A new hotel opened last August and last night had its official opening ceremony. This official ribbon cutting featured special guest Giorgio Chiellini. What makes it unique is that it is the first Italian hotel, and quite possibly the first hotel anywhere to be in collaboration with a football club. Welcome to the J | Hotel.
Juventus has partnered with Lindbergh Hotels, one of the major exponents of Italian tourism, and Juventus. The hotel, which officially opened its doors on August 24, is situated in the heart of the area known as the J | Village, near the Allianz Stadium and J | Medical, and is grounded between the Juventus Training Center and WINS-World International School.
The J | Hotel is unique because an entire wing is dedicated to rooms reserved for the First Team players while also offering services to the public. The rest of the guest room come in a variety of categories. There are also meeting and business spaces on-site.
Guests are guaranteed a “champion’s rest” on beds that are the same as those assigned to the first team players. In most rooms, the minibars are included in the rate, and in all of them, there is a SKY connection to watch all Juve matches on TV.
With the trend around the world for stadiums to be part of larger developments for economic reasons, it is likely that the J | Hotel will not be the only football team to partner with a hotel brand.
Russo Law and Soccer Briefs offers a quick glance at what’s new on the commercial side of football.
Next season is still almost four months away, but we now know what next year’s official Major League Soccer game ball will look like.
Shortly after the Seattle Sounders FC lifted the MLS Cup Sunday, Major League Soccer and adidas revealed the official match ball for the league’s 25th season.
Say buenos días to the 2020 MLS NATIVO XXV.
The 2020 MLS NATIVO XXV ball celebrates the league’s 25th season. By incorporating blue and green accents, it pulls inspiration from MLS’ original logo and its first-ever match ball in 1996.
The ball, which will go on sale online and in stores on January 2, 2020, is the first of “a series of initiatives” planned to celebrate MLS’ 25th anniversary, according to the league office.
Adidas says the ball has its most sustainable design to date. It is made of 100% water-based materials and print colours.
In addition, the “Hi-White” material used is supposed to allow players to see the ball better on the pitch. The ball is constructed of the same high-performance structure and panels as recent World Cup models.
The new MLS NATIVO XXV is one of the many ways MLS’ will celebrate its milestone year. In the coming months, MLS will unveil a series of initiatives to celebrate 25 years and to kick off a new decade of soccer in North America.
It is also expected that next year’s kits for the clubs will also pay tribute the the 25th-year anniversary of the league’s founding. Now if only MLS would bring back 3rd and alternate kits . . .
Los Angeles Football Club has added a new corporate sponsor to its lineup. The club revealed that retail giant Target will join the exclusive Golden Boot Club beginning in January 2020, serving as the Official Retailer of LAFC. The multi-year partnership includes the Target logo prominently displayed on the left sleeve of LAFC’s primary and secondary shirts.
“This is another historic day for our Club as we welcome Target to the Black & Gold family,” said LAFC President and Owner Tom Penn. “Target is an innovative leader that shares our passion for culture, community and inclusivity. We’re proud to showcase Target on our jerseys and throughout the LAFC community.”
“With a strong presence in the Los Angeles community, we’re thrilled to team up with the Los Angeles Football Club,” said William White, Senior Vice President of Marketing, Target. “We support soccer because we know how much our guests love this sport, and we’re excited to bring the bullseye to the jerseys of the Black & Gold.”
LAFC’s elite level of partnership is the Golden Boot Club, which provides exclusive access, visibility and experiences for its members. As the newest member of LAFC’s Golden Boot Club, Target joins Banc of California, Delta Air Lines/Aeromexico, Heineken, Kaiser Permanente, Toyota and YouTube TV.
The Target sleeve patch will also be present on shirts sold in retail.
Major League Soccer (MLS) announced approval of sponsored sleeve patch sales on team uniforms in October 2018. The new initiative is a multi-year pilot program, and available only to those clubs that have already secured a primary jersey sponsor.
