Sepp Blatter: MLS are "struggling."

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Post by RedOranje Thu Jan 03, 2013 4:24 am

FIFA president Sepp Blatter took a sharp jab at Major League Soccer during a television interview this weekend, saying it has yet to catch on as a legitimate professional league in the United States.

Blatter suggested league officials have had ample time to get the world's most popular sport to take hold in the U.S., but the MLS has failed to generate much interest among mainstream American sports fans.

"It is a question of time, I thought -- we had the World Cup in 1994," Blatter told Al Jazeera TV. "But it is now 18 years in so it should have been done now. But they are still struggling."

The FIFA boss made the remarks during a lengthy interview released on Saturday when asked to answer a question by the interviewer, Marwan Bishara, about the state of the game's development in the U.S. and China.

Blatter said that soccer remains the U.S.'s most popular youth participation sport, outranking both football and baseball, but said that the professional league fever that rages around much of the world has never quite stuck in the U.S.

"There is no very strong professional league (in the U.S.)," Blatter said. "They have just the MLS but they have no professional leagues which are recognized by the American society."


The league's regular season attendance seems to belie Blatter's contentions, as the average has increased from 15,504 in 2006 to 17,872 in 2011 and a record 18,807 this year.

Blatter has previously taken pokes at the MLS, among them the beef that it will struggle to prod star players to head to the U.S. unless it matches its season to those in Europe.

He has repeated calls for the league to adopt an August-May schedule, saying that the current March-October season was the overwhelming reason that the MLS cannot compete with Europe's top leagues.

MLS commissioner Don Garber is not opposed to that goal, but has said one major obstacle has been that until recently several MLS teams shared stadiums with NFL franchises and didn't have access to arenas on many weekends in the fall.

But as of last season, 13 of the 19 teams control their own venues, with soccer-specific stadiums having been unveiled within the last two years in Houston, Kansas City and Philadelphia, so that is now less of an issue than in the past.

Soccer's governing body demanded that the U.S. create a national league as one of its conditions for awarding the country the right to host the 1994 World Cup. The MLS began in 1996 and Blatter said organizers had long been aware of the problems regarding the clash in calendars. MLS routinely schedules matches on international fixture dates.

"They have to play and adapt themselves to the international calendar," Blatter said several years ago. "If they do that, they can have success. I spoke several times and I spoke on this 10 years ago when I was still secretary general and nothing has changed in the USA."

However he also stated, "In China definitely, we have no problems for the future of football. It’s only a question of organization."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

http://soccernet.espn.go.com/news/story/_/id/1283006/blatter-chides-mls-as-'struggling'-to-take-hold?cc=5901

Before I harangue on the subject what does everyone else think? Is Blatter simply an idiot, is he just corrupt, or is it some combination of the two? hmm
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Post by RedOranje Thu Jan 03, 2013 4:28 am

Actual interview exchange:
Bishara: Are you optimistic about the future of football in places like China and the U.S.?

Blatter: In China, definitely. We have no problems for the future of football. It’s only a question of organization. And in China, you know, the organizational system, it is not so easy.

Bishara: But they’re investing a lot of money now in football in China, like the U.S. ——

Blatter: They want it. They’re all footballers in China. They play Ping-Pong and football. This is what they do. The problem in the United States is a little bit different. But don’t forget that soccer — as they call football there — is the most popular game in the youth. It’s not American football or baseball; it is soccer. But there is no very strong professional league. There have just the M.L.S. But they have not these professional leagues that are recognized by the American society.

It is a question of time. I thought, when we had the World Cup in 1994. … But we are now in 2012 — it’s been 18 years — it should have been done now. But they are still struggling.

The link contains video of the interview as well.

http://goal.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/12/31/blatter-critical-of-m-l-s-in-interview/
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Post by fatman123 Thu Jan 03, 2013 4:33 am

The issue that faces MLS is much similar to those that face the A-League, they're still new leagues with no history which have to compete with leagues that have 100+ years of history and even have their own days on the calendar, ie everyone in Australia knows the cricket boxing day test or the Aus vs NZ ANZAC day test, but the big yearly fixtures in the A-League are unknown.

