SBJ/March 24-30, 2014/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Blog creator bags his soccer gig with MLS

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Three and a half years ago, Chris Savino started a blog about the soccer business with the intent of preparing himself to land a job in that industry. On Jan. 6 of this year, Savino started as a financial analyst — at Major League Soccer.

SAVINO
“It’s pretty unreal,” said Savino, 25, from his office in midtown Manhattan last week. “The journey has been incredible.”

Make no mistake: Savino called his shot. After graduating from Saint Joseph’s University in 2010 with degrees in accounting and finance, he worked as an accountant for PricewaterhouseCoopers. But his dream job was in soccer. Raised in Green Township, N.J., Savino played the game as a youngster and earned coaching licenses from the National Soccer Coaches Association of America in order to work in youth soccer camps. He was a member of the Sons of Ben, the supporters group founded in 2007 that pushed to bring an MLS expansion franchise to Philadelphia.

“My goal was to work in the soccer industry, not just the sports industry,” Savino said.

Despite the long hours he put in at the accounting firm, Savino created the blog Business of Soccer in November 2010. He envisioned the blog as a way to make connections in the professional game, especially in MLS and with the Philadelphia Union, which began league play in 2010.

Chris Savino began the Business of Soccer site more than three years ago, with the idea it would lead to a job in soccer.
“The whole point to having the blog was to soak up everything I could about MLS,” said Savino, who was living in Philadelphia at the time. “I had press credentials. I made contacts in the front offices. I educated myself so I could write smart pieces for the blog, but with an eye toward someday working in MLS. I was thinking maybe three or four years of that would have me prepared.”

While working at the accounting firm and pursuing his CPA, Savino spent an average of 20 to 30 hours each week on the blog. A pair of St. Joe’s classmates, Wes Harris and John Howard, joined him in the project. The trio received cooperation from the media relations staffs of the Union and the league office in their requests for game credentials and interviews. Savino’s history with the Sons of Ben gave him credibility with the soccer club.

“Everyone was kind and professional with us,” Savino said. “I think they saw that we were sincere in trying to report fairly on the league, and they knew we loved the game.”

By 2013, Business of Soccer was reaching an audience of 15,000 unique readers a month, Savino said. Financially, Savino figures that, at best, he broke even on the endeavor. The staff was more focused on developing content than selling advertising. Primary costs were in the startup: developing a logo and design, and Web hosting. The editors did not earn salaries.

But the value of the experience — attending games; interviewing players, coaches and executives; writing studies on attendance and player contract values — was immeasurable.

About a year ago, after becoming a CPA, Savino started regularly checking websites for job postings around MLS.
“Between having the CPA, my three years of experience with PricewaterhouseCoopers, and doing the blog, I was starting to feel like I was ready,” Savino said.

Last fall, he applied to MLS about an open position in the finance department.

“I can’t say that doing the blog gave me an inside track, but my experience writing it and learning about the league was a big part of my first interview,” he said. “Having that knowledge of the league had to help.”

On Nov. 22, almost three years to the day after he launched the Business of Soccer blog, Savino participated in a final round of interviews at MLS headquarters. He was offered the financial analyst position five days later, accepted it immediately, and cut all ties with the blog within two weeks. (Harris and Howard are now running the site, with a staff of six regular contributors and many freelance writers.) Savino moved into an apartment in New York’s Lower East Side on Jan. 4, two days before his first day at MLS.

Savino still has season tickets for the Union and maintains his Twitter feed, which has more than 4,000 followers. Among his responsibilities at MLS, Savino tracks club budgets and helps prepare the league’s financial reports. He also will assist in collective-bargaining agreement negotiations. (The current deal with the league’s players expires after this season.)

Savino reports to MLS director of finance Evan Burns. The department, which has Savino and 14 others, is overseen by league Chief Financial Officer Sean Prendergast.

“Chris has worked really hard to get to where he is today,” Prendergast said of Savino and his unique path to the job at league headquarters. “We’re excited to have him on our team. He’s smart, hard-working and extremely passionate about our league and our business. He’s a great fit.”

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