The terms of the arrangement were not disclosed, but my research suggests said that MLS sleeve deals could be worth anywhere between US$500,000 and US$1 million per year. Given the success that LAFC has had, and their location in the nation’s No. 2 media market, it seems likely that the Target sleeve sponsorship will earn above the estimated range.
The size of the sponsored sleeve patch will be roughly the same size as the existing MLS logo on the right jersey sleeve, roughly 2.5 by 2.5 inches.
The deal comes at the close of LAFC’s second season, which saw them winners of the MLS Supporters Shield, and an upcoming game for the MLS’s Western Conference championship.
Target is already heavily invested in MLS. The Minneapolis-based company is the main shirt partner for Minnestoa United FC. It is also a league partner.
In addition to the sleeve patch, Target will place its logo on digital signs around the team’s stadium. The company also has the right to brand a field-level suite where the club entertains VIP guests and celebrities.
Being the first to announce a sleeve partner was a goal for the team, according to Penn, who compared it to the team’s 2018 YouTubeTV deal, when it became the first major U.S. franchise to award its local TV rights to a streaming provider.
“We love being first,” said Penn, who is also an LAFC owner.
LAFC studied data gathered by the club in order to help sell potential partners on the new ad space, including metrics such as the exposure its jersey had received in 2019 from live broadcasts, highlight videos, social-media posts and news coverage. For example, over the first six months of this season, the MLS patch on the other sleeve received 550 million impressions.
“Every time Carlos Vela does something dramatic and the goal footage goes global, it will have a Target mark right on the sleeve,” LAFC President Tom Penn said. “It’s easy to quantify the number of impressions and the extent of the exposure that the partner gets.”
Selling sleeve patches aligns MLS with prominent soccer leagues across the world, such as La Liga Santander and the English Premier League, where teams have both a main shirt sponsor and a second logo on the sleeve.
Los Angeles Football Club became the second MLS club in Los Angeles, joining the Los Angeles Galaxy, after owners paid $110 million in 2014 to establish the team. It started play in 2018 and immediately became one of MLS’s most valuable franchises, according to Forbes.
LAFC is controlled by a trio of owners — Apollo Global Management senior partner Larry Berg, Ares Management co-founder Bennett Rosenthal and Riot Games Inc. co-founder Brandon Beck. Other investors include Brooklyn Nets owner Joe Tsai, who is also co-founder of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., actor Will Ferrell, soccer star Mia Hamm, and former Los Angeles Lakers player Earving “Magic” Johnson.
As The League Has Developed, The Range of Jobs Has Expanded And Continues To Provide New Career Opportunities.
MIAMI, Fla. (October 11, 2019) —
Today’s Major League Soccer clubs are a far cry from what they were in the beginning days of the league.
Teams are now managing full academies and some have USL squads (Inter Miami and New England are the two latest to announce USL teams for next season). With all of these additional components to an MLS team, millions of dollars in investment is required to run operations. Scouting has gone global as well. In addition to the financial undertaking, a full soccer operations staff is needed in order to do the job effectively.
The rapid expansion of Major League Soccer has increased the demand for employees to fill the various roles. With each new team, there is a full slate of front office jobs to fill, and that demand for talent has increased exponentially.
So who is going to fill this demand? As a starting point, it goes without saying (but I’ll mention it again) that no one is ever hired to work in the sports business because he or she is a ‘fan.’ If course you are a fan, that is the very minimum benchmark, but what matters is what do you bring to the organisation? In this sense, working in soccer, or any sports team, is not really that different from working for any company, law firm, PR firm, ad agency and so on.
The list of positions in front offices across MLS includes work in team administration, salary cap management, analytics, scouting, team operations, stadium operations, ticketing and sales, marketing, legal, sponsorships, communications, digital and media, community engagement, and more. The staff includes many different titles, for example, president, chief commercial officer, sporting director (or general manager) (usually charged with running scouting, player selection and other soccer operations) and team administrator (who handles things like travel and players’ adjustment to teams and cities, including housing, banking and other life needs). Generally speaking, job functions within a front office can be divided into two sides: Soccer Operations and Commercial.
