Learning from ABL and the USFL to create a sustainable women’s soccer league

To American society, it might seem it is easy for leagues to sustain themselves and flourish in a glamorous manner given the success of the big four professional leagues. However, to start off a professional league requires much luck, and financial planning and its common for leagues to fail. Two examples of failed professional sport leagues is the American Basketball League and the United States Football league which both folded after three seasons.

The USFL and the ABL were very different sport leagues, however they are similar in how they folded. The USFL had an issue of playing the quality of football that fans were used to watching the NFL. USFL couldn’t pull the top flight talent that the NFL did because most talented athletes from college went into the NFl. Also, even though the USFL played in the Spring, it had trouble generating interest. It was going to have to take away viewership from basketball, baseball, and hockey. The USFL finally folded because of no TV contract, a very ugly lawsuit(s) with the NFL, and a loss of $163 million between 1983 to 1985.

The ABL folded for many of the same reasons. The ABL was created right around the same time the WNBA was being formed. This meant the ABL was going to have to compete for top-level talent. They were also going to have to fight of TV time and media coverage in general. Interest for the league was going to have to be generated somehow and the ABL had to fight for little bit. In the end, the WNBA prevailed over the ABL because WNBA’s financial backing from the NBA compared to the owner’s limited budget of money. The league ultimately folded because of a $25 million dollar debt.

The National Women’s Soccer League can learn some things from these leagues in order to stay afloat. NWSL needs to generate interest for the league. Interest for soccer in the United States can be a struggle. It’s going to have to sign a TV deal so sponsorships start to flow in. Also, it’s going to have to market through promotions. The most important thing the NWSL can learn the USFL and the ABL is to have their finances in order. Players won’t play for free and sponsors won’t sponsor unless there is interest. One thing that they did learn from the past was letting their soccer players play for other leagues for more exposure and appeal. A key difference between the WNBA and ABA is that the WNBA let their players participate in other leagues. One benefit that has occurred from this action are national teams have pitching in for their players salaries to help relieve some of the financial burden on the teams itself. The teams also play in stadia appropriate for the size of their fan bases instead of playing in the nfl sized stadiums in order to pay less rental fees for games. With these adjustments from the past and smart budgeting, the National Women’s League has a real shot of developing into a economically sustainable league.

Kalen Dear

Opie Wilson

Video clips about the ABL and the USFL

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=veNFlCiQcRs

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zb5VXQ67EDw

Sources:

https://sites.google.com/site/remembertheusfl/home

http://www.apbr.org/abl9699.html

 

 

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/18/sports/soccer/clinics-offer-national-womens-soccer-league-a-path-to-success.html

 

Pedersen, P., Parks, J., Quarterman, J., & Thirbault, L. (2011). Contemporary sport management (4th ed.). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics. Chapter 12

 

 

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