MLS 2019 Primary Transfer Window – Feb 13 – May 7

Miami, FL (Friday, February 15, 2019) by Kenneth Russo –

On Wednesday of this week, the 2019 MLS Primary Transfer Window, allowing clubs to now officially register their offseason additions. The 2019 window is open from February 13 until May 7 for transfers in to MLS Clubs.

Persuant to FIFA regulations, an International Transfer Certificate (ITC) is a requirement when completing an international transfer of a player. MLS teams are able to request International Transfer Certificates (ITC) from players’ former clubs to complete signings, loans and transfer deals.

With respect to outbound transfers, clubs may transfer or loan their players to non-MLS clubs at any time, subject to the transfer window of the recipient club’s national federation and subject to the consent of the player.

Major League Soccer maintains an official transactions page and transfer tracker; links are here:

official transactions page

transfer tracker

The Secondary Transfer Window will open on July 7 before closing on Aug. 7.

© 2019 Russo Law & Soccer

UEFA Prepares To Launch OTT streaming platform

UEFA the first of soccer’s six continental governing bodies to operate an OTT service.

Miami, FL (Monday, February 12, 2019) by Kenneth Russo –

European soccer’s governing body will launch its own over-the-top (“OTT”) streaming platform in the next six months. Once the platform is launched, it will make UEFA the first of soccer’s six continental governing bodies to operate an OTT service.

UEFA president Aleksander Čeferin revealed this while speaking with the media after his re-election for a new four-year term as UEFA’s top executive. Čeferin confirmed that the service will initially show women’s and youth soccer matches, as well archive content and behind-the-scenes footage from matches.

However, the prospect of having the UEFA Champions League matches on the platform is unlikely until 2021 at the earliest, given the governing body’s existing contracts with broadcasters around the world.

“By putting respect, hope and solidarity at the heart of our strategy, we will make football more accessible for fans, all fans across the planet,” said Čeferin, speaking at UEFA’s annual congress in Rome. “This is one of the main challenges for the coming years. “This is why I am pleased to announce that UEFA will be launching its OTT platform in the next six months. We are fully aware that a revolution is under way and are in the process of agreeing historic partnerships with the world’s leading companies in this field.”

Theodore Theodoridis, UEFA’s secretary general, added that the service should be available by June, indicating that the governing body will look for ways to include its flagship competitions on the platform when its existing rights deals expire.

“Now, we don’t know what the future will tell,” said Theodoridis. “But, we have to be ready for the future and the creation of this platform will solidify UEFA in this case; and as of 2021, where our current deal, our current rights expire, together with the clubs, we will see the possibility, in certain territories, of having some premium live matches.

“Also, as of 2022, with the national associations, [it will be] the same because we have a difference of one year in the cycle of TV rights between club football and national association football. But together, we will decide where and if we are to include some premium live content.”

The news of UEFA’s initiative to launch an OTT platform first emerged in September, when the organisation’s marketing director Guy-Laurent Epstein told Spanish outlet Palco23 that the governing body wanted to give more airtime to categories which do not benefit from as much exposure as men’s soccer.

In the United States and Canada, popular leagues such as the NBA, the NFL and NHL all have streaming subscription services that show live games. At the same time, television continues to pay higher amounts to acquire rights to show games. With the continued development of connected devices and their growing popularity versus traditional means of viewing, can we simply envision UEFA engaging in direct commercialisation to football fans through exclusive subscriptions, bypassing the intermediaries?


L’UEFA se prépare à lancer sa plateforme de streaming OTT

Miami, FL (lundi, le 12 février 2019) par Kenneth Russo –

UEFA lancera sa propre plate-forme de streaming over-the-top (OTT) au cours des six prochains mois.

Le Président de l’UEFA, Aleksander Čeferin, a confirmé que le service diffusera dans un premier temps les matchs de football pour les femmes et les jeunes, ainsi que le contenu des archives et les images des coulisses des matchs.

