The Exporting of Commercial American Football Talent

The ring-around-the-collar track needs to go.

The ring-around-the-collar track needs to go.

This by Joshua Boren. Bio in full below.

With the January transfer window here it seemed like an opportune time to revisit the discussion of American talent overseas. When it comes to the typical football transactions we see this time a year, it is still considered more rare than commonplace to expect Americans to be major contributors. It will not always be that way and continues to improve but, for the time being, those of us Stateside-football fans will have to depend on the likes of Clint Dempsey of Tottenham Hotspur and Michael Bradley of AS Roma to further the American cause.

But what if I was to tell you that is not necessarily the case when it comes to America and football? What if I could convince you there is an area in the football industry in which the US is a hotbed of talent for overseas clubs? Believe it or not, it is true. While the US may not yet be a major exporter of footballing talent on the pitch, our understanding of venue commercialization and revenue generation off the pitch is a highly-demanded commodity.

As the influx of new American and foreign owners (often of a younger generation than their predecessors) purchase clubs at far higher prices than those before them or with levels of debt and obligation beyond fathomable, the need to own and increase one’s own revenue streams becomes more critical to the success of a club. These revenues are generated by three key areas; broadcast, commercial and match-day revenues. As such, outside of broadcast income, the heart of the greatest source of revenue potential for a football club is driven by their home grounds – the stadium.

One needs to look no further than American football stadiums for a prototype as the NFL is a benchmark for how to drive revenue from these buildings; used less than 20 times per year on average.

Specifically, it is the VIP and Premium experience that is provided the most attention and for good reason. With these sources of revenue exempt from revenue sharing in the NFL (club seats, suites, concessions, etc.), those teams with new, state-of-the-art stadiums have a significant edge in profitability. These constraints led to innovative solutions in the design of stadia as teams sought to maximize these areas.

Given the overall success of the business model it was only a matter of time before it was imported and replicated by overseas clubs seeking new – and renovated – stadia. The most notable and easily recognizable example is that of Emirates Stadium, home of Arsenal and opened in 2006.

Emirates, boasting American influence and design elements, became the model for UEFA and other European clubs seeking ways to maximize revenue and better the overall fan experience. Emirates has been hailed for its success and has highlighted another area where clubs could compete beyond the pitch in the ever-growing arms war that is football; stadia development and commercial rights.

The aspirations of the clubs have improved as well.

As we are currently working with Serie A club AS Roma on its new home development, I can state firsthand the desire from the owners to ensure that their new stadium is not only top-of-the-line but also the next prototype for stadia development utilized by UEFA and FIFA for European and global tournaments.

With this trend running parallel to the overall growth of football globally, it is not just American design expertise that is needed.

In fact, the knowledge and experience in the operating, promoting and managing of these venues may be more critical to a building’s overall success. This bodes well for firms specializing in this space (e.g. AEG, CAA, Comcast-Spectacor, WMG, etc.), many of whom have invested heavily in football.

Personally, I am glad to see the staunch supporters of football here in the States now reaping the benefits. For example, affiliates of both AEG and Comcast-Spectacor will be involved with the World Cup in Brazil in 2014 and post-Games as the operators of Nova Arena in Sao Paolo, Arena Pernambuco in Recife, Arena da Baixada in Curitiba and Mineirão Stadium in Belo Horizonte, respectively. More recently, as of early December 2012, Comcast Spectacor’s subsidiary Front Row Marketing Services signed a 3-year deal with Norwich City of the Barclays Premier League to maximize their global commercial brand rights and revenues.

If still unconvinced of the American exportation of stadia expertise, there is no better example of an organization adapting to the future and optimizing the opportunities from their building than Sporting Kansas City of MLS with Livestrong Sporting Park.

Livestrong Park

Livestrong Park

Sporting KC has taken a new, tech-friendly stadium and converted it into a scalable consulting business known as Sporting Innovations. Whether how to display simultaneously targeted ads to various user groups (e.g. supporters section, club spaces, family areas, etc.) or utilize an IPTV system to identify spectators misbehaving, Sporting has had numerous inquiries from European and foreign clubs for tours and demonstrations of the stadium’s unique offerings providing the club with a new revenue stream that did not even exist before moving into a home of its own.

As the dollars associated with global football continue to climb, and the trend of American exportation of stadium commercialization grows, it will only be a matter of time before we are watching the next generation of superstar American footballers playing overseas in the next generation of American influenced sporting cathedrals for some of the world’s most storied clubs and cities.

About the Author



Joshua A. Boren leads new business development, sales, and marketing opportunities for the Sport sector of global design firm Woods Bagot as well as specializing in organizational research and critical benchmarking for stadia and arena facilities worldwide. As the Director of Sport Development, Joshua has helped position one of the world’s most historic architectural practices in the rarefied specialty of sports design and his efforts have helped win various undertakings across the globe including new stadia for Qatar’s 2022 World Cup and the new AS Roma Stadium in Rome, Italy. Joshua is a graduate of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and brings an entrepreneurial and business background to Woods Bagot which supports the Sport group’s focus on revenue generation and cost savings. Prior to joining Woods Bagot, Joshua served as the Director of Business Development for sports design firms Aedas, Populous and MEIS.

Follow Joshua on Twitter at @JoshuaABoren or e-mail him at

4 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Nelson on 2013/01/08 at 11:07 PM

    Nice post. Are stadia like Freedom Park being built with plans or options to increase the seating capacity? I hope to see the league grow to NFL or even big college sized stadia.

    Maybe in thirty years college soccer will be bigger than MLS and people will complain about a national championship system. One can dream…


  2. […] The Exporting of Commercial American Football Talent – from The Shin Guardian: Specifically, it is the VIP and Premium experience that is provided the most attention and for good reason. […]


  3. […] The Shin Guardian argues that, while the impact of American playing talent may still be growing abroad, the impact of American financial know how  in soccer abroad is undeniable. […]


  4. Posted by GeorgeCross on 2013/01/26 at 1:59 PM

    I am really torn regarding this subject matter. The MBA in me *loves* it. It really is a fascinating business topic and I find it very very interesting. But the fan in me, the one with an emotional connection hates it. I know times have changed, and most big clubs are not ‘part of the community’ these days, owned by a local-boy-done-good. It’s all business, and the new breed of owner, is seeking to maximize their profit. I get that. But I cannot help feel heart break about many of the old fans being priced out, and the new breed of fan being sterile. Don’t get me wrong, I am not harking back to the vile 70s and 80s. Just wish there could be more of a compromise with the pricing, and that it wasn’t all about money. If only. Part of me is very glad I don’t support one of the big clubs with a foreign owner…

    Thank you for taking the time to write this article, it really was a thoroughly enjoyable read.


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