Of course things will be easier for football in a country like China who (to the best of my knowledge) have no other big sporting code and have the money to bring the Drgobas and Anelkas and also build the biggest and best stadiums

Having said that on the occasion i do watch an MLS game the crowds look pretty solid (way better then A-League crowds) is TV viewing the issue or crowds still not good enough?

and of course Blatter is a tool, but that all goes without say
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Post by RedOranje Thu Jan 03, 2013 4:43 am

fatman123 wrote:Having said that on the occasion i do watch an MLS game the crowds look pretty solid (way better then A-League crowds) is TV viewing the issue or crowds still not good enough?

"The league's regular season attendance seems to belie Blatter's contentions, as the average has increased from 15,504 in 2006 to 17,872 in 2011 and a record 18,807 this year."


2011 and 2012 were both higher than the Scottish PL, the Russian PL, MLB (US), and NHL (US). The 2012 figures are basically equal to Ligue Un and approaching the levels of Eredivisie. China's attendance are roughly equal to MLS, but Chinese clubs and the league have documented cases of corruption and issues with financing.
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Post by justdoit_ Thu Jan 03, 2013 4:47 am

This guy knows precisely dick about the subject. Consider that in only 17 short years of existence, and facing competition against by far the best football, basketball, hockey, and baseball leagues in the world and a society firmly entrenched within those four sports that there are only seven football leagues in the world who bring in higher average attendances than MLS. Seven. In the world.

Portugal, Scotland, Turkey, Russia, Belgium, Brazil, Argentina, among others, all put to shame by our "struggling" operation.

Anyone with a basic understanding of the situation could attest to the fact that MLS has been enjoying a solid, slow and steady, growth pattern and that we have a viable commish in place who can do the business.

Edit: RO steals my rant material before I can show it off. Oh well.


Last edited by justdoit_ on Thu Jan 03, 2013 5:08 am; edited 1 time in total
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Post by fatman123 Thu Jan 03, 2013 4:55 am

RedOranje wrote:
fatman123 wrote:Having said that on the occasion i do watch an MLS game the crowds look pretty solid (way better then A-League crowds) is TV viewing the issue or crowds still not good enough?

"The league's regular season attendance seems to belie Blatter's contentions, as the average has increased from 15,504 in 2006 to 17,872 in 2011 and a record 18,807 this year."


2011 and 2012 were both higher than the Scottish PL, the Russian PL, MLB (US), and NHL (US). The 2012 figures are basically equal to Ligue Un and approaching the levels of Eredivisie. China's attendance are roughly equal to MLS, but Chinese clubs and the league have documented cases of corruption and issues with financing.

that says it all really, id love for someone to show Blatter those numbers too Laughing
on a side note dont hockey stadiums have really small seating areas? (i know nothing about hockey)
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Post by FalcaoPunch Thu Jan 03, 2013 5:01 am

Does attendance have any effect on quality?
Aside from what Sepp is saying?


I personally don't think so.


"Portugal, Scotland, Turkey, Russia, Belgium, Brazil, Argentina"

A majority of those countries have better talent in their respective leagues than MLS.

Attendance is great but it's only a small part of it.

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Post by fatman123 Thu Jan 03, 2013 5:06 am

I dont think Blatter is saying the quality of football is the issue at hand, i think hes talking about other sports having bigger crwods, bigger TV auidences and pretty much the MLS being the red headed middle child of American sports
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Post by FalcaoPunch Thu Jan 03, 2013 5:10 am

I understood the opposite.
He's claiming the US infact has a weak professional league. He sees it struggling and from my point of view I understand he's claiming that even after 18 years the quality of football has not grown in the states.