Après sa réélection à la tête de l’UEFA la semaine dernière, Aleksander Čeferin a fait quelques annonces stratégiques sur les prochaines années de son mandat.

L’un des principaux objectifs du président de l’UEFA est de rendre le football plus accessible à travers le monde, notamment grâce au numérique.

Toutefois, il est peu probable que l’UEFA Champions League soit disponible sur la plate-forme avant 2021 au plus tôt compte tenu des contrats en vigueur entre l’instance dirigeante et les radiodiffuseurs du monde entier. «En plaçant le respect, l’espoir et la solidarité au cœur de notre stratégie, nous rendrons le football plus accessible aux fans, qu’ils soient fans de la planète», a déclaré Čeferin, lors du congrès annuel de l’UEFA à Rome. «C’est l’un des principaux défis des prochaines années.»

« Je suis heureux de vous annoncer que l’UEFA lancera, dans les six prochains mois, sa plateforme OTT » a déclaré Ceferin depuis Rome. « Une révolution est en marche. Nous en avons pleinement conscience et nouons des partenariats historiques avec les groupes mondiaux leaders du domaine. […] Comme vous le savez, nous avons déjà commencé à aller dans cette direction grâce à un accord de sponsoring avec le groupe Alibaba. Ce partenariat est plus qu’un simple accord de sponsorship. C’est un accord qui ouvre sur de nouveaux horizons, comme la création d’un centre d’excellence sur les nouvelles technologies dans le football ou des projets communs de commerce électronique. » 

Reste à savoir si, à terme, l’offre digitale de l’UEFA proposera les compétitions majeures comme la Champions League, l’Euro ou encore la Ligue des Nations. Surtout, une offre de contenus premium peut-elle être compatible avec la vente de droits TV aux chaînesbusiness qui représente la majorité des revenus de l’UEFA ?

Aux USA, les principales ligues comme la NBA, la NFL ou encore la NHL proposent des abonnements permettant de suivre l’intégralité des rencontres depuis une application. En parallèle, les télévision continuent de payer des montants toujours plus importants pour acquérir quelques matchs. Avec le développement des appareils connectés, peut-on tout simplement envisager que l’UEFA commercialise directement auprès des fans de football des abonnements en exclusivité en se passant d’intermédiaires?

© 2019 Russo Law & Soccer

Marlins decline to share home with Club Internacional de Fútbol Miami

“We don’t feel at this time that Marlins Park is the ideal fit for us.” Jorge Mas, Inter Miami CF Managing Owner

Miami, FL (Thursday, February 7, 2019) by Kenneth Russo –

Club Internacional de Fútbol Miami’s proposal to use Marlins Park as a temporary home will not be in the best interests of the Miami Marlins or Inter Miami CF.

Marlins Director of Operations Chip Bowers indicates that the baseball team does not feel their facility works for Inter Miami because the baseball season overlaps with that of Major League Soccer, which plays a March through October calendar. “We’ve had some conversations with MLS Miami and Jorge Mas and his team,” he said. “Very positive. Been very diligent. Both sides, to each party’s credit, has been really focused on making sure this is the right operational fit. I think the reality is, we’ve both realized, it probably isn’t.”

Bowers said the concurrent MLS and MLB seasons was a major concern.

“I think there’s some challenges having a 17-, 18-game soccer schedule simultaneous to a baseball schedule that falls on the exact same calendar,” he said. “The field would really take a beating. There’s a lot of operational issues that go along with it that would make it really difficult for us to realize.”

Jorge Mas, Managing Owner of Inter Miami CF said: “Frankly, we have a preferred site. We’re going to be making an announcement on that late February, early March, which I think will be great for our fans, for our team and our sponsors. We don’t feel at this time that Marlins Park is the ideal fit for us.” There is still a possibility Inter Miami CF will play a few games at Hard Rock Stadium during the first season in 2020.

