SBJ/20100830/This Week's News

Women’s soccer league cuts marketing unit, vows to survive

In an effort to control costs and improve its balance sheet, Women’s Professional Soccer has completed a restructuring of its league office that will see it replace its chief operating officer and dismantle its marketing division.

Former COO Mary Harvey left the organization last week. Harvey, a former women’s national team player and member of FIFA’s senior management, was responsible for many on-field matters including game-day operations, player contracts, drafts, scheduling, officiating and rules.

The league has hired Melanie Fitzgerald as WPS’s manager of league operations to replace Harvey. She most recently served as the director of operations for the second division U.S. women’s soccer league, known as the W-League.

Mary Harvey, formerly WPS chief operating
officer, left the organization last week.

The league’s owners also decided to eliminate WPS’s marketing department by laying off two marketing employees in July. The owners plan to eliminate national marketing campaigns and concentrate on local marketing campaigns next season.

“One of the things that became very clear over the last 12 months is that we have to put more emphasis on the local teams,” said Thomas Hofstetter, who owns the New York club Sky Blue FC. “We’re still too small to have a national footprint.”

Hofstetter said the moves weren’t designed to decentralize WPS but part of a series of cost-saving initiatives. He added that the cost savings from the restructuring should make the league office profitable for the first time next year, giving the league’s seven owners another revenue stream in addition to local ticket sales and sponsorships.

The WPS has signed two postseason partnerships with MedImmune, a flu vaccine manufacturer, and Citi, which will be the presenting sponsor of its title game, which will be played Sept. 26.

The league also is in discussions with an ownership group from Buffalo that’s interested in becoming the league’s eighth franchise.

“Everyone is looking at us and saying, ‘Will they make it?’ Yes we will,” Hofstetter said. “We’re focused on stuff that will do well for us as a league, and that’s expansion, ticket sales and sponsorship. We’re doing well on all those fronts.”

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