Which if that's the case has nothing to do with attendance. Which according to those statistics posted seems to have an upward trend.
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Post by B-Mac Thu Jan 03, 2013 5:32 am

lol blatter


guess he is in on the mass asian mafia match fixing that goes on over in china and most of asia. guess he is just talking up the league for his buddies in low places for a quick buck.
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Post by CBarca Thu Jan 03, 2013 5:33 am

Even in quality, the MLS isn't struggling. The MLS is getting better every year- both in the vague term "quality" and in attendance, and in coverage, and in...well...just about everything.

Blatter is an idiot and this is why I take what he says and I just disregard it pretty much straight away.

MLS struggling Laughing
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Post by mr-r34 Thu Jan 03, 2013 6:08 am

fatman123 wrote:Having said that on the occasion i do watch an MLS game the crowds look pretty solid (way better then A-League crowds) is TV viewing the issue or crowds still not good enough?


Buck for buck, im more impressed with Aussie crowds. Somewhere in the 10-15k average, considering our population and the marquee players the mls brings in i think were doing ok.
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Post by B-Mac Thu Jan 03, 2013 6:37 am

mr-r34 wrote:
fatman123 wrote:Having said that on the occasion i do watch an MLS game the crowds look pretty solid (way better then A-League crowds) is TV viewing the issue or crowds still not good enough?


Buck for buck, im more impressed with Aussie crowds. Somewhere in the 10-15k average, considering our population and the marquee players the mls brings in i think were doing ok.

i think it would be tv viewers, to me the MLS experience of being in a crowd is great, that's what MLS is about the stadium experience, especially at the really well supported teams....but watch on TV can be a bit dreadful, givin the quality that most people are accustom too not just with soccer/football from Europe, but the fact that the NHL, MLB, NFL and NBA are all considered the world class leagues of there sports, North Americans are just not interested in watching a 2nd tier league on television

MLS is doing well tho but until they are considered one of the best in the world, I think they will struggle to grasp the attention of most North Americans
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Post by RedOranje Thu Jan 03, 2013 6:44 am

FalcaoPunch wrote:I understood the opposite.
He's claiming the US infact has a weak professional league. He sees it struggling and from my point of view I understand he's claiming that even after 18 years the quality of football has not grown in the states.

Which if that's the case has nothing to do with attendance. Which according to those statistics posted seems to have an upward trend.

Blatter: They want it. They’re all footballers in China. They play Ping-Pong and football. This is what they do. The problem in the United States is a little bit different. But don’t forget that soccer — as they call football there — is the most popular game in the youth. It’s not American football or baseball; it is soccer. But there is no very strong professional league. There have just the M.L.S. But they have not these professional leagues that are recognized by the American society.

It is a question of time. I thought, when we had the World Cup in 1994. … But we are now in 2012 — it’s been 18 years — it should have been done now. But they are still struggling.

I think it's fairly clear from this highlighted areas that he's referring to attendance and public recognition, rather than quality on the pitch. And please don't attempt to tell me you believe China are in a better position than the US in terms of quality footy and players produced.
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Post by RedOranje Thu Jan 03, 2013 6:49 am

Don Garber's (MLS Commissioner) response:

Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber responded to FIFA president Sepp Blatter's recent criticisms of MLS on Wednesday, telling SI.com he was "a bit surprised" by Blatter's remarks.
"I know he's aware of the progress being made," said a somewhat bewildered Garber, adding later, "I look forward to inviting the [FIFA] president to an MLS game, and I'm sure when he does attend he'll be very pleasantly surprised."

Blatter issued his MLS criticisms in an interview with Al Jazeera last week. "There is no very strong professional league" in the United States, Blatter said, adding that MLS was not "recognized by the American society." Blatter concluded that he thought MLS should be much further along by now in its development. "It's been 18 years, it should have been done now," he said. "But they are still struggling."

Garber was careful in acknowledging FIFA's help in starting MLS in 1996, but the commissioner clearly wanted to provide details on the league's accomplishments.

"We have always had a good relationship with FIFA and president Blatter," Garber said. "Without FIFA and the World Cup coming here in '94, there's no Major League Soccer. But I know he's aware of the progress being made, and as such I was a bit surprised."

