Women’s Professional Soccer Kicks-off with Facebook
By Sarah Klein
Most people wouldn’t have suggested starting a new professional sports league in 2009. And given its checkered history of poor finances and small crowds, most people probably wouldn’t have suggested that women’s soccer would be the sport to focus on. But that’s exactly what the Women’s Professional Soccer league just did!
The WPS launched in March of this year, as a replacement for the Woman’s United Soccer Association (WUSA), which folded back in 2003 due to a lack of funding. Even with big names like Mia Hamm, WUSA crowds averaged only around 3,000 a game. Even in sound economic times, women’s sports generally sell fewer tickets than men’s, so the WPS kick-off in the midst of a global economic crisis seemed more than a little risky.
Despite these concerns, supporters, organizers, players and fans feel this second chance may be the real deal. There’s a wider pool of talent across the seven teams, as many of the top players from around the world have come to play on American turf. But more importantly, there’s simply a bigger drive to do it right this time around.
As part of the effort to make the league a success, WPS has launched a surprisingly personal, surprisingly connected Facebook campaign. The league has its own fan page, where staff members post updates, news stories, photos and videos multiple times a day. Over 14,000 fans follow this page and many actively comment on the posts. Each team in the league also has its own page, with information about upcoming games and stadium locations.
But what is most surprising about the team pages is the chance to get a glimpse into the lives of these talented female athletes. Where paparazzi would stalk top male athletes in more popular sports, here players and staff document every step for public viewing. Photos range from contract signings and the draft, to pre-season fitness testing and practices, to airport waiting areas, and impromptu pool matches.
The organizers understand that the key to keeping this league afloat is getting the fans involved. The WPS set out with a goal of getting 5,000 fans to each game. According to the San Francisco Business Times, the Bay Area FC Gold Pride, one of the more popular teams as far as Facebook fans go, has been averaging around 4,000. Considering where the economy is, coming up a little short isn’t too bad.
But the league won’t survive unless more fans by tickets. The Internet is a cheap way to reach the biggest audience possible and Facebook – as many companies, brands, and now teams are learning – connects this audience directly to the players. The league and players are more accessible to fans than ever before. Hopefully a boost in ticket sales will soon follow.