This started as a reply to a comment here from Dan Borislow himself on our recent story on the potential imminent closure of WPS. It’s part rant, part manifesto, part request for feedback so we can all finally get the women’s game flourishing. The third time really does need to be the charm!
Mr. Borislow is certainly a lightning rod in the women’s game, but to fully “blame” him for the demise of WPS is not fair. A healthier league, a bigger league, a league on a more sound business model would have been able to absorb (or avoid all together) the… let’s say “inefficient” relationship created when the Washington Freedom were sold to the outspoken, passionate, soccer-loving telecom entrepreneur.
It certainly appears – regardless of if you agree with Borislow’s gripes about how the league was run or not – that WPS jumped into the relationship without enough due diligence, and that if it had been healthier to begin with, not only could they have avoided needing to take Borislow in on short notice, they might not have lost John & Maureen Hendricks in the first place. No one had spent more on the game than the Hendricks family over the previous decade, and to be caught by surprise when the spigot was turned off is only the fault of the one doing the drinking, not the guy with the new bucket of water standing at the door.
So, I agree with Dan Borislow in his desire to want the world’s best female players to earn an income commensurate with their unique abilities. I join Borislow in commending everyone that put blood, sweat, tears, and money into WPS, and in that they all deserve a huge thanks and commendation for trying – again – to make this work.
But this agreement doesn’t mean in the slightest that I agree with what went down or how – from either side. However things got to where they were 4 months ago, it seems pretty clear that the inability for WPS and Borislow to play nicely in the same sandbox has directly contributed to the state of things today. Who knows what new owners or sponsors might have stepped in with a lifeline had the dark cloud of legal uncertainty not existed?
Whatever was right or wrong with WPS, it appears to be over for good, but I think there is plenty of momentum to keep a top tier option for the players. But the formula for success cannot be relying on wealthy individuals to pay for greatness like a hobby. As an unpaid GM of an MLS-affiliated W-League, trust me, I know… (In fact, I should be working on that right now, instead of writing this, but like everyone else who cares about the future of the women’s game, I just can’t help myself when so many words and ideas are stirred by the topic at times like this.)
It’s nice to say everyone “deserves” a living wage in the world, but we know the world isn’t’ fair, and so far the two leagues have tried to literally create a market from scratch. Players will go overseas, but if they don’t draw fans there either, it won’t work long term – and overseas does not have a youth soccer factory churning out enough players to fill in the quality gaps on the field. The “supply” of players in the US is enormous. It’s not their fault they’re so good. And I think it’s up to smart leaders and business people to create more demand – to find what clicks for the public.
The whole business model relies on the public “butts in seats”, and no country is better at that business – or the economic machine around it – than the United States of Sports Crazies! The only thing the other countries have going for them is geographic concentration and brand affiliation with the men’s teams. We’re smart enough to solve those two problems here aren’t we?