Large majority of readers continue to support U.S. women.(Friday, January 21, 2000) -- A sampling of the voluminous e-mail following the "U.S. Soccer dispute with World Cup champs defies easy solution." Once again, the large majority support the United States women in their contract dispute with the U.S. Soccer Federation.
No more excuses
It is about time that we stop making excuses for the United States Soccer Federation. Their ineptitude is now costing the true fans of the sport in this country dearly. Through their recalcitrance and incalculable egotism they are managing to deflate the momentum of the U.S. women’s team and through their utter incompetence they are failing to use the marketing savvy so exquisitely demonstrated by the Women’s World Cup management to build the US men’s team. How else to explain the consistent lack of U.S. fans at national team events such as the recent U.S.-Iran game? And this occurring in the same stadium that drew 90,000-plus (for the WWC final) in what is surely now considered a soccer hotbed, Los Angeles?
I am now convinced that SOMETHING is not clicking when it should be. In my book, there is one common denominator among all the recent lack of support and lost opportunities -- an ossified group of inept administrators who should be thrown out at the next possible opportunity. I only hope that it is not too late.
William Jellick [William.Jellick@concert.com]
I agree in part with your arguments. U.S. Soccer has totally bungled this situation with the U.S. women's national team contract. You hit the nail on the head, so to speak, pointing out how they or (marketing agent) IMG never took advantage of the wildly successful World Cup aftermath. Those who said that "glow" would fade after a few weeks were obviously wrong, and U.S. Soccer continues to basically ignore this success.
To continue, U.S. Soccer has gone out of its way to NOT acknowledge the women's success, contribution, commitment and dedication over the last many years, and the impact they made on women's sports. Did YOU see or hear of a celebration by U.S. Soccer after the Women’s World Cup win in the Rose Bowl? I didn't. Instead of a celebration the team was chastised for "not winning pretty enough." What nonsense!
I agree with your observation that there is an absence of good will on both sides. That has not always been the case, however, at least not on the women's side. They waited patiently through six months of put-offs and stalling by the U.S. Soccer Federation before going public with this dispute. They had also been through another contract dispute prior to the World Cup and were playing under a contract that for the most part dated back to 1996.
Their contract expired last summer. I, personally, would have had the first offer ready and on the table within a week after the win at the Rose Bowl. In fact, I might have had it there in my suite overlooking a sold-out crowd that made history. And I definitely would have capitalized on my relationship with mega-sponsor machine, IMG.
There is no balance to this argument -- the ball is very definitely in U.S. Soccer's court -- or half of the field -- and leaning heavily against their ability to run this organization in a professional manner. And, lest you think differently, it is run by volunteers. The well-paid staff can only take and follow orders of their volunteer leaders.
The only positive aspect I can find in all of this is that a professional volunteer capable of solving the situation is in charge of the negotiations -- Alan Rothenberg. He quite obviously understands the impact this team made on the world of women's sports, on soccer in particular, and I don't think he wants this ugly dispute to sully the reputation of the sport of soccer.
Let's hope he can get this resolved quickly and we can go on with the positive memories of a magical three weeks in the summer of 1999. And by the way, did the women's team get a bonus for qualifying for any previous World Cup competitions, as the men did for making it to the second round in 1994 and for coming in dead last in 1998?
Kit Hardy Simeone [Kitsim@aol.com]
Women get second-rate treatment
I think that the current situation with the U.S. women is quite a bit different than the U.S. men. Historically these women have won the highest levels of international competition and have doggedly through the years been faithful to the U.S. soccer community through untold hardship to themselves and their families.
I wrote you a while back and mention what happened after the 1991 world championship . . . the women were shunted aside and told to be patient and wait their turn. No matches were originally scheduled for 1992, but in ‘93 and ‘94 we would start picking up the pace for preparation leading up to the ‘95 World Cup. Historically, the women have played second fiddle to the men.
Now the women have proven themselves again. Are they a sure thing in the future? No. I am a businessman as well as a coach, and I can tell you life is a cycle. But I think Mia Hamm is worth more than Hank Steinbrecher to U.S. Soccer. He is getting $270,000 a year, now lets see what is she getting? The overpaid execs could use a little reality check. Why can Hank get paid what he gets paid? A lot of it goes to sponsorships of and the popularity of these women. Time to give more than a little back.
Lets give the women a contract that reflects their real value, add incentive clauses based on success on the field and off, make sure we are bringing young blood into the program, not being nostalgic and keeping players past their prime. Finally lets play our best, that is what the world wants to see.
Yes this is personal, as a male coach who coaches women I see the movement out there to hire a woman coach just because she is a woman, whether she is better than the man or not. This is happening on all levels. Yet when we have a qualified woman to run the national team, the old boys want to look past her. Lets hire the best qualified coach for this team, that is Lauren Gregg. She has been the tactical engine for the national team the last nine years, she has taken our under-21s and won internationally with them, she has coached college Division I.
The sight of U.S. Soccer not stepping forward and given her a job well deserved, is an embarrassment to all of us coaching this great game.