“It’s a natural evolution,” said Dave Kasper, who is the general manager (since 2004) of D.C. United. “You’re expanding where there’s multiple departments on the soccer side, and we’re starting to see that because our league is growing so fast and there is more money being pumped in.”
“When you think about everything a front office entails, it’s player development, it’s scouting, domestic and international, and it’s team administration,” said Will Kuntz, Vice-President of Soccer Operations at LAFC, “There is so much you have to touch and it’s so global in a way that few other sports are. You look at front offices in other sports, pick your sport, they have a whole number of people in a number of roles. It underscores the importance of myriad people in the job.”
The ability to scout and identify international talent is absolutely essential in today’s MLS, which has only increased since the introduction of targeted allocation money (TAM). This year’s example of how not to build a club was provided by FC Cincinnati. The team used a large portion of its TAM on trades to build its roster instead of bringing in more talented players and using the TAM to buy down their salaries. This was due to Cincinnati’s lack of having someone, a general manager or sporting director, in the office during the roster-building stages. They eventually added Gerard Nijkamp, who formerly led PEC Zwolle in the Netherlands, as GM.
The Cincinnati example should be a lesson for all future MLS teams; a properly staffed soccer operations staff will likely include one or more people with expertise on the league’s intricacies. MLS’s centralised, single-entity status and league-controlled salary cap mechanisms essentially have created a niche skill set that is vital to success.
Knowledge of the international market is very important. MLS front offices need to have an active presence internationally as MLS becomes both a buyer and a seller in the global football market.
As the dollar amount goes up, acquisitions become even more critical,” said U.S. men’s national team coach Gregg Berhalter, who was considered one of the top chief soccer officers in the league when he worked as coach/technical director with the Columbus Crew. “And as we realize that we can’t always be a buying league, we also need to be a selling league, the way we structure our clubs and the way we work to both bring players in and sell players is extremely important. Clubs are realizing that. So they’re putting more resources into scouting, which they should. They are putting more resources into player personnel; once you get the player here how do we integrate them into the team and how do we integrate them into the society? And then I think teams are now also putting more resources into…how do we export these players? What do the contacts look like?”
What Kind of Backgrounds Fit In?
Some of those hired by clubs have experience in the MLS office itself. Take Chicago Fire Senior Vice-President of Communications Sean Dennison, as one example. A graduate of prestigious McGill University in Montreal, he worked for fourteen years at MLS headquarters, the last two of which he served as Vice-President of Communications for the league, before joining Chicago in 2018. Other examples include general managers Ali Curtis of Toronto Football Club, Nelson Rodriguez of the Chicago Fire SC, the aforementioned Will Kuntz and Sporting Kansas City’s Assistant Director Of Player Personnel, Meghan Cameron, all of whom had previous experience in the league office.
Others have worked for other leagues or confederations. Inter Miami CF’s Chief Business Officer Jurgen Mainka, for example, served as the director of marketing and communications, and later the Deputy General Secretary and Chief Commercial Officer at Concacaf prior to being hired by the Inter Miami ownership group. Looking at the personnel across MLS teams also shows that not all front office employees even have prior experience in soccer, or even in sports in general.
Chris Henderson’s Insights On Front Offices
Chris Henderson is currently the sporting director of the Seattle Sounders. A former midfielder, he gave coaching a try post-career but thereafter transitioned into being a technical director. Henderson was hired by the Sounders as technical director in 2008. He has spent the last decade learning “on-the-job” and also interacting with foreign clubs when he travels the globe scouting for players.
“The ownership groups have their own companies and are used to running businesses and used to having people with a certain profile to run their business,” Henderson said. “Somebody with extensive soccer knowledge (can help) because in the position you are going to be in you have to have an understanding with the head coach and the coaching staff.”
