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Found 3 results

  1. It almost seems blasphemes to openly worry about CanPL popularity at this point. Suggesting that the league will struggle to find relevance in a crowded sports market is something grumpy old sportswriters, clueless hockey fans and (some) Ottawa Fury fans do. The rest of us are all in. True believers in this wonderful project. Planning has been ongoing for five years now. Everything has been put in place to make this thing work. But… It’s failed before. Twice. First when the NASL blew up in 1984 (although that was more top do with American teams – OK, the New York Cosmos – overspending and ultimately misreading the market. Once the stars left so did the fans. The second time was all on us though. The CSL died on the vine in the 1990s and with it the hopes of nearly two decades of Canadian soccer. Those failures are not viewed with nuance by most. Rather, it’s just proof that trying again is foolish and that it’s only a matter of time until it all comes crashing down again. If you’re reading this you probably feel that things are different this time. You understand that two of the three NASL teams that didn’t fold (Whitecaps and Toronto Blizzard) were in Canada and both would have continued on if the league had not pulled the plug. It’s appreciated that the CSL was littered with owners who had far more good intentions than actual capital and that the CanPL owners are running in a completely different tax bracket. You get all that, but that doesn’t mean that the feeling will be held by the majority of sports fans in this country. Those grumpy sportswriters and broadcasters still hold a lot of influence. The most listened to sports radio show in the country has featured two segments on the latest attempt to start a spring football league in the USA, but not a single word on CanPL. We in the soccer community can dismiss the importance of this, but the reality is it’s an obstacle that is going to need to be overcome for the league to thrive. Note, I said thrive, not survive. It will survive just fine. The demographics have shifted. The soccer-hating generation is literally dying off. Twenty years ago it would have been inconceivable that the three MLS teams would have become as important to their market as they have. Now, it’s silly to even suggest that’s going to change. Flash-forward 20 more years and it stands to reason that many of the current CanPL markets, and some we have yet to even conceive, will feel the same way about their soccer team as Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal feel about theirs now. But, there will be struggles initially. Struggles to get attention and to get butts in the seats. And, make no mistake, those that want the sport to fail – and their remains a few who do – will glory at any struggle the clubs face. Hell, even MLS still faces this in certain places. To the point that they had the research firm Boston Consulting research the market in 2015 so that they could grow their fan base. This is useful to CanPL fans in that they also included Canada in the research. Although they did not separate the data, you can draw conclusions of what CanPL will be facing when it comes to getting people to care. What they found was that 66% of MLS fans fell into one of two broad categories. The “Soccer enthusiasts”-- highly engaged, soccer-first fans – and the “Hardcore Sports Fan – basically the crazy guy at the end of the bar that can talk in detail about the 1996 Western Regional final in NCAA basketball while filling out his fantasy NFL line-up and watching the Sens play the Hurricanes on a Tuesday night in November That guy also likes soccer now. That’s a change over last couple decades. The thing is those two groups only account for 32% of all soccer fans. So, MLS is missing out on 68% of its potential market. Therein lies the biggest problem for CanPL. How do you avoid the same resistance to MLS that more than 2/3 of American soccer fans have? It starts by understanding why that 68% aren’t watching their local team. There the numbers are a little less obvious. The inclination of many would be to assume that those fans are so-called “Eurosnobs,” – fans only interested in watching the highest levels of play. However, the MLS research suggests that only 2% of fans fit that description. Related, that 2% account for 98% of the posts on BigSoccer’s US abroad forums. Where, then, do the rest fit in? We can only speculate, but it stands to reason that a good chuck are “MexiSnobs” and a good number don’t have a local team to relate to. You can’t do much about the ____Snobs fans. They have made up their mind for the most part. But, on the latter point you can absolutely address it. You need to be doing all in your power to make sure that the clubs are extensions of the community they represent. MLS does a lot of things right, but they often default to the business side of life. If you talk to a lot of MLS fans they will tell you that their loyalty is to the stand that sit in and the friends that have made at the game over the years more than it is to the franchise that they watch. Even as MLS teams do things to become true “clubs” they can’t ever totally shake that “franchise” label. The CanPL has the great advantage of being able to look at everything MLS has done right and everything that it has done wrong. And that might allow them to tap into the missing 68% more effectively.