Mike Steitzer [firstname.lastname@example.org]
American women asking too much
Thanks for bringing sense to this discussion. I've read the SoccerTimes mail bag and am surprised not one letter (published on the net) highlights these simple truths. Does the public just not know? How could they not? The women's demands seem to me to be saying that since there is no women's professional league, that international play should be the surrogate “league,” and U.S. Soccer is the team owner.
All well and fine, but which other countries are also stepping up with the same deal for their women to create teams for this league? After the men's success in '94, they were “rewarded” with a league -- not a sweetheart deal -- from U.S. Soccer. They want the same deal the men got? They have it, and more as is. That somehow they don't is a gross oversimplification.
That the women are now arguing with U.S. Soccer as they are suggests they know a women's league will not happen. So, they want U.S. Soccer to step up to fill the void, before they too, like the men's generation of '94 gives way to the younger ones -- as it's happening now in Australia suggests is inevitable. At the same time, things at U.S. Soccer must change for the sake of the game in this country.
It reminds me of nothing but the “management” madness of local youth soccer organizations trickled up, but only on a grander scale by men receiving way more than I'll ever dream of, pretending they are doing good. Thanks again for the reasoned piece.
Bill Cline [email@example.com]
DiCicco for president
I believe the United States Soccer Federation needs to reevaluate the decisions it has made in recent history regarding the women's national team. It seems to me unfathomable that the team and the Federation have worked so hard for so many years and spent an enormous amount of money this past summer on advertising to come to this point.
Hasn't this women's team done what was asked of them? Then give them the contract they deserve. Didn't Coach (Tony) DiCicco do an outstanding job as their coach? Then why is he not the head coach now? And in searching for a new head coach, isn't the job generally offered to someone who has paid their dues and can continue the winning tradition? Then why wasn't Lauren Gregg been appointed?
I know I may not understand all of the ins and outs of running the USSF, however I feel the answers to these questions are obvious. Is the USSF trying to destroy the future of women's soccer in the U.S.? I certainly hope not. And, I certainly hope they know what they are doing. If not, maybe it's time to vote for a new president of the USSF. I vote for Tony DiCicco.
Very thoughtful analysis on the U.S. women's dispute. Excellent work. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Chris Huston [Huston@bergen.com]
U.S. women are greedy
Your article was very informative regarding the dispute between the U.S. national team and USSF. I'm a 33 year-old woman who played sports collegiately and semi-professionally. I was bitten by the soccer bug last summer and was proud to see a women's sport finally get in the national spotlight. After the World Cup I immediately bought tickets to the Toys ‘R Us Victory tour held at the All State Arena in Rosemont, Ill. I spent 37.50 each for 4 tickets. Whoever was hired to market this event did next to nothing to promote the event until two weeks before the day of the event. At that time all the $37.50 tickets were cut in half.
Guess who got a raw deal? Me. In addition, the player who was absent from the event was Mia Hamm. This was the start of the magic wearing off. Now I find out that the women who reportedly got $100,000 each for the Toys ‘R Us tour, $3,150 a month plus a bonus for winning the World Cup, plus any endorsement deals and free cars (Volvo for Brandi Chastain) are boycotting for more money. Give me a break! They already make six figures.
As I mentioned earlier I've played sports all my life and I would have given anything to represent the United States in my sport (softball). . . I guarantee the girls who have been given the opportunity to wear the USA jersey in Australia are fulfilling a dream that has nothing to do with money.
The best thing of all is the no-name girls are winning. These women are lucky this isn't getting any press because their golden image would be tarnished.
Cindi Williams [Cindi.Williams@tellabs.com]
Too little U.S. news coverage
I read your article on the current dispute with respect to the women's team, and I was pleased to learn more information about the situation. There has been far too little news coverage of this matter, and many questions remain unanswered.
While I believe the trip to Australia by younger players was a terrific by-product of the dispute, there is a genuine need for critical reporting on the highly paid (news to me, but not surprising) U.S. Soccer officials -- what they do right and what they do wrong. My own belief is that U.S. Soccer makes a lot of errors in its development of the game.
Quite frankly, the development of women's soccer requires all of the parties involved to move forward together aggressively and creatively to build the sport. If the agonizingly deliberate pace at which the mediocre men's league was organized is any indication of what to expect, I'm not anxious for a women's league to develop. There will not be loads of die-hard fans to support a conventionally organized professional league.
Having been at the sparsely attended Gotham Cup at which terrific soccer teams were on hand, even great soccer will not yield the strong crowds needed to support a professional league. On the other hand, both World Cups hosted in the US were amazing successes. I believe that the women's victory tour was also successful commercially.
Too much of the development of U.S. soccer is occurring without the sort of insightful and critical news reporting that can be beneficial in the development of the sport. There are fascinating, substantive stories to be published --what's the real deal on the selection of the women's coach? I hope you will continue to report on the current women's situation and be even more informative about what is happening.
I'm sure there are many others, such as myself, who are hoping that U.S. Soccer doesn't screw things up again. I will be looking forward to reading more.