While the hires around the league follow different strategies and come from different backgrounds, a common theme is also there: the investment teams are willing to make in order to be competitive. This is only going to increase, and the teams that do it best will continue to have the most success.
“Nobody knows if (a hire) is right or wrong until you look at it later,” Henderson said. “I do think as the league grows we all need to grow in the support staff. There is going to be a combination in every front office and it comes down to the individuals and their skillsets and where they can add value. It may be a former player, it may not. It may be someone who has (a) law background or was an agent. It comes down to relationships, being able to work with the coaching staff and different people in the club and being able to manage up. Some is specific to personalities and some is understanding MLS and the landscape of U.S. Soccer, and that can be learned. I don’t think there is one specific way.”
With regard to those with legal backgrounds, they have found places both within the league office and with its clubs. When asked about the changing roles of the legal department at Major League Soccer, for example, Dimitrios Efstathiou, Vice-President, Legal, said that the legal team today is being considered as more than just ‘scribes’ and ‘drafters.’ “We’re at the table, with our counterparts within the media department or the corporate partnerships department or the licensed products department. We are sitting down and helping drafting a strategy to approach a deal and issue spot early on so we’re viewed as, again, a business affairs member as opposed to the lawyer.”
Another example is Darren Eales, President of Atlanta United, who had played soccer while attending West Virginia University and Brown University, later returning to his native England and earning a law degree from Cambridge. After working as in-house counsel at West Bromwich Albion, he moved on to Tottenham in 2010, where his work touched on all major aspects of soccer operations. He helped to negotiate and execute player transfers, including playing a key role in the 2013 world record transfer fee sale of Gareth Bale to Real Madrid. Eales was the first person hired for the Atlanta team by owner Arthur Blank, co-founder of Home Depot and owner of the Atlanta Falcons.
Lawyers are thus particularly good candidates for MLS front offices. Beyond the ‘obvious’ role of serving as an in-house counsel, someone with a legal background has a skill set that can be valuable in any business agenda. For example, most lawyers are very skilled at written and oral communications. Even with all the advances in technology, business is still won and lost based on personal relationships. People do business with whom they trust, with whom they find commonality and with whom they like. And these relationships are built on clear communication, exchanges of ideas and getting to know each other, skills that most lawyers have. Additionally, given the extensive use of contracts, from sponsorship agreements to media rights distribution to player contracts, having legal skills can assist with issue spotting and avoiding vagueness that often leads to disputes. Finally, despite the stories that make the news, most lawyers adhere to a high degree of ethical standards and can bring added professionalism to a business setting.
With new MLS teams beginning in Miami, Nashville, Austin, Saint Louis and at least one other city in the near future, there will be a need for many competent candidates to carry out the myriad of job functions in the front office. Some of these people may have a soccer background, while others may have other useful skills like foreign languages or an aptitude to work in an international environment. Whatever their skills and talent, they will also need passion and energy. Teams that have an open-minded approach to hiring and can assemble a front office with the right combination of talent, experience and dedication will be the winners.
