Wednesday, March 14, 2007

MLS and Bundesliga partner up

Part one of a three part series with
Bundesliga CEO Christian Seifert
Jim Williams, The Examiner
Mar 14, 2007 3:00 AM (12 hrs ago)
Current rank: # 5 of 21,099
WASHINGTON - Major League Soccer and the Bundesliga — Germany’s top soccer league — have entered into a historic partnership that could have a major impact on soccer’s growth in the United States and Germany.

MLS Commissioner Don Garber and Bundesliga CEO Christian Seifert unveiled an agreement between the leagues to share experience, expertise, and best practices. MLS Deputy Commissioner Ivan Gazidis and Bundesliga Executive Board Member Tom Bender also participated in Tuesday’s announcement in Miami at the SPORTELAmerica 2007 convention, which features the growing technology surrounding the coverage of sports.

Gazidis and Bender laid the groundwork for the new relationship two weeks ago in New York.

“This relationship marks an important step forward for Major League Soccer,” Garber said. “We are all aware that this age of globalization means new challenges for soccer, the most global sport. We are proud to enter this mutually beneficial relationship with the Bundesliga, one of the world’s most well-run and most successful soccer leagues.”

In an exclusive phone conversation from Miami, the head of Germany’s top soccer league spoke to me about why he wanted to work with the MLS.

“We initiated discussions with Major League Soccer because of the impressive progress it has made since its inception in 1996,” Seifert said. “We look forward to learning from MLS, an exemplary organization and a modern league with an eye on the future. Likewise, we are proud to contribute to the continued rise of soccer in the United States.”

Seifert on new media: “Establishing the Bundesliga brand in the U.S. is very important to us and we feel that broadcasting our games on GolTV is a great start. The network airs the games both in English and Spanish accomplishing our goal to market our product to a new fan base as well as the rapidly growing and very loyal Hispanic fans of soccer in the U.S.”

Seifert on the relationship with MLS: “We believe that the MLS is following a great plan for soccer-only stadiums; it is a plan that has served us well and we have an average of 39,000 fans per game, the largest average attendance in Europe. We both agree on a salary cap and that you can have a world-class league without having owners that overpay for players.”

Jim Williams is a seven-time Emmy Award-winning TV producer, director and writer.

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