Using Hard Rock Stadium however, as an exclusive temporary home is also looking doubtful. Though officials from RSE Ventures declined comment, it appears they also do not feel it is feasible to provide a temporary home to Inter Miami because of spring conflicts with the Miami Open Tennis Tournament that is now housed at the stadium, and fall conflicts with the Miami Dolphins and University of Miami Hurricanes.

Using a baseball stadium to play soccer is never the best option for the simple reason that the sightlines are terrible. The only baseball stadium in the United States that is used for MLS is Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, which has been the home of New York City FC since the club’s inception while NYCFC seeks a permanent stadium site. The difference in New York City is that the Yankees are investors in the soccer team, giving them incentive to make the shared arrangement work. Nevertheless, the conversion from baseball to soccer pitch and back is an expensive, three-day process.

“There’s only one other facility that has done it, and that’s Yankee Stadium with New York FC. The difference there is there’s an equity piece with the Yankees and that particular team,” Bowers said. “There’s a million-dollar-a-game commitment by the team to the Yankees to overcome some of those operational challenges, none of which we think is really in the cards here given the conversations we’ve had with MLS Miami.”

© 2019 Russo Law & Soccer

Inter Miami CF Enters Into Agreement with KIN

KIN Partners will be the exclusive sponsorship sales representation agency.

Miami, FL (Tuesday, February 5, 2019) by Kenneth Russo –

Club Internacional de Fútbol Miami (“Inter Miami CF”) continues to make impressive steps in its development, now with slightly more than one year before it kicks off play in North America’s Major League Soccer.

The club announced on February 1, 2019, that it has entered into a contract with the London-based firm, which is headed up by industry veterans Simon Oliveira and Matthew Kay, KIN recently expanded into Miami and Oliveira, the Managing Director of KIN, has previously worked on Beckham’s other business projects. Among KIN’s roster of international clients is Neymar, Jr.

KIN’s role will be to identify and develop sponsorship opportunities for the expansion club.

“Miami is recognised as a global city with a mix of wonderful cultures and we cannot wait to start working with both the vastly impressive ownership group and one of the most exciting properties in world sports today,” said Matthew Kay.

The announcement comes within days after Inter Miami put forward plans to build a training facility, including a multi-purpose stadium, on the site of the Lockhart Stadium, previously used by the now defunct North American Soccer League’s (NASL) Fort Lauderdale Strikers.

Given the transformational aspect of Miami Freedom Park, partnering with an international agency appears to be a smart move. Interest in Inter Miami CF has been high, and the home of the team, in addition to a 25,000 seat stadium, a public park and public soccer fields, will feature hotel, entertainment and retail space as well as a technology hub. It is a US$1 billion complex that will create thousands of jobs and generate millions of dollars in tax revenue to the city, county, state and school board.

© 2019 Russo Law & Soccer

Original Supporters’ Group Southern Legion / La Legion Del Sur, issues statement amid reports of a rebrand.

Miami, FL (Saturday, February 2, 2019)

Third supporters’ group emerges in the most bizarre fashion.

In a pure sign of increasing enthusiasm and interest in the run up to Club Internacional de Fútbol Miami’s (Inter Miami CF) inaugural season in 2020, the community of supporters’ groups has now grown to three.

This after several members of the original supporters’ group Southern Legion / La Legion del Sur, split away from the established organisation to form a new one. It appears that this new splinter group is also furthering confusion amongst Miami soccer fans by alleging that they in fact are the Southern Legion, rather than calling themselves a newly formed group. A press release to this effect was even issued on the new group’s website. The group, calling themselves the Siege, reportedly has assumed control over the real Southern Legion’s Facebook and Instagram accounts, renaming those accounts to reflect the branding of the new group.

