it is interesting to watch the growth of football (soccer) here in the united states. it has been such a long process—largely helped by the 1994 world cup in which we were the host nation—but a process i believe is about to reach its tipping point.
both nbc and fox have gone ‘all in’ on the sport with all-day coverage on saturdays and sundays, and next weekend will feature matches from both the top tier english and german leagues on network television. while coverage is largely found on their respective sports networks, some of the biggest matches bleed over onto the parent network.
over the last few months i have listened to interviews with the heads of the premier league and bundesliga in which they reveal just how important these large television contracts are to the success of their leagues, and how excited they are about the growth potential for each league in america. even the smallest clubs are enjoying the influx of large cash reserves from this international growth, allowing them to make bigger signings during the transfer market and field more competitive teams. this makes the absence of one league in particular all the more fascinating.
the italian league—serie a—was one of the biggest in the world in the 90s and early 2000s. clubs like internationale, ac milan, and juventus won european titles regularly and enjoyed similar results domestically. however, a handful of bribery and match-fixing scandals rocked the league with the most damaging moment coming in 2005-06. the calciopoli (“footballville”) scandal saw giants juventus stripped of their title and relegated to serie b, and milan—along with a handful of others—precluded from the big moneymaking european competitions. the league has not fully recovered since, with some of its largest clubs even struggling to find shirt sponsors.
on the one side, you have leagues and leaders taking the long road to the top: building the foundations needed for success over large segments of time. on the other, you have leaders who took the short way around and who now—with ‘peak football’ and a massive payday nearing, but still yet to occur, in the united states—stand on the outside looking in.
ethical behavior is more than just right versus wrong. it’s good business.