MLS recently turned down a large media rights offer that came with the condition it would start to relegate teams.
Inside sports business
Imagine a world where the Mariners, through their tortuous years of around 90 or 100 losses from 2010 through 2013, would have faced the prospect of being dropped down to Class AAA.
We used to joke about that back when I covered them. About how a demotion for too much terrible play might have inspired the team’s ownership to try to be more competitive back at a time they were running Adam Kennedy out there as a cleanup hitter.
Anyhow, the concept of relegation is actually quite real in soccer, where leagues in most countries but ours demote poorly performing teams. The subject came up last week when Sports Business Daily reported that Major League Soccer (MLS) a month ago turned down a $4 billion media rights offer that was contingent upon accepting a relegation/promotion system like the rest of the planet.
The 10-year deal would have started in 2023 and be four times what MLS currently earns in media rights — a serious consideration for a league where more money is needed to lure and keep top talent.
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It came from the MP & Silva media conglomerate, whose owner, Riccardo Silva, runs a second-tier North American Soccer League (NASL) franchise in Miami. Under the plan, the worst two or three MLS teams would be demoted to NASL, while that lower circuit’s best squads would be promoted.
Silva has been on a mission to introduce relegation here. He paid Deloitte to conduct a survey last fall that showed 88 percent of 1,000 American soccer fans asked would go for it.
The reason Silva wants relegation included in any media deal is simple: It creates a compelling reason for viewers to keep watching bad teams. Just think of it as a Mariners fan back in 2010 when the team was losing 101 games. Would the threat of them playing against the Memphis Redbirds and Round Rock Express come 2011 have kept you glued to the TV during otherwise meaningless games in August and September?
Of course it would have.
And that type of increased interest would, in theory, help sell MLS to viewers not only here, but worldwide.
In turn, the whopping rights fee would help the league attract more international players, get Americans to stick around instead of playing overseas and convince viewers here and abroad that MLS is a force.
So, why did MLS…