The logo of Southern Legion / Legion del Sur

A look at the Southern Legion twitter account suggests that the breakaway group was the result of collusion between at least two Legion members.

https://twitter.com/southern_legion/status/1091889035046469632?s=21

On Friday, the Board of Directors of the real Southern Legion / Legion del Sur, took to Twitter to defend the group’s brand and clear up the confusion:

What we do know is that Southern Legion / Legion del Sur traces its origins to 2008, around the time the mighty FC Barcelona was looking to enter into a partnership to bring a Barça branded club to MLS in Miami.

Ever since then, the Legion, as they are called for short, has been a driving force to increase awareness and support for soccer in Miami, and an MLS club in Vice City, in particular.

They have been seen at events including soccer matches, lower division team games, political rallies and countless city and county hearings. Their scarves and shirts have traveled the globe.

https://twitter.com/southern_legion/status/562665570639028225?s=21

So instrumental was the Legion to the efforts of David Beckham, Marcelo Claure, and new investors Jorge and Jose Mas to finally land Inter Miami, that they were given preferred seating at the official announcement of the team back in January 29, 2018 and were singled out by Marcelo Claure in his speech that day at the Knight Concert Hall.

Marcelo Claure at the official unveiling of Fútbol Miami MLS on January 29. 2018.

While details are scarce, it seems readily apparent that some inner circle members of Southern Legion felt that a name change and brand was a way to stake a claim to being the “official” supporters group for Inter Miami CF. As the months went by after the official birth of the team, a second supporters’ group, Vice City 1896, emerged. With two strong groups in place, any notion that there would be only one supporters’ group, let alone an “official” one, was neither realistic nor practical. In such an environment, there should be intrinsic value in having an established brand.

What can be confirmed at present is that Inter Miami CF now has three supporters’ groups. And Southern Legion / Legion del Sur is definitely one of them:

https://twitter.com/southern_legion/status/1092150419059548160?s=21

Of course, having multiple supporters’ groups is anything but a bad sign. Within Major League Soccer, most, if not all of the clubs, have more than one such group. It is also common place in Europe and South America. In a place as diverse as Miami, multiple groups only seems natural. The next step will be to harness this passion into creating an unparalleled game day atmosphere.

Southern Legion marches on January 29, 2018.

Inter Miami CF celebrates its 1st birthday! A year of firsts. ¡Inter Miami CF celebra su primer cumpleaños! Un año de novedades.

Miami, FL (Tuesday, January 29, 2019) by Kenneth Russo –

Happy Birthday Club Internacional de Fútbol Miami! January 29, 2018. It has been one year. One year since David Beckham took the stage at the Knight Concert Hall at the Adrienne Arsht Center and delivered a famous speech in which he recounted how his academy coach once told him “You’ll never make it as a footballer.” “I never quit,” was Beckham’s reply. One year since Marcelo Claure also gave a speech recounting the story of the more than four years between the original announcement on February 5, 2014, during which he and David Beckham tried unsuccessfully to secure a stadium site and to find suitable investors in order to be able to launch the Miami Major League Soccer Club. About how he and David had concluded that the dream was “too big” and against their wishes, had decided to move on. One year since Jorge Mas gave an emotionally charged speech in which he told the story of how he had been contacted by MLS Commissioner Donald Garber, who asked him if he would be interested in co-investing and helping David Beckham get the Miami franchise off the ground, and what Miami has meant to his family and those of people who come here from other places to make a better life.

Between January 29, 2018 and September 5th, the club used the name “Fútbol Miami” as a placeholder while deciding on the actual name, colours and logo. We knew the owners were getting closer, and during the summer several potential team names appeared in trademark searches online at the USPTO. These names, trademarks by lawyers at the direction of companies connected to Miami Beckham United, LLC, included many outstanding names including Club Atlético Miami, Miami Mundial Club de Fútbol, and others. See USPTO Search. 

One of the biggest highlights of the year came before daybreak on Wednesday, September 5, 2018. In the predawn hours, a giant mural painted by local artist Alejandro Mijares was revealed on the walls of a building at the corner of SW 8th Street and SW 1st Avenue in the Brickell neighbourhood of downtown Miami, revealing the club’s name and badge.

