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WUSA - Reaction Of The Fans

Cultural and Education Section of the British Embassy - British Council
 This article was generously provided to ClubFootball by the British Council, which operates in China as the Cultural and Education Section of the British Embassy.


As France and North Korea kicked off the 2003 Women's World Cup in Philadelphia, soccer fans came out for the matches not knowing when they'd next see more. Hal Cohen gauges the reaction of the fans to the news that WUSA has ended.
In the week leading up to the World Cup, the Women's United Soccer Association (WUSA), gave many of its fans a kick to the heart when the league announced that after three years it would be suspending all future operations.
"A shortfall in revenue proved to be the hurdle which the WUSA could not overcome in time for planning the 2004 season," said John Hendricks, Chairman of the WUSA Board of Governors.
Formed after the US Women's triumph in the 1999 World Cup, WUSA was expected to use this year's Cup as an opportunity to rally around the popularity they've since generated. Instead, on a brilliant late summer Sunday, the kind made for watching a match, the mood was slightly dour.
"What can I feel besides disappointment?" asked Edna Valdepena, a resident of the Philadelphia suburbs reflected. "I have a four and six year-old girl, [WUSA] was a great source of positive role models for them."
With the end of WUSA, comes the folding of the Philadelphia Charge, one of its eight teams. Before they were riddled with injuries this season, the Charge were competitive on the field, and in the stands. They made the playoffs in each of their first two years, setting attendance marks in 2003 with an average of 7,245 per game, second best in the league.
The announcement came as a surprise to many. "I thought [the Charge] were doing pretty well here," said Corissa Giardino, a recent graduate of Villanova University, where the Charge played their home games. "Students would go and especially a lot of families from the area. It seems like a great thing to take a family to."
Season ticket holders Judy Duggan and Joanne Nammavong with their children were among the disappointed families. Walking out of the game, they were all sporting homemade shirts featuring their favorite player, French national player, Marinette Pichon. They were remiss both about having seen Pichon play for the last time, and losing their team. "It's unfortunate," Becky said. "This is what we looked forward to doing in the summer. Now what are we going to do?"
While inside the stadium, Nammavong used the setting as an opportunity to gather and commiserate with other WUSA fans. Many held court on whether WUSA's bold decision a week before the crown jewel of their sport was done out of necessity, or as a cry for help. "Some of our friends said that WUSA couldn't even afford to advertise during the Cup," Nammavong said. "It's a shame because compared to the salaries in other professional sports leagues, it doesn't take much just to keep it going.
Robert Varkas, from New York City, also agreed that the buck was the bottom line in WUSA's demise. "Julie Foudy said that the players would rather have had this announced before the World Cup, so it wouldn't be on the players' mind and rumors wouldn't leak out providing a distraction."
Varkas proposed remedy echoed that of Hendricks: more cash, and quick. "I think they need to find some sponsors," Varkas said. "TV is a big deal, and the contract WUSA had with the PAX network wasn't the greatest.
The Women's National basketball Association (WNBA) in the US, has been able to thrive in no small part through their sponsorship from the wildly successful National Basketball Association (NBA). WNBA uses NBA arenas, and has large television contracts with prominent networks. Major League Soccer (MLS), which has had fiduciary problems of its own, due to lack of sponsorship, doesn't have the funds to provide similar support to WUSA.
Hendricks mentioned the league could be revived in the future if more money is received, but for the fans that WUSA laboured to get, it looks like they will be playing the waiting game for now.


Hal Cohen, October 2003


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