An Open Letter to NWSL Executive Director Cheryl Bailey

Dear Cheryl,

I hope you don’t mind me addressing you as Cheryl, I feel you are as much a fan of the game as anyone and I’m writing one fan to another.

So, Cheryl what’s going on?

I recently became aware of MLS team Houston Dynamo’s interest in joining NWSL.  I was very happy with the initial season of NWSL and thought the decision not to expand in 2014 was a good one. The reasons Mr. Gulati gave were all sound and seemed well thought out. Now it seems that isn’t the case and Houston is giving the impression that if they show good enough numbers NWSL will allow them in for 2014. This concerns me, how about you?

This is troubling on so many levels, but mainly it’s a trust issue for me. After two failed leagues I am totally invested in the success of NWSL. I was ecstatic when USSF announced its formation and supported it with my time and money. I bought season tickets to every team. I traveled to attend games and when I could not, I made sure that someone else was in my seat. I bought merchandise and encouraged everyone I knew to at least give the product a try. I defended short comings and encouraged better efforts, from teams and fellow fans alike. In other words, I bought-in, with words and money and time, I bought-in. And I am certainly not alone.

Now it seems that after convincing me NWSL/USSF finally got it right, it’s all going wrong. Make no mistake, I truly do support the league and that’s why I’m concerned. When so many people, on both sides of the business, invest their energy in something with the expectation that it will be better handled than their last two investments only to see things happening that question whether those expectations will be met, it’s disheartening.

I trust NWSL/USSF to say what they mean and mean what they say. When the president of USSF clearly states “no expansion in 2014”, as a fan I trust that to be true. And I’m sure that future investors trust that also. I know other teams, as well as Houston, have eyes on an expansion team, what message does this push by Houston send to them?

If USSF/NWSL has no intention of allowing Houston in for 2014, they should say so, and the opposite holds true, don’t you think?  Or is USSF/NWSL so interested in getting more MLS involvement that they’ll go back on their own word to get it? And if they were to allow Houston a 2014 team, does that give the green light to other MLS teams that they can also impose their will on NWSL? And to extrapolate that out, what happens when NWSL becomes MLS-Lite and teams decide it’s too much trouble? Does NWSL fold like the first two leagues?

Are you starting to see where I’m coming from, Cheryl? I’m a fan. I love the game and support the league, but this new iteration has very little transparency of late and not enough history to make me feel comfortable with this expansion talk. As a fan, don’t you want to know what the league intends? I understand business and that most negotiations are out of sight, but the ill will this will create with other teams looking to join NWSL just isn’t necessary. As a fan I’ll put up with a lot to be able to have a pro women’s league, but I won’t go quietly when I think the league is heading down a wrong path. I think allowing any team in for the 2104 season is the wrong path. And I have nothing against Houston or expanding there, but I am against unequal treatment which seems to be the case since Houston is an MLS team.

Do you think I’m wrong? I’d like you to change my mind, or at least put it at ease. Right now I’m not feeling very happy with my NWSL, how about you? Help me out here.

Thanks for your time, Cheryl. Hope to hear from you soon.

Always a fan,

Diane

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NWSL 2013 – Analysis In 10 Parts PART 5 – Seattle Reign FC

Fifth in a series of 10 posts analyzing NWSL 2013 from my viewpoint.images

Preseason, Season Tickets, and Fan Engagement:

A preseason in Japan is pretty impressive and a shrewd move to allow the team to work out the kinks away from prying eyes. Kudos to SRFC for that.

I purchased 2 $234 Grandstand tickets online with no hassle whatsoever. Once again no perks for an out of town STH, but you should get the trend by now.

Seattle was fully engaged with fans from the announcement of the league, although they chose (and apparently still choose) to do it by way of Facebook. Allocations, drafts, coaches, uniforms, all info was updated in a fairly timely manner. They also engaged fans on Twitter and have a YouTube account.

Seattle got it right by encouraging and engaging with a supporter’s group, The Royal Guard.   Teams that currently do not have a supporter’s group should consider how Seattle encouraged their fans to start one.

Web Site and Web Stream:

Website? Not sure I would call it that, more of a place holder. About the only thing you could do there was buy tickets and it seems so far this year, it’s still the same.

The web stream by comparison was second best in the league, only behind PTFC. Production quality was excellent, it was reliable and the on-air talent was engaging and informed. The stream was provided by Bootstrapper Studios and SRFC should definitely renew THAT contract.

Kits and Venue:

Seattle did a lot of things right with their kit. It was just a standard navy blue NWSL Nike kit with the horizontal white chest stripe, but the logo and the decision to include it on the shorts as well as the top gave it a distinctive clean look. The basic kit was the same as SBFC, but it somehow looked better.

One thing SRFC did better than any other team was merchandise. From week one they had t-shirts for sale and came up big with their LGBT supporter’s T. Although you had to buy any team gear through the NWSL store, the T’s were a big hit with fans.

Starfire Stadium was the Reign’s home field and has a reputation as being a good venue. I’ve only seen it on web streams & TV, so I’ll leave any critique to someone who’s actually been there.

Final Observations:

The Seattle Reign are one of those teams that you just have to love to watch, even if you’re not a fan. They play well and are in every game. They may have been shortchanged by the whole team-building process, but they never used that as an excuse and never gave up in a single game. They have some big names, but every single player contributes. A definite team to watch in 2014.

As for the product off the field…

I’d like to see some improvements in 2014:

  • As for all teams, how about some STH perks for out of state purchasers?
  • Get a website, a real functioning, interactive site. Facebook is good, but really limits the interactions you can have with current and potential fans. I have sites I’ve “liked” and never gone to again. 10,000+ likes does not translate to 10,000+ interactions on a continuing basis.
  • Since the webstream is so good, consider doing it simultaneously in Spanish.

I am inspired by the culture Laura Harvey has started in the Reign camp. I hope it continues to build and I’m sure the payoff will come soon.