SBJ/20100607/SBJ In-Depth

Global Influence

Soccer is the most global game in sports and Americans haven’t held tremendous sway abroad historically, but with time, that’s begun to change. Here’s a look at some of the most influential Americans in the soccer world.

Chuck Blazer
As the first American-born member of the FIFA executive committee, Blazer has influence over everything from appointing U.S. representatives to FIFA committees to voting on where the 2018 and 2022 World Cups will be held. As CONCACAF’s general secretary, he has a voice in the region’s international competition and manages two growing soccer properties, the Gold Cup and CONCACAF Champions League.
Sunil Gulati
Through his four years as president of the U.S. Soccer Federation, the Columbia University professor of economics has become the face of the organization abroad. He is a member of FIFA’s strategic, Confederations Cup and ticketing subcommittees and is the driving force behind U.S. soccer’s bid to host the 2018 or 2022 World Cup.
Tim Leiweke
The AEG chief executive changed the dynamics of international soccer by pushing to have the designated player rule adopted and bringing international stars to MLS. Afterward, he stood toe-to-toe with Italian club AC Milan over David Beckham. AEG’s international interests, with venues everywhere from London to Shanghai, makesLeiweke a force abroad.
Bryan Glazer
Glazer and his family have become the faces of American ownership abroad and they may be influential for all the wrong reasons. The family purchased Manchester United, the world’s most valuable soccer club, in 2005 and have since come under fire for loading the club up with $1.3 billion in debt.
Landon Donovan
The American has become the face of U.S. soccer abroad following his successful loan to English club Everton where he proved he could excel at a top European league. His involvement in the U.S. as one of the driving voices in soccer’s recent labor dispute highlights his business interest and acumen.
Casey Wasserman
As founder of Wasserman Media Group, Wasserman oversees the management of some 250 soccer players worldwide, including British stars Michael Owen and Steven Gerrard. He played an important role behind the scenes in bringing Bill Clinton on board as the honorary chairman of the U.S. bid for the 2018 or 2022 World Cup.
Don Garber
During his 11 years as MLS commissioner, Garber has steadily extended his influence overseas. He has led Soccer United Marketing’s efforts to forge ties with Germany ’s Bundesliga and Spain ’s FC Barcelona, and he will become an important voice in global soccer as European leagues look to control player costs in the future. He also is a member of FIFA’s Club World Cup committee.
John Skipper
Four years ago, Skipper placed a huge bet that soccer could be a success for ESPN. The company’s executive vice president of content has since worked with ESPN International head Russell Wolff to acquire rights to Spain ’s La Liga and the English Premier League. His interest in soccer, and ESPN’s $100 million investment in the 2010 and 2014 World Cups, have made Skipper a recognizable and well-regarded figure among FIFA’s leadership.
David Hill
The head of Fox Sports is beginning to take a personal interest in Fox Soccer Channel. Fox’s decision to broadcast the recent UEFA Champions League final underscores Hill’s interest in the sport. Look for him to become more involved abroad as he looks for ways for the network to tap the sport’s growth.
Stan Kroenke
The Colorado-based billionaire keeps a low profile as the largest owner of club Arsenal (with a 29.8 percent stake). Since his investment, the team has worked to cultivate its business in Asia and improve its new media offerings. Not surprisingly, Arsenal also has one of the English Premier League’s few American-groomed chief executives, Ivan Gazidis.
— Compiled by Tripp Mickle
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