Garber confirmed Wednesday he canceled his plans to attend the FIFA Ballon d'Or ceremony in Zurich next week -- he has been a regular at the event in previous years -- and will instead be on hand next Monday at Soccer Night in Newtown, an event featuring 30 MLS players for those affected by the recent shooting tragedy in Connecticut.

As for the state of MLS, the league now has 19 teams (up from 12 in 2006), with 13 of them playing in stadiums built primarily for soccer. National TV ratings remain disarmingly low, having held steady in the 0.2 and 0.3 range for the last decade. But in 2012 MLS did set its all-time average attendance record of 18,807, making it the seventh-highest attended league in the world.

"To be fair, for those who don't live here in North America or spend a lot of time in the United States, it's hard to comprehend how powerful the other major sports leagues are," Garber said. "If you live in Europe or South America there's only one [major] sport, the sport of football. We have sports in the U.S. that are as powerful here as football is in its respective countries, and we have at least four that have been around for over 100 years. And all have had the benefit of building a fan base over many generations."

"Even against that backdrop, we have made tremendous progress over the last 17 years," Garber continued. "Interestingly, we're probably recognized as being more significant in many ways here in the U.S. than we are in other parts of the football world because of some of those developments: three broadcast partners, every game televised in HD, amazingly strong corporate support, lots of new stadiums and a great fan base that has us now in the U.S. and Canada ranked third [in average attendance] among all of the major leagues after the NFL and Major League Baseball. Those are pretty remarkable developments and ones that we're very proud of."

"Our owners, our players and our staff all accept that our job is not even remotely close to being finished. We feel pretty good about what's happened over the first 20 years, but it will be in my view many years before we've achieved our goal. We hope in 10 years to be one of the top soccer leagues in the world."

MLS truly does feel "major league" in cities like Portland, Kansas City, Vancouver and Seattle, where the Sounders drew an average of 43,144 fans in 2012. Other teams (Columbus, Dallas, New England, Chivas USA) don't feel major league, and all drew less than 15,000 per game last season.

When I asked Garber if there wasn't some aspect of tough-love truth in Blatter's comments, given MLS' low TV ratings, the commissioner said: "No, I don't believe so. You've got to continue developing the fundamentals and get a solid foundation before you can build a massive national television audience. We're doing better than expected as it relates to the fundamentals, and we'll continue to work on our national TV ratings, and that might be a project that will take some time. But our broadcast partners continue to believe in the league, and I believe there will be even more interest in our package when it's up after the 2014 season."

Asked if Blatter's comments would hurt MLS with potential multinational sponsors, Garber argued they would not. "Not in any way," he said. "The sports industry has enormous respect for us. Several years ago, against all the other major leagues, they [the Sports Business Journal] recognized us as the league of the year. The Seattle Sounders were recognized as the team of the year in 2009. Our corporate sponsorship base continues to grow. Our relationships with municipal governments providing support for soccer stadium development is at an all-time high. Investment in our league is at an all-time high and in some ways the envy of soccer leagues around the world.
"So no, I don't believe his comments hurt us in any way. But I think it's important to stand up and say that Major League Soccer -- while we have a lot of work to do -- is now thriving and making an impact."

Is it fair for Blatter to think MLS should have been much farther along 19 years after the 1994 World Cup in the United States? Garber said no.

"I don't think anybody believed MLS would be in the position it is today when it was launched in 1996," he said. "We have 19 teams and strong broadcast and corporate support and great players being developed in MLS and continuing to play here like Landon [Donovan] or perform at a high level like Clint [Dempsey]. We have world-class players coming here like [David] Beckham and [Thierry] Henry. It's a challenge to expect that we would be at the level of the other football leagues around the world, or even the other major sports leagues here in the U.S., which are now more than 100 years old."

By the time we were done talking, it was clear that Garber was trying to stay positive about MLS without opening verbal fire on Blatter. But he didn't exactly offer a ringing endorsement of the FIFA president when I asked if he thought U.S. Soccer should continue to support Blatter as the USSF has done since 1998.