MLS also has annual awards for front offices. Here’s a list of who and which teams won awards following the 2018 season:
2018 MLS Club and Executive Award Winners:
Doug Hamilton Executive of the Year – Darren Eales
Ticket Sales Team of the Year – Atlanta United
Public Relations Team of the Year – Atlanta United
Club Retailer of the Year – Atlanta United
Digital Team of the Year – Atlanta United
Operations Staff of the Year – Atlanta United
Supporter Management Team of the Year – Atlanta United
Additional award winners
Sporting Executive of the Year – Peter Vermes, Sporting Kansas City
Corporate Partnerships Team of the Year – Los Angeles Football Club
Corporate Partnerships Executive of the Year – Justin Compton (Sporting Kansas City)
Ticket Sales Executive of the Year – Sean Sittnick (Minnesota United FC)
Marketing Executive of the Year – Rich Orosco (Los Angeles Football Club)
Expansion Club Recognition Award – Los Angeles Football Club
Ticketing Sales Impact Award presented by the National Sales Center powered by SeatGeek – Colorado Rapids (Sales Combine)
Marketing Team of the Year – New York City FC (24-hour game)
Marisa Colaiano Community Relations Department of the Year presented by MLS WORKS – Chicago Fire
Business Analytics Team of the Year – Los Angeles Football Club
Social Media Activation of the Year – LA Galaxy (#Galaxy Social / Malea Emma)
Digital Content Experience of the Year – Portland Timbers (The Rivalry)
Equipment Manager of the Year – Chris Maxwell (Houston Dynamo)
Security Staff of the Year – Seattle Sounders FC
eMLS Team of the Year – Philadelphia Union
Team Administrator of the Year – Spencer Childs (Portland Timbers)
Athletic Training Staff of the Year – Sporting Kansas City
LaLiga North America continues its expansion and promotion of Spain’s top soccer league in the United States and Canada by partnering with Sling TV.
Miami, Fla. (September 18, 2019) –
Sling TV has become the official sponsor of La Liga in North America. The agreement will result in additional programming dedicated to La Liga.
Sling TV curently broadcasts La Liga regular season matches via beIN Sports and beIN Sports en Español. Subscribers are able to watch all matches on Sling TV’s Best of Spanish TV service and World Sports.
Additional content as part of the new partnership will include weekly La Liga segments: the Luis Garcia Show (in Spanish) and the Jimmy Conrad Show, (in English). Facebook users will be able to watch exclusive commentary ahead of the top four matches of the week on LaLiga’s Facebook page.
Sling TV will also show La Liga Ambassadors Club, which includes meet and greets with former players as well as player Q&As on Facebook Live throughout the season. Also encompassed in the partnership are La Liga experiences and merchandise which will include sweepstakes, giveaways and promotions across both partners’ platforms.
With increased coverage, Spain’s top soccer league is enjoying an increased following in North America, beyond traditional strongholds like Miami and Los Angeles. In the three meetings between rivals FC Barcelona and Real Madrid CF last season – two in LaLiga, one in the Copa del Rey – beIN Sports and beIN Sports en Español reached a combined audience of more than 2.7 million viewers.
What The Parties Are Saying:
“When we started our venture here and created our plan to grow the brand while getting the clubs and players closer to fans, doing it alone was going to be tough, so having partners that can come in and help amplify what we’re doing and commit to our strategy is just proof of the success,” Gartner said. “Having Sling TV come in as the first commercial partner we have for the region on a deal that’s anchored primarily on the original content strategy we set out to do is a good validation of how we see the market and how we see the strategy to grow here.
That the content being developed is bilingual is important to LaLiga North America, says Gartner. It fits into their target market which consists of native Spanish speakers and a younger, bilingual audience. He also believes the additional content will allow partners of LaLiga to reach out to the target market in a more customized way.
“LaLiga’s rabid fan base has found a home at Sling TV,” said Alfredo Rodriguez, vice president of marketing at Sling TV. “As the Official North American sponsor, LaLiga fanatics can now get a premium experience through the partnership, gaining access to everything LaLiga through exclusive content and giveaways.”
About LaLiga North America
LaLiga North America is a joint venture between Spain’s domestic league and Relevent Sports Group, which also produces the International Champions Cup each summer, operating to support the league’s growth on the continent through content development, activations, marketing agreements, commercial partnerships, exhibition matches and youth academies.
About Sling TV
Sling TV provides over-the-top (“OTT”) TV services with more than 640 channels in 22 languages across multiple devices. As of July 29, 2019, Sling had 2.47 million subscribers.
LaLiga no tenía una música única, un sonido integrador y reconocible, una identidad sonora que hiciera que todos los fans del fútbol español se sintiesen identificados con ella. Hasta ahora.
