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A dialogue with Alan Rothenberg on the history, development & future of the MLS and football

From a sports business, there are interesting insights about the heart of football/soccer history and development. Alan Rothenberg, a renowned expert in sports law, sports leadership and sports business, participated in a dialogue earlier this year (2020), in which he gives the audience first-hand knowledge from how he participated in boosting football’s (soccer in the U.S.) popularity in the U.S. from his positions as Chairman and CEO of the 1994 FIFA World Cup, Chairman of the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup, President of the U.S. Soccer Federation, Chairman of the U.S. Soccer Foundation and a founder of Major League Soccer.

At the time, the 1994 FIFA World Cup was the most successful in the history of FIFA. The tournament generated massive average attendance numbers, approximately 64,000 fans per game, and produced an operating profit of more than $69 mio.

Alan Rothenberg also owned the North American Soccer League team Los Angeles Aztecs and acted as the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics soccer commissioner. When leading the Aztecs, Rothenberg worked closely with football legends Rinus Michels (coach and inventor of ‘total football’) and Johan Cruyff. Before this period, Alan Rothenberg held top executive positions in the NBA, e.g., representing the Los Angeles Lakers on the NBA’s Board of Governors from 1971-1979 and serving on the same board again from 1982-1990 as President for the Los Angeles Clippers.

Podcast with Alan Rothenberg

Some additional interesting insights on football’s development:

The development, which is illustrated in the infographics below, reveals the intense professionalization and commercialization of football over the years due to milestones such as the Bosman ruling, globalization, technological development (e.g., social media, digitization, data-driven sporting and business approaches etc.). As leading governing bodies, FIFA and UEFA exemplify this development and how to optimize capitalization from a centralized approach to selling their footballing rights. In this regard, people have often asked me why leading and sponsoring brands did not put more pressure on FIFA or would cut the ties to the governing body during times of scandals, e.g., corruption, and there is one clear answer: ‘there is only one FIFA World Cup’, which is an extraordinary lucrative business opportunity for the associated sponsors. If Adidas had stepped down as a sponsor, Nike would have been ready immediately!

Infographics: FIFA revenue generation from 2003-2019 (source: Statista, 2020).

Infographics: FIFA total prize money for the World Cup 1982-2018 and average attendance for the World Cup games up until 2018 (source: Statista, 2020).

Infographics: UEFA revenue generation from 2004/2005-2018/2019 (source: Statista).

Infographics: UEFA revenue generation from the UEFA Champions League and revenue distribution (source: Statista).

Infographics: UEFA EURO Championship revenue generation and breakdown from 1992-2016 (source: Statista).

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