Inevitable NWSL Rant #7392481605

UPDATE 08/17/15 – It’s official, NWSL Championship Final will be played at Providence Park in Portland.

Note my total lack of surprise at this announcement that comes complete with quotes from the invisible man himself, Jeff Plush.

While I am not surprised I am still infuriated, for all the reason listed in my original post below and then some. Lies of omission – not telling anyone that it had been decided to use a predetermined site prior to the season- and outright lies – the 2015 Competition Rules & Regulations (before edit) – being just 2 of the more egregious reasons.

The most infuriating, and saddening, reason of all though, is that I am forced into a position where I cannot with good conscience support this decision. I have spent far more time and money supporting NWSL and individual teams than anyone knows and to have to step back and not support this latest breach of trust truly hurts. Many will not see not attending the final in Portland as a big deal, as is their right, but to me it is the last straw in a season that has seemed ill planned and poorly executed. Whether that is the fault of the owners or USSF may never be known and some would say doesn’t matter, but it does. To me, it matters because it affects the way the league operates. If owners want one thing and USSF another, this will continue to be a cluster. If USSF gets to call the shots because they control the league, fans will continue to get the USWNT hand me down decisions. And USSF hand me down decisions will always play in favor of the national team, always. Decisions that play in favor of the national team have so far done nothing to bolster the NWSL or it’s growth ( a very small argument can be made that USWNT makes money that is funneled into NWSL, but we don’t know if there is a direct correlation as to amounts or if USSF just makes it up as they go along). Individual teams are dictated to about so many things regarding national team players, even when a reported agreement existed between them and US Soccer concerning post-world cup play, that it hampers operations, from advertising to rosters. And if you don’t think that affects individual players, think again.

I’m not disputing that putting on a good show is what sport is all about anymore, but it’s the way the league ( again, I have no real idea what that term means) goes about it, and the way they treat the people who are expected to keep showing up, keep spending money, keep spreading the word.

I know I’m only one ticket sale and in the grand scheme it’s not much. But I have to look at myself in the mirror and know I did what felt right to me in defense of the league. I don’t let people in my real life treat me the way NWSL does, why would I or should I accept it from them?

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08/14/15  – Soccerwire.com posted a story today about the NWSL Championship final being played in a “neutral” site..Portland. (Quotations marks are mine) Needless to say, my blood started to boil. The following is what splattered out all over my keyboard.

What in WoSo’s name is NWSL thinking?!!? I mean, not that we even know what or who NWSL is, is it the owners? The supposed admin arm supplied by USSF? The invisible man, NWSL commissioner Jeff Plush? Some sordid combination of these? Or none of these and it’s just some guys on a conference call once every few months from MLS, FOX and US Soccer, coming together to figure out some infuriating and unexplained way to piss off fans? The more I see, the more I think it’s the latter.

Back to the Soccerwire piece. I have no real problem with a predetermined site, if it were truly neutral to all teams. A venue that hosts an NWSL team is not neutral to anyone and especially not if the team that uses that venue makes it to the final. There are any number of venues across the nation that would be truly neutral and would be a good atmosphere for a televised final. Not to mention that a neutral site would open up the opportunity to showcase the NWSL to new fans.

Putting the final in a place such as Portland (if that’s the case since Merritt Paulson seems to have walked back from Portland being a sure thing) who has a very good fan base and creates a great atmosphere for the game is just plain dishonest (and asking a lot of the local fans to show up and support two teams that they would normally see as foes if the home team doesn’t make the final). By NWSL bowing to whomever is making this call, be it FOX or MLS as PR, or even the owners (although I think that the more numerous the asinine decisions are coming from NWSL, the less the actual owners have a say) they are trying to present NWSL as something it is not. NWSL is not Portland. Portland is an anomaly and as such showcasing the atmosphere in Portland is misleading any new potential fan or sponsor. The game experience a new fan from Boston gets will not be anywhere near that on display in Portland. That’s not to single out Boston, they won’t get that experience at any of the other seven team venues either. Sponsors won’t reach that many fans at any other team venue, leading both fans and sponsors to feel they’ve just been had by a bait-and-switch scheme.