  2. It almost seems blasphemes to openly worry about CanPL popularity at this point. Suggesting that the league will struggle to find relevance in a crowded sports market is something grumpy old sportswriters, clueless hockey fans and (some) Ottawa Fury fans do. The rest of us are all in. True believers in this wonderful project. Planning has been ongoing for five years now. Everything has been put in place to make this thing work. But… It’s failed before. Twice. First when the NASL blew up in 1984 (although that was more top do with American teams – OK, the New York Cosmos – overspending and ultimately misreading the market. Once the stars left so did the fans. The second time was all on us though. The CSL died on the vine in the 1990s and with it the hopes of nearly two decades of Canadian soccer. Those failures are not viewed with nuance by most. Rather, it’s just proof that trying again is foolish and that it’s only a matter of time until it all comes crashing down again. If you’re reading this you probably feel that things are different this time. You understand that two of the three NASL teams that didn’t fold (Whitecaps and Toronto Blizzard) were in Canada and both would have continued on if the league had not pulled the plug. It’s appreciated that the CSL was littered with owners who had far more good intentions than actual capital and that the CanPL owners are running in a completely different tax bracket. You get all that, but that doesn’t mean that the feeling will be held by the majority of sports fans in this country. Those grumpy sportswriters and broadcasters still hold a lot of influence. The most listened to sports radio show in the country has featured two segments on the latest attempt to start a spring football league in the USA, but not a single word on CanPL. We in the soccer community can dismiss the importance of this, but the reality is it’s an obstacle that is going to need to be overcome for the league to thrive. Note, I said thrive, not survive. It will survive just fine. The demographics have shifted. The soccer-hating generation is literally dying off. Twenty years ago it would have been inconceivable that the three MLS teams would have become as important to their market as they have. Now, it’s silly to even suggest that’s going to change. Flash-forward 20 more years and it stands to reason that many of the current CanPL markets, and some we have yet to even conceive, will feel the same way about their soccer team as Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal feel about theirs now. But, there will be struggles initially. Struggles to get attention and to get butts in the seats. And, make no mistake, those that want the sport to fail – and their remains a few who do – will glory at any struggle the clubs face. Hell, even MLS still faces this in certain places. To the point that they had the research firm Boston Consulting research the market in 2015 so that they could grow their fan base. This is useful to CanPL fans in that they also included Canada in the research. Although they did not separate the data, you can draw conclusions of what CanPL will be facing when it comes to getting people to care. What they found was that 66% of MLS fans fell into one of two broad categories. The “Soccer enthusiasts”-- highly engaged, soccer-first fans – and the “Hardcore Sports Fan – basically the crazy guy at the end of the bar that can talk in detail about the 1996 Western Regional final in NCAA basketball while filling out his fantasy NFL line-up and watching the Sens play the Hurricanes on a Tuesday night in November That guy also likes soccer now. That’s a change over last couple decades. The thing is those two groups only account for 32% of all soccer fans. So, MLS is missing out on 68% of its potential market. Therein lies the biggest problem for CanPL. How do you avoid the same resistance to MLS that more than 2/3 of American soccer fans have? It starts by understanding why that 68% aren’t watching their local team. There the numbers are a little less obvious. The inclination of many would be to assume that those fans are so-called “Eurosnobs,” – fans only interested in watching the highest levels of play. However, the MLS research suggests that only 2% of fans fit that description. Related, that 2% account for 98% of the posts on BigSoccer’s US abroad forums. Where, then, do the rest fit in? We can only speculate, but it stands to reason that a good chuck are “MexiSnobs” and a good number don’t have a local team to relate to. You can’t do much about the ____Snobs fans. They have made up their mind for the most part. But, on the latter point you can absolutely address it. You need to be doing all in your power to make sure that the clubs are extensions of the community they represent. MLS does a lot of things right, but they often default to the business side of life. If you talk to a lot of MLS fans they will tell you that their loyalty is to the stand that sit in and the friends that have made at the game over the years more than it is to the franchise that they watch. Even as MLS teams do things to become true “clubs” they can’t ever totally shake that “franchise” label. The CanPL has the great advantage of being able to look at everything MLS has done right and everything that it has done wrong. And that might allow them to tap into the missing 68% more effectively. View full record
