1) You are the Managing Director for the Milwaukee United Soccer Club, which will start its inaugural season in 2010. How did you get your current position? You have had plenty of previous soccer work experience. How did that help prepare you for your current position?
Well, the position is self-created. I came up with the idea last spring to build a women’s soccer club based around urban soccer players, community service and philanthropy, and community ownership. The reasons I use Managing Director as my title as opposed to something like President or CEO or General Manager are because the title relays that they are other directors in the organization of somewhat equal stature to myself, with me “managing” the organization, and because it connotes that I have specific hands-on duties (in our case, oversight for all things soccer). My previous experience as a coach, as a front-office member of two nascent amateur soccer clubs, combined with my education in sports business I feel has given me the necessary background to take the leap and build something new for my hometown.
2) What are your day-to-day responsibilities as you get the team up and running?
I work a “normal” job on top of overseeing MUSC. A normal day can involve anything from meeting with potential sponsors, meeting or speaking with members of our organization, doing research on players, communcating with our fanbase, being at community outreach events. It’s not a 24/7 job in actuality, but mentally I am always thinking of how we can take the next step in our club’s development.
3) As you get a new team off the ground, what type of PR challenges have you faced and how have you tried to tackle these obstacles?
Getting meaningful publicity for the club has been difficult, especially in the current economic climate. We have been using Twitter and Facebook to build support and are looking at under-the-radar/soft media outlets (local alternative newspapers, daily morning shows on local over-the-air TV, the blogosphere) as the next step in making people aware of us and what we are looking to accomplish.
4) Your team will be in the Women’s Premier Soccer League, which is one tier below the new Women’s Professional Soccer. WPS began play in March of this year. How does the reception of this league by the fans and media impact WPSL and your organization, if at all?
I think the launch of WPS creates the proper environment for a market that doesn’t have the stature of a Chicago or Los Angeles or New York or Boston to step into the women’s soccer arena with a low-cost alternative that has had proven success in developing players for professional soccer (9 of the first 13 selections in the 2009 WPS player draft had played at one point in the WPSL). The media is still skeptical of whether professional women’s team sports can survive long-term, but local teams that do not require extensive capital outlays (be it for facility rental, marketing, human resources, etc.) have done well (the WPSL has been in existence since 1998 and grew again in 2009 to 55 teams, including new entries in Seattle and Portland). The launch of WPS affects us in a positive way given that Chicago has been very successful off-the-field in promoting their brand both in their local market and in this area as well (doesn’t hurt that their President/CEO lives in the greater Milwaukee area), which has heightened awareness of women’s soccer in Milwaukee and provided what I feel is fertile ground for a WPSL team to develop.
5) What advice would you give to someone hoping to work in the business side of soccer in the U.S.?
Someone wanting to work in soccer in the U.S. must love the game first and foremost. I’d advise the individual to know what area of soccer business to which they are most attracted/gifted (coaching, scouting, marketing, sales, media) and home their skills in that area while learning whatever they can about the areas in which they aren’t as skilled or interested. My time at Queen City Football Club in Buffalo gave me a solid education in how to use my best skills (team development, being visible in the community and building relationships with locals) and combined them with an area of the business in which I wasn’t as comfortable (marketing and sponsorship development), which in the end gave me the right platform to eventually strike out on my own with Milwaukee United.