Thank you for a layman's explanation of the squabble between the U. S. women's team and U.S. Soccer Federation. It became much clearer in your concise and probably very accurate view of the dispute. Please continue to keep up for "soccer junkies" and the public informed in your clear and simple coverage of this matter.
I for one hope it is resolved quickly, as I am a big supporter of the future women's league and see (resolving) this dispute as a stepping block in achieving that goal.
USSF fails with women
I am not one of those who believes you can stress the merits of either the U.S. men's or women's national teams only by trashing the other. I happen to prefer the women's game to the men's (especially collegiate), but I would never miss an opportunity to watch the Brazilian or the Dutch men's national teams work their magical styles. And I still watch tapes of the Ajax teams of old!
(Regarding) the USSF's failure to exploit the national love affair that surrounded the women’s national team World Cup phenomenon . . . your article suggests this failure may reflect bad blood between the women and USSF, and not just gross incompetence in marketing.
I'm not ready to agree with your points about the lack of competition in the 1991, 1996, and 1999 World Cups and Olympics. Even if granted, they don't affect the bottom line: the U.S. women beat the world. In '91, the U.S. women's was basically cobbled together a few months before the China trip. While the competition was clearly less robust than today, it still included very competent teams from Norway, Germany, Italy and Sweden. (Coach) Anson Dorrance assessed the Norwegians as superior to us fitness-wise, so '91 was no cakewalk for the US.
As to our having an advantage in '99, certainly home field counted significantly. But we were hard pressed both technically and physically against virtually every opponent (excepting Denmark and North Korea). We could easily have lost to Germany or China, and the Brazil game was much closer than the score evidenced.
I embrace your point about the higher financial and participatory levels behind women's soccer in this country, not so much for its implications about international parity, but as the true success story of the women's game in the U.S. Up until '99, the women’s national team success was the outgrowth of quality women's collegiate and youth soccer programs here. With the WWC '99 victory, the women’s national team is now in a good position to return the favor, and promote and enhance those programs, as well as soccer generally in the U.S. It is the failure of USSF to exploit this opportunity that I fault them for, much more than for their no-class act over the Australia Cup.
Instead of playing the women’s national team and the youth\amateur programs off against each other (as some perverse zero-sum game), the USSF should be taking every opportunity to have them reinforce each other. But that's not very likely with the folks currently running things in Chicago.
Keith Keener [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Fire the bureaucrats
When all is said and done, you journalists are nothing but mouthpieces for the overpaid bureaucrats at the USSF. No easy solution? Why, fire the bureaucrats and their sexist British advisers and reward the women for winning everything within their sight. The rest is sheer sophistry!
Pay the women better
Did you notice the number of American fans that attended the U.S.\Iran friendly at the Rose Bowl? Five thousand at best. I was there. Have you have accepted the disparity of interest between U.S. men's and women's national teams?
How much revenue did the Women's World Cup bring to U.S. Soccer in 1999? Compensation in athletics is generally based upon performance, not future revenue expectations. What do U.S. national team members get paid? Women? Less?
The competitive record of the U.S. women's team through the 90's has been outstanding. The U.S. media has only recently bought in. Endorsement and other forms of compensation are following. The competitive record of the U.S. men's team is not outstanding. Interest in the men's team will not grow until this changes.
The revenue stream resulting from gate receipts and endorsements for U.S. men's soccer is currently less than those from the U.S. women's team. This won't change until the men's team perform better in world competition.
I felt that your article contained undercurrents of old-fashion male bias. I hope I'm wrong, but I wish you will re-read the article from the view of a male soccer fan with little (if any) bias and consider my view. Regardless, the U.S. women deserve to be paid more than the U.S. men team members.
Dennis McLean [email@example.com]
Let the women sweat
Don't have your insight on this, but my gut says that U.S. Soccer is doing this right. Let the "A" team suffer just a little, after all if you listen to the women themselves, they have sacrificed and persevered over long periods of time. What is another 3-6 months. (I have watched what American soccer I could in the last 40 years and, believe me, I have suffered and persevered too.)
But cave in to the women, appropriately, but later and let them have some money. We all know this is what U.S. Soccer will do anyway. The money is undoubtedly there to pay higher salaries. (As I remember the profits from the 1994 World Cup and Nike money was not to be spent all in one year, plus all other revenue.)
Salaries are not a big item for the U.S. Women. I should think facilities, hotels, travel, administration, coaches, etc.. are the big items. U.S. Soccer could always give them a share of the gate so they wouldn't have to pay out unless customers paid to get in
A professional league is altogether another matter. Women's soccer could be out on its ear shortly after the first ball is kicked in a "professional" league. I maintain the simplest of concepts: If you entertain, spectators will come. There is not enough American talent, men or women to entertain. Look at the energetic young American men in MLS. They don't have it -- yet, at least, not in any numbers.
The casual American soccer spectator, unfortunately, does not recognize the talent necessary to compete even at this level. (The level of play in the MLS almost always looks so awkward.) The problem I believe for this new league, would be bands of under-talented women trying to entertain. It will be a bust. I very sincerely hope I underestimate.
Ian Tweedle [firstname.lastname@example.org]