Posts Tagged ‘Women’s National Basketball Association’

National Women’s Soccer League: Learning from the Past

Monday, April 21st, 2014

                       

The ABL (American Basketball League) most recently, refers to the women’s basketball league founded in 1996 that lasted only three seasons. The league was made up of 10 teams and sprouted during a bright spot in women’s basketball after their 1996 gold medal.  According to the NY Times, the league even paid great salaries for their players, “$50,000 to $150,000 and offered players year-round health benefits and a retirement plan.”  The growth of the WNBA, a brand of basketball with backing from the NBA, and the lack of a major sponsorship eventually led to the demise of the ABL.

        

The USFL (United States Football League) like the ABL, only lasted three seasons. Naturally the USFL faced issues coexisting with the powerhouse NFL, winning an initial lawsuit against the league before their birth in 1982. The USFL even had contracts with ESPN and ABC to broadcast their games during the NFL offseason. Many teams during the 1983 season exceeded their salary caps by signing big names including Hershel Walker, and Steve Young. The league even made a run for Dan Marino at one point. The league failed to meet these larger financial responsibilities by increasing their marketing revenue.  In their 3rd season and with an attempt to take down Goliath, the USFL announced their season would be the same as the regular NFL season. This turned out to be a detrimental decision and eventually led to the downfall of the USFL.

 

What can we learn from studying these two sports organizations? First we can learn that it can be difficult to attack a larger league head on. The USFL competed with the NFL and did a fairly good job when their season occurred during the NFL’s offseason. When they tried to take the reins of the market and play their season during NFL season they crumbled. The NFL had already had control of the professional marketplace, a market they had been familiar with since 1920. Once the USFL made the decision to directly compete or dethrone the NFL they were doomed. The ABL didn’t directly take on a powerhouse league, one happened to pop up around the same time as theirs. The ABL was squashed under the foot of the WNBA largely because of their support from the ever popular NBA. Intelligently, the NBA used much of its knowledge about running a successful league and shared it with their new women’s league. The WNBA and the ABL both saw a huge opening in the marketplace for professional women’s basketball in the USA. It was only a matter of time until one would fail due to oversaturation.

 

       

The NWSL (National Women’s Soccer League) is another league founded in 2012. The situation with the NWSL seems to be a little different than the history of the other two leagues we have examined so far. The beginning of this league is somewhat more of a merger vs. a competition for a growing or currently existing marketplace as we saw with the ABL or USFL. After the downfall of WPS (Women’s Professional Soccer), officials from that league and other high status women’s soccer leagues collectively gathered to discuss past and present issues in hopes of turning the NWSL into a super league.