that we've already had" (L.A. TIMES, 7/9).
STOPPAGE TIME: In San Diego, Nick Canepa writes while some believe soccer "one day will be the great American sport," it is "not going to happen." Despite the fact that soccer is a "great sport that obviously has captured many U.S. citizens’ fancies during this World Cup," it only did so "until the American team was eliminated." Canepa: "I believe soccer never will become football, baseball or basketball in this country. It just doesn’t have the proper makeup here. ... We are an event-loving country, and surely the World Cup is all that. But so are the Olympic Games, and like the Cup, they come around every four years. We watch them, we love them, and then we forget them." Americans also "adore stars, and U.S. soccer has yet to produce a hang-your-hat-on celebrity." U.S. G Tim Howard "was the unquestioned American luminary in Brazil, but he’s a goalie -- and a 35-year-old goalie, at that" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 7/9).
An ESPN roundtable discussed the recently formed Race Team Alliance, with ESPN.com's Ed Hinton saying it is the "worst nightmare" for the France family, which owns NASCAR. Hinton: "Just the idea of those nine teams' haulers pulling out of a garage area on a Friday or Saturday amounts to a nuclear deterrent. ... It's a matter of time until the RTA gets a much larger share of TV money, gathers veto power over technical rules changes, exerts pressure on scheduling." ESPN.com's Brant James added, "This should be a disconcerting move for NASCAR. ... A main goal could or should be to form a wedge against the sanctioning body's penchant for luring away team sponsors. Offering a potential sponsor a raft of race cars from Hendrick, Team Penske, Stewart-Haas et al could be compelling, and a better deal than signing on with a faceless sanctioning body." ESPN The Magazine's Ryan McGee: "My first reaction was to wonder what took so long for this to happen. ... There would be benefits to the smaller teams getting on board." ESPN.com's John Oreovicz added, "I think NASCAR should definitely consider it a warning shot, and the stock car fan base has reason to be worried. ... History tells us that such organizations can be good or bad for a sport." ESPN's Marty Smith: "I make that powerful men with leverage just made a power play to protect their interests and their assets. ... I believe at its foundation the RTA is first and foremost based on the desire of the owners to receive more television revenue" (ESPN.com, 7/8).
POWER PLAY: In Greensboro, Ed Hardin writes a union in NASCAR is a "down-right dangerous thing," and the RTA is "treading lightly around the word and the concept." Hardin: "But let’s be clear about this: The new alliance is a collaboration of the nine largest race-team owners with by-laws and an executive committee with a common agenda. That’s a union." NASCAR "will hate this." The RTA said that it is "not trying to start a fight, but it's probably going to get one" (Greensboro NEWS & RECORD, 7/9). In Orlando, George Diaz wrote the RTA's formation is "all about power and leverage." While the RTA can "say one of its primary intents is saving a few bucks on hotel bills, there seems to be a bigger play here" (ORLANDOSENTINEL.com, 7/8).
ALL FOR ONE, ONE FOR ALL: Richard Petty, whose Richard Petty Motorsports is one of the nine teams that is part of the RTA, said the group is "like a co-op." Petty: "If you have a farmer's co-op, you got big farmers, you got medium farmers and you got little bitty farmers." With the RTA, the "small teams get the same advantage as the big teams." Petty said, "The big deal is everybody will be a little bit more organized. We're going to work that much harder -- not only to help our sponsors, which we're doing anyway, but we're going to try to make NASCAR even bigger than what it is. ... If we can co-op a lot of this stuff, then everything will get bigger and better and basically, the teams are the ones that have to make the investment in NASCAR and this is a way that we see that we can help each other and as we help each other, it's going to help NASCAR" ("NASCAR America," NBCSN, 7/8).
The LPGA at this point in the '14 season "might offer a more compelling product" than the PGA Tour, as the "average world ranking of a winner this season has been 12.8," according to Ryan Lavner of GOLFCHANNEL.com. Only three of the LPGA's 16 winners this season "have been ranked outside the top 25 in the Rolex Rankings at the time of their victory, and none higher than 40." Meanwhile, on the PGA Tour, "only four players have won an event this season while ranked inside the top 10 in the world rankings." The LPGA "has seen eight wins by top-10 players" (GOLFCHANNEL.com, 7/8). Golf Channel's Tom Abbott said the LPGA is "as strong as I have ever seen it with the way things have materialized" in '14. The Richo Women's British Open begins tomorrow at Royal Birkdale Golf Club in Southport, England, and Abbott said women's golf "usually doesn't get a lot of press" in the U.K. But "over the last few weeks, we've seen a little bit more of women's golf coverage in the papers." Abbott: "The fact that the men are going to play next week (in the British Open), it's back-to-back major championships ... (and) this is all setting up really well for good coverage of this major championship and women's golf is sort of moving up a level" ("Golf Central," Golf Channel, 7/7).
WIESY DOES IT: ESPNW's Mechelle Voepel wrote Michelle Wie's profile was boosted by her U.S. Women's Open win at Pinehurst, and it is "fair to say that's good for the bottom line -- both Wie's and the LPGA's." LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan said, "I think with the LPGA, the impact of major wins is even more heightened." He added, "On the women's side, there are fewer times when the sports world really pays attention, and the U.S. Open is the max. When a player on the LPGA Tour wins a major, the exposure jump is dramatic." Voepel noted Wie's new Q score of 14 "likely will reflect what already seems evident: that Wie's victories benefit the LPGA." Friendly rivals such as world No. 1 Stacy Lewis and Kraft Nabisco Championship winner Lexi Thompson "laud the popularity boost that Wie brings the tour, even as they, also, are adding to that" (ESPNW.com, 7/8). In N.Y., Hank Gola wrote by "finally fulfilling her potential with her breakthrough win," Wie has "given her circuit some much-needed attention." But Wie is "not the only bright spot for the LPGA this year." There is Lewis’ "climb back to No. 1 and the emergence of 17-year-old Lydia Ko plus the headlines 11-year-old Lucy Li made" when she qualified for the Women's Open at Pinehurst. But Wie is "carrying herself like a star, poised and mature, for the first time." Gola: "Will it mean that womens' golf will share the stage equally with the men? Of course not. But no one has been yawning lately" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 7/5).
GOING TOE-TO-TOE: GOLFWEEK's Beth Ann Nichols wrote of Wie and Lewis, "If a rivalry develops between these two, we'll be sure to insert the word friendly." The LPGA "hasn’t had a good sparring match since Karrie Webb and Annika Sorenstam, and that was short-lived." Also, "neither particularly lit up the press room." But Lewis, one of the "best interviews on tour, welcomes the idea of going toe-to-toe with Wie." Lewis said, “I think rivals are great for any sport. I don’t think you have to hate each other because we are never going to hate each other. But I can tell you we both want to beat each other once we get on the golf course, and that’s all you need for a rivalry to work" (GOLFWEEK.com, 7/8).