The total lack of any transparency by the league to journos/bloggers/fans is beyond infuriating. Fans are constantly treated like any decisions the league makes doesn’t affect them, in their wallet or their support. We get a pretty basic website, a twitter account that exists to RT the team’s twitter posts and set of Rules and Regulations that isn’t worth the virtual ink it’s written with. We are expected to just accept and support any and all changes the league makes with no explanation or warning. The league knows best and you know..”trust us”. Fans don’t really expect to have a say in how the league is run, at least not most rational fans, all we want is to be treated like thinking, reasoning adults, not small children (the NWSL’s seemingly favorite demographic) who often are told to do something “because I said so”, and do. Fans want to have a place to provide feedback about what they like and don’t like and they want to feel like someone even cares. Some individual teams are great about taking and acknowledging feedback, some less than great, but the league makes no such effort and it’s not unnoticed by fans.

Other sports leagues have commissioners who are out in front of the media taking the heat and the praise that comes with the job. NWSL has no such person. Jeff Plush is the invisible man of NWSL. He may have been appointed because of his ties to MLS and experience building a team, but he is MIA to fans and media alike and we don’t like it. We want him to be the front man for the decisions, good and bad, that the league makes. We need a face of the league. If he’s not going to be it then the owners need to appoint a spokesperson to be that face. I want to have someone to complain to or thank when things happen. Right now I have nothing and no one, not a good thing when fans have no recourse but to take to social media or blog about their frustrations. A league needs to spin everything that happens in their favor, even if sometimes that means taking a little heat first.

Which brings me to the total lack of regard for any media types trying to spread the word about the league. NWSL as a relatively new league has to rely on all the media-type attention they can get. I say media-type because things are changing and print media and TV aren’t the way many fans get their day-to-day information about their teams, especially if those teams belong to a new, growing league. Fans increasingly rely on bloggers and social media, along with a few internet sites that are fighting to get access to the league. These people largely don’t get paid for what they do, yet they do it. They do it diligently and with as much dedication to telling the truth as any major journalistic endeavor. Yet, time and again they are bypassed for more conventional media who give the absolute minimum of inches or airtime to any league news. NWSL, whoever that may be, needs to get with the current times and give these media-types access and accurate information in a timely and consistent manner if there is any hope of coming off as a truly professional league. It’s not just about locker rooms and venues.

I’m pissed about the decision to change venues of the final, whether it be Portland or not, at the 9th hour. I know a lot of fans share this feeling with me. Did the league seem to forget that many fans made the pilgrimage to Canada for the World Cup and as such are smack dab out of leave or holiday/vacation time? Moving the final to a Thursday is foolish on so many levels, least of which is limiting the number of people who can travel for a mid-week game. Just like men not playing on turf, why are the women expected to play their final on a Thursday and not on the weekend as all have done before? Seriously NWSL, are you the FIFA of WoSo?

If all of this has been done to accommodate some very suspect TV deal, I’m even more pissed. I acknowledge NWSL may not have much leverage when it comes to what any network will do for them, but that doesn’t mean that you aren’t supposed to fight for what is best for the league. So far counting the very, very iffy FOXSoccer2go streams, the lack of any screen time for the defending champions and a heavy reliance on MLS venues (see previous paragraph about misleading game experiences), this really isn’t much of a deal. And if my suspicions (since I have no facts to go on) are correct, the league isn’t making any money from it and may in fact be paying FOX to air the games. So yeah, if these accommodations were part of that deal, I’m pissed.

Fans like me – a longtime follower of WoSo, and unlike me – new to the sport, all need to be kept in the back of the minds of every person involved with NWSL. We the fans, expect and deserve no less.

So maybe this wasn’t as much of a rant as I thought it would be, but I hope I made some good points and didn’t ramble too much. I’m just getting more sick-and-tired of the constant ignorance of the “league”