Granada, España (jueves, 15 de agosto del 2019) –
Vacationing in Spain seemed like a good time to highlight this story on La Liga’s new song.
Article is reprinted here:
Los latidos del futuro, compuesta por Lucas Vidal, ganador con solo 35 años de dos Goya (Palmeras en la nieve y Nadie quiere la noche) y un Emmy por la composición del tema musical de la cadena ESPN para los Juegos Olímpicos de Rio de Janeiro 2016, es la nueva banda sonora de LaLiga.
Una canción que une a los aficionados de todos los colores en las mismas notas musicales y un tema que demuestra que la pasión por el deporte rey está por encima de un equipo concreto. “Ha sido un sueño en mayúsculas. Recibí el encargo con gran emoción e inmediatamente supe que se trataba de una responsabilidad y que debía estar a la altura de la afición. Precisamente es el público el que me ha servido de inspiración, gracias a su latido al unísono, a su energía y a su entrega. Espero devolverles con esta identidad sonora la pasión que sienten al ver cada partido de LaLiga”, afirma Lucas Vidal.
Club will not seek naming rights partner for the revitalization of the Bernabéu Stadium; Has “great opportunities” in business without changing the name of the stadium.
Miami, Fla. (Thursday, July 25, 2019) – Kenneth Russo
What’s in a name? In the case of a famous one, a reason not to alter it.
One of the world’s most iconic football stadiums will not be adopting a corporate name. This news came from Real Madrid Club de Fútbol’s Global Head of Partnerships, David Hopkinson.
As reported in Spanish publication ReasonWby.Es, Hopkinson had been interviewed and asked about this ahead of the World Football Summit 2019. It was believed that Real Madrid would seek a stadium naming rights partner. He commented, “Anything is possible, but to put a corporate name on the stadium probably would be incorrect. There are places around the world that are iconic and must be respected.” (“Hay lugares en todo el mundo que son icónicos y deben respetarse”) He also added that Real Madrid enjoys an extraordinary assortment of income-generating opportunities that do not involve adopting a corporate name for the home of Los Blancos.
While the stadium’s name is not changing, many aspects of the stadium will be. The club is planning a complete transformation of the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu, which is expected to take until 2023 to finish.
Madrid’s ambitious plans for a “digital stadium of the future,” were made possible after securing loans totalling €575 million (£497 million/$641 million USD) in April, 2018 from two US-based financial institutions: Bank of America Merrill Lynch and JP Morgan. They will start repaying the loans in 2023 at a fixed 2.5 percent interest rate through 2049. The club will service an annual debt of €29.5 million per year on the project throughout the period.
Hopkinson, a Canadian, (and graduate of McGill University) was hired in summer of 2018, after having worked with Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (MLSE), where he was the Chief Commercial Officer. MLSE is the parent company of Toronto Football Club (MLS), the Toronto Maple Leafs (NHL) and Toronto Raptors (NBA). Explaining the overall business strategy of Real Madrid, Hopkinson said that Real Madrid believes the more it is able to internationalise its business, reputation, and fan base, in the process making the club a global enterprise, the more opportunities the club will have with sponsors around the world.
“Cuanto más podamos internacionalizar nuestro negocio, nuestra reputación, nuestra base de fans, para globalizar este negocio, más oportunidades tendremos con patrocinios en todo el mundo”, detalló.
The renovation will include a retractable roof, new services and experiences designed for fans, taking advantage of the latest in digital stadium technology.
While a football club can expect millions of dollars to have a corporate name on its stadium, in the case of Real Madrid CF, Hopkinson believes the benefit of not changing outweighs the increased revenue. Reaching that conclusion was probably also made easier by the fact that Real Madrid was looking for a naming rights sponsor but actually had difficulty attracting one. Potential sponsors were cautious to invest given the status of the stadium as one of the most famous in the world. It was thought, and altogether realistic to believe, that people would still refer to the stadium as the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu no matter what corporation sponsored the venue.