The Wall of Club Internacional de Fútbol Miami in Brickell.

At the same time, the team had the front and back covers of the Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald wrapped in pink with the team’s logo and explanations about the symbology. Mijares also painted the newly revealed logo on a wall in the Wynwood neighbourhood.

The morning papers on Sep. 5, 2018
Logo painted on a wall in Wynwood.

In the months since then, the club had many firsts. Soon after, plans were announced to redevelop Melreese Golf Course into the future home of Inter Miami CF and Miami Freedom Park. In July, we endured two full days of hearings before the City of Miami Commissioners, in a the effort by Miami Freedom Park, LLC to have a measure placed on the ballot to allow residents of the City of Miami to decide whether the City should negotiate to enter into a long-term lease of city-owned land at the Melreese Golf Course. In the end, three out of five commissioners approved.

On November 6, 2018, the club celebrated its biggest victory to date: the measure to transform Melreese Golf Course into a world-class stadium and Miami’s largest park, along with 23 acres of public soccer fields, an office/hotel complex with technology jobs and entertainment area passed with a strong majority of voters saying “Yes on 378.” “We won tonight!” are the now famous words of Jorge Mas.

It was also a year when the club made its initial moves on the soccer operations and business sides of the front office. Paul McDonough was the first staff member to be hired when he was appointed to the post of Sporting Director in August, just a few weeks before the unveiling of the club´s name and badge. A short time later, on September 20, 2019, Jurgen Mainka, who had previously worked at Concacaf and other MLS Clubs, was named as the club’s first Chief Business Officer. In October, the club named Dennis Sprenkle as the head of HR and Administration. At the beginning of January, 2019, Kurt Schmid joined as the first Technical Director, followed by Niki Budalic as the first Director of Soccer Operations. In the last couple of weeks prior to the one year anniversary, the club began laying the foundation of its Academy, adding Victor Pastora and Juan Carlos Michia, both of whom had been key figures in the famed Weston Football Club youth academy program.

Indeed, it was a year of many firsts. What lies ahead for Club Internacional de Fútbol Miami? A look at this video tells us: “Wait, that was just the beginning. We’re not done. Not by a long way.” It is going to be an exciting 2019.

© 2019 Russo Law & Soccer

Training Gear Sponsorships Working Out for MLS

Miami, FL (Thursday, January 24, 2019) Kenneth Russo –

Beginning in 2014, Major League Soccer began allowing clubs to sell a separate sponsorship for their training gear. Beginning with the Portland Timbers, followed by the New York Red Bulls, as of 2018, five MLS clubs out of the then 23 (Cincinnati is the 24th club and will enter the league in 2019) had negotiated and signed separate training gear sponsorship agreements.

Traditionally, teams in Major League Soccer and other football leagues around the world signed a kit sponsorship deal with one primary partner. Training kit sponsorships separate out the primary kit sponsor from apparel such as training and warm up gear. The practice has become widespread in European leagues, and the leagues executives noticed.

This separation of sponsorships represents a significant source of revenue for MLS clubs. Though financial details of such deals are not released by the league, it is estimated that a training gear sponsorship can fall into the high six-figure to low seven-figure of revenue annually.

The Portland Timbers were the first MLS club to sign a training kit sponsor, partnering with a local bank named Simple in December, 2014. In 2018, the club entered into a multiyear training kit sponsorship deal with Portland-based contact lens subscription service Sightbox. As part of the agreement, The Timbers and Sightbox will collaborate on a number of community outreach activities. Sightbox will also be prominently displayed at Providence Park, and serve as the presenting partner of the player, coach and staff game day entrance, the Providence Park box office and each individual MLS season.

