SBJ/Aug. 19-25, 2013/Events and Attractions

Champions Cup looks to build on solid debut

Less than 48 hours after the completion of the first Guinness International Champions Cup, RSE Ventures’ Matt Higgins led an all-day meeting in New York of the affiliated groups that were involved in producing the event. The meeting didn’t wrap up until 10 p.m.

There was discussion about what could be changed and what should be added for next year’s event, but there also was talk about the things that worked well this year. And in that respect, there was plenty to discuss.

“We exceeded our expectations [for the event], so we see only upside for years to come,” said Higgins, who with Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross is the co-founder of RSE Ventures, the sports, entertainment and technology business that is the parent company of Relevent Sports, which created the tournament. “After seeing what worked and what didn’t work, we expect this to become an even bigger event.”

Higgins declined to share financial details of the event, including how much the participating teams and venues were paid, but he described the first-year venture as “profitable.” The tournament, which ran July 27 through Aug. 7,
The Real Madrid-Chelsea final, part of a doubleheader, drew 67,273 to Sun Life Stadium.
Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
featured Real Madrid, Chelsea, Juventus, AC Milan, Inter Milan, Everton, Valencia and MLS’s Los Angeles Galaxy. One match was played in Spain; the other 11 were played as single games and doubleheaders across six U.S. venues, with the final held in Miami’s Sun Life Stadium, which is owned by Ross.

Relevent Sports CEO Charlie Stillitano said the only major aspect of the tournament to be reconsidered is the concept of doubleheaders.

“Two matches in one day may be too much,” Stillitano said. “The higher costs [for security, staffing and other on-site operations] forced us to charge more for tickets than we’d like, and that may be too long a day, especially for families with young children. Other than next year’s third-place game and final, I don’t think you’ll see doubleheaders.”

Still, the first Champions Cup drew strong crowds throughout its run (see chart). The event also posted solid TV ratings. The 11 matches televised live on Fox Soccer averaged 137,000 viewers. The Real Madrid-Chelsea final drew 317,000 viewers. Next year’s tournament will be televised on the new Fox Sports 1, and discussions about again having at least one match on parent network Fox (as was the case this year) have begun.

Guinness, which signed a multiyear naming-rights deal for the tournament with Insignia Sports & Entertainment, a sister company of Relevent Sports, was satisfied with its investment. “We were happy with year one and we’re excited to start building on the success immediately,” said Guinness brand manager Jon Urch.

Also for 2014, Higgins said a stadium in Mexico likely will host at least one match in next summer’s event. And although Ross said in June the venue for the 2014 championship match could go out to bid, the atmosphere and large crowd in Miami for this year’s final likely altered that idea. “Miami really delivered,” Higgins said. “I know all the clubs loved it there.”

Stillitano said all of the teams in this year’s field said they’d like to return next year, if scheduling allows, but he said there will be new teams in the lineup. The event will continue to have eight clubs. Higgins has set a deadline of mid-October for the organizers to announce next year’s field.

“Putting this tournament together in just eight months consumed all of us at RSE, but it’s come to mean a lot to us financially and philosophically,” Higgins said. “By the start of the tournament, we became a well-oiled machine. We feel like we have a very important product, and it’s only going to get better and become more important.”

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