  3. Having the US hordes here on Tuesday, and days of pre-match build up, and with Canada coming on Sunday, obviously helps. Prior to that, Group C wasn’t the most exciting group on paper to get fans’ juices flowing. The games turned out to be entertaining or high scoring affairs though and that also helped get a buzz generated. Now some will argue that it was a great group. It contained the World champions after all in Japan. But realistically, how many of the target audience really knew or cared about that fact? The first round of Vancouver’s group games wrapped up on Tuesday evening as the US narrowly saw off Nigeria 1-0 to top Group D and send the Africans crashing out of the tournament. A vociferous crowd of 52,123 packed into BC Place, the largest crowd for a football match since the renovations at the stadium, and one which the ‘Caps will dream could one day be a regular occurrence for MLS matches. A long term dream admittedly, as we're still a very long away from a Seattle-style attendance here. One day! The Vancouver crowds have been good in general for the tournament so far. 25,942 for a Monday afternoon/evening double header that kicked off at 4pm was sneered upon by some out east, but was excellent as far as we’re concerned. Friday’s Group C double header brought out even more, 31,441, making a combined total of 109,506 for the three first round gamedays in Vancouver. Considering who was playing, that’s been great and above my expectations. As have the matches themselves. Five games, 22 goals, some of them crackers, penalties galore. Not bad going. Sure there’s been a couple of blowouts against Ecuador, but goalfests can be entertaining too if the goals are good, which they were. Plus we got to see the excellent and entertaining dark horse, or should that be lionesses, of the tournament, Cameroon. We’ve seen some of the world’s best female players so far. Japan legend Homare Sawa delighted her supporters and long time fans of the women’s game. Switzerland’s Ramona Bachmann, put in a great performance and could still be a star of the tournament. You feel here future in the women’s game is wherever she wants it to be moving forward. Then there were the US girls, some of whom we’ll grudgingly acknowledge are amongst the world’s elite. Cameroon were a delight and their coach Enow Ngachu a real character. In Gabrielle Aboudi Onguene and Gaelle Enganamouit they have two players that could find themselves offered some lucrative deals once the tournament is over. Keeping with the African teams, I liked Nigeria centre back Onome Ebi as well. Solid, tough tackling and held off most of the US attacks. The fans we’ve spoken to have all pretty much enjoyed themselves. There’s been a couple of reports of some security buzzkill at the first Japan match, but on the whole a good time has been had by all. Well maybe not Ecuador supporters. The tournament already feels like it’s been going on forever, and there’s still four matches to be played in Vancouver – two 2nd round match-ups, a quarter-final and, of course, the final itself. The Final has already sold out and Canada’s 2nd round match-up this weekend against Switzerland will bring in the crowds and should be a cracker. If that doesn't sell-out but the US game does, then there's something wrong with the general Vancouver fanbase. It could also very realistically signal the end of Canada’s run at the tournament if we see the Swiss side of the qualifying campaign and the shooting boots from their slaughter of Ecuador. If Canada do advance, that should mean another full house at BC Place for their quarter-final game on June 27th. That seems a long way away right now mind you. Outside of the matchday experience at the stadium, the Fan Zone has proved to be a success, especially when the US games have been playing. There's been a couple of thousand fans watching games, with daily combined highs of up to 8000 in attendance. The custom built Fox Sports set has also been a talking point and a place fans have congregated. So all in all, so far so good. It's hard to see the buzz dying down, but if Canada and then the US crash out early, that may not still be the case. We'll have to see. For now, we can say the tournament has been a success. It's set to break the record for most tickets sold for a Women's World Cup and Vancouver has certainly played its part in it all. We'll leave you with some fan photos from the five first round games played at BC Place so far and a couple from the Fan Zone. And the excitement's really only just begun. Now the real tournament starts.
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