The Timbers’ new training kit deal followed the club’s signing of a multiyear extension with kit sponsor Alaska Airlines, which has been with the team since it moved up to MLS in 2011. As part of the terms of the extension, Alaska Airlines agreed to permit the Timbers to carve out the training kit rights from its deal. Indeed, it is the ability to unbundle these assets that makes it attractive to clubs.

“Each team has their own situation. If a club is able to bundle everything together and maximize it that way and feels that’s the best approach — great,” said Mike Golub, Timbers President of Business. “For us, this gives us a way to maximize the value of the assets, but also extend our family of partners and increase activation.”

While Golub declined to comment on the financial value of the training kit deal, he did say that combined, they rank in the top tier of revenue deals across the league when compared to other teams. For a smaller market like Portland that matters. “It is material, and while I don’t think anyone will make the case they’re worth as much as the [game] kit sponsorship, there is a high level of value with the amount of exposure you’re able to get in practice every day,” he added.

The New York Red Bulls, who became the second team in MLS to sign a training kit sponsor in 2015, have already renewed the club’s deal with Japanese heavy equipment manufacturer Yanmar. The Japanese company is also a main partner company of J. League’s Cerezo Osaka Football Club. https://www.yanmar.com/global/about/sports/soccer/sponsored/redbull/

The new multiyear deal constitutes’s the Red Bulls largest sponsorship. Yanmar is provided with branding on both sleeves of the club’s training and warmup gear. It is estimated by industry sources that the previous deal stood at more than seven figures annually, and Red Bulls general manager Marc De Grandpre said the sponsorship renewal with Yanmar is an increase over the previous one.

For clubs like the Red Bulls who do not have a stadium naming-rights partner, gaining the most from all marketable assets is critical. In addition to not haveing a stadium naming rights deal in place, the club is owned by Red Bull, who has its corporate logo on the front of the game kits. De Grandpre added that “between coverage of training, the pregame and interviews that are done for national television, it might be our number one earned media driver — it’s a tremendous asset for the club to leverage.”

Their rival in the actual city, New York City Football Club, is among the teams with separate game-day jersey and training kit sponsors, having inked a multiyear deal with New York Presbyterian Hospital in 2015.

New York City Football Club training kit sponsor New York Presbyterian Hospital

In 2017, the Houston Dynamo carved out its training kit sponsorship from its deal with natural resource company BHP Billiton, and signed a multiyear deal with gasoline company 76. That sponsorship with BHP Billiton later ended, leaving Dynamo without a jersey sponsor during the 2018 season, up until this past November, when the club signed with MD Anderson Cancer Center in a multiyear partnership. Chief Revenue Officer Steven Powell said Houston intends to keep the sponsorships separate going forward. In addition to the training gear sponsorship, 76 is also the season presenting sponsor of the club and has entitlement of one of the stadium’s gates.

76 is also the presenting partner of the Houston Dynamo.

“The training kit sponsorship is a high-profile asset that has a really impactful brand integration and brand association,” Powell said. “With the right partner who builds a platform around the assets, I don’t think it dilutes the value of a jersey or naming-rights partner.”

Columbus Crew joined the list of teams with a training kit sponsor in 2018. The original club in MLS signed a deal with Ohio Health. https://www.massivereport.com/2018/1/24/16928038/columbus-crew-sc-reveal-new-training-kit-sponsor-mls-2018

What does the future hold for training gear sponsorships in MLS? The Red Bulls’ De Grandpre believes that in the next few years the bulk of MLS clubs will find a partner in the training kit category. “There’s tremendous value for all the clubs here, both in terms of activation and significant dollars where the sum of the parts can be greater if the club manages it properly,” he said.

Given the numbers involved, there’s certainly no reason to think that prognostication is incorrect. For more on these sponsorships, follow here: https://kennethrusso.com/training-gear-sponsorships/

See Also – https://www.sportsbusinessdaily.com/Journal/Issues/2018/03/05/Marketing-and-Sponsorship/MLS-kit-deals.aspx


© 2019 Russo Law & Soccer