Think Tank FC talks about running adult soccer clubs at the elite / semi-pro level in the state of Washington and the Northwest. David Falk is the Media Director for the Evergreen Premier League, Western Indoor Soccer League and Northwest Premier League. He founded soccer news website goalWA.net in 2011.
by David Falk
You got into soccer for all the right reasons, didn’t you? Love of the sport, community, fellowship, all that. But unless you also see your club as a ‘business,’ you are likely to miss out on the chance to grow and fully realize the potential of what you’ve started.
There are lots and lots of people in the Northwest who run adult soccer clubs. For many it is a haphazard affair, done over the phone and out of the trunk of a car. That’s OK for pub league clubs I suppose, but when you start spending 5 figures a year on things and traveling around the region as well — then it is time to treat your club as a business.
Organize, Assign, Sell
You need to organize your club like a business would organize its ‘staff’ or labor. Put people in charge and hold them accountable. The non-soccer part of things is just as important as the soccer side is – so it’s time to show that commitment. Assign tasks just like you would assign players to positions on the pitch. Think in terms of your players and supporters being ‘customers’ you serve a product to.
Off The Pitch, published on goalWA.net, has some helpful advice in these regards.
Do you want the bad news, or the really bad news? No outdoor adult elite amateur soccer club in the state of Washington ‘makes money.’ All of them lose cash annually. It’s just a matter of how close they can come to breaking even. The only sniff of progress I’ve heard about is the indoor squad for Bellingham United that plays in the WISL. They sell tickets at around $10, and also sell beer. Crowds of over 700 in the playoffs mean this lone side could make some sort of profit at the Bellingham Sportsplex.
Bookmark: Washington Alcohol Serving Licensing
The rest of the indoor and outdoor, men’s and women’s clubs in the EPLWA, NWPL, NPSL, PDL and WPSL all lose money. There are of course lots of reasons why. Would it offend you much if I started with a simple one? Too many of these clubs don’t pay attention to the business side of things – and don’t use the long off-season time to build on what they already have.
Organize, Assign, Sell. Do this.
Organize your club so that someone is in charge of connecting with the local newspaper, radio and TV stations. Assign someone to not only report scores promptly but also to Sell the news outlets on the idea of your home town club representing the community around the state.
Organize your club so that someone is in charge of updating your website and keeping things active on social media. Assign someone to live-tweet matches and big events. Sell your social media links to your supporters in your match / roster / program and over the Public Address. Sell your club to news outlets by retweeting their coverage of your side and of soccer in general.
Your Business is Community
So maybe I have made some progress in getting you to think of your club as a business. But of course I have already mentioned that it likely won’t make money. So I can see why some clubs just ‘give up’ when the ticket sales are slow, the merchandise isn’t moving, and sponsors are hard to come by. It’s only human to then turn your attention back to the pitch and happier times.
Fight off this temptation. Go up into the bleachers and talk with supporters. Remind your players to ALWAYS thank their fans, home or away. There is NEVER an excuse not to wave after a match. Your business is community.
Is it as simple as doing what the successful soccer businesses are doing? In Washington the answer is no. Sounders FC are successful. The rest of us are looking up at them with binoculars. But if you consider yourself a ‘soccer business,’ you should also consider how you are going to define ‘success’ as that business. You would never want your players to give up or accept mediocre effort – so you need to model that in your ‘front office’ as well.
Keep contact with the soccer business world
There are a number of websites that have soccer business focus and / or content.
Bookmark: BusinessofSoccer.com / Soccer America Business Insider / Deloitte / Umbel / Library of Congress: Sports Marketing / The Economist / Washington Small Business Development Center / Washington State Nonprofits / How to organize a concession stand / Online Ticket Sellers