Miguel Angel Morenatti/AP
Carli Lloyd of the United States, right,
vies for the ball with Sweden's Sara

Can Twitter Help Women’s Professional Soccer Find Fans?

March 24, 2009 04:00 AM
by Denis Cummings
Women’s Professional Soccer will allow players to use Twitter during the league’s inaugural game in an attempt to attract new fans.

WPS to Allow Twitter of the Sideline

The Women’s Professional Soccer league will allow players on the Los Angeles Sol and Washington Freedom to use social networking tool Twitter during the league’s inaugural game this Sunday. If fans respond well to the idea, the league may allow players to use Twitter all season.

“To give fans the special opportunity to hear right from players about their thoughts in real time via Twitter is a special way to recognize that everyone will have a part in helping to make history with this game: players, fans, viewers and television,” said WPS Commissioner Tonya Antonucci in a press release. “We want it to be interactive and fun. We are a grassroots league and we thought this would be a great way to commemorate our first game.”

The league will select a handful of players to “tweet” during the game, while updates will also be provided by Antonucci and the official WPS Twitter feed. The WPS feed, launched in August, has provided updates during the player drafts in September, October and January, and linked to articles about the players and teams; it currently has over 2,300 followers.

WPS, like other professional leagues, has created pages on popular social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace and YouTube to reach out to fans, but its approach to Twitter is thus far unique. Though many athletes have Twitter feeds, tweeting during a game is frowned upon.

Bucks forward Charlie Villanueva posted a tweet during halftime of a March 15 NBA game and was reprimanded by coach Scott Skiles, who said, “[I]t’s nothing we ever want to happen again.” Suns center Shaquille O’Neal, after receiving permission from his coach, tweeted during a game Saturday, posting only, “Shhhhhhh.”

Background: WUSA and WPS

The Women’s Professional Soccer was formed to replace the Women’s United Soccer Association. Created in 2000 as the world’s first professional women’s soccer league, the WUSA folded in 2003 after losing roughly $100 million in three seasons.

WPS officials believe they have learned from the failure of the WUSA, particularly the need to keep spending down. “A ton of people knew about the WUSA, but they came once. It was more glitz and glamour,” said Joseph Quinn, president and general manager of the Washington Freedom, to The Washington Post. “Hopefully, this time around it is more substance.”

WPS officials also believe that they have done a better job building a fan base before the start of the season, due in large part to grassroots marketing such as online social networking. “Teams kind of landed like an alien ship in their markets, and they didn’t have grass-roots support,” Freedom coach Jim Gabarra told the Washington Times about the WUSA.

However, the recession has clouded the future of the WPS, as they have had difficultly securing sponsors and may have trouble selling tickets. “If you look at the marketplace—for everyone, not just the women’s league—it is really strained right now,” said the University of Southern California’s Sports Business Institute’s David Carter to the Post. “It’s incredibly unfortunate [for WPS] because it looks as though they have corrected their business model, and you just hope they can take it for a credible spin. It’s just bad timing.”

Reference: Women’s Professional Soccer


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