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Archive for July 8, 2019

July 8, 2019 — More than just equality

As much as the U.S. women’s soccer team’s dominating performance at the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup served as a platform for pay equity, human rights, and Title IX, there’s so more that needs to be done outside of the stated goals of various team members.

Shockingly left unsaid was the state of the National Women’s Soccer League, the nine-team American league which started in 2012 and is the longest-lasting women’s pro soccer league in U.S. history.

The NWSL has survived by paying its non-Federation based players very low-ball wages, playing in some very small stadia (as low as 4,000), and pretty much tolerating any and all contravention of field, ownership, and leadership standards.

If you remember, the final season of the Western New York Flash was marred by a controversy when a late-season game was moved from Rochester’s soccer-specific stadium to a site with a baseball diamond, resulting in the kind of narrow pitch not seen since the days of the North American Soccer League.

The Boston Breakers played their first NWSL season at Dilboy Stadium in Somerville, Mass., on artificial grass which was, according to the players, not very well kept. Too, the capacity was barely 3,500. Boston made a move to Soldiers Field Soccer Stadium at Harvard University, which was only a little larder, then folded after the 2017 season.

Sky Blue FC is a team which is still playing, but is barely hanging on. Ownership issues involving the sitting Governor of the State of New Jersey, plus poor accommodations at Yurcak Field at Rutgers University has hampered this franchise, and the team’s supporters have banded together in protest of the way the team is being run.

Now, the current run of success of the senior women’s national team has gotten the attention of at least one major sponsor: Anheuser-Busch. Of course, given the fact that the beer company has been a major sponsor of soccer back to the 1970s, this isn’t much of a stretch.

But it’s going to take more than just one sponsor to help keep the league going. Major League Soccer, as started back in 1996, had Bud, Honda, MasterCard, and the Bandai toy company, amongst others. The package of sponsors, both leaguewide and within each club, has evolved and expanded over the years.

I’ll be interested to see when and if the NWSL is willing to commit to that kind of finance structure going forward. I think it’s going to require about a dozen more kinds of commitments like this in order to keep the league going.

In other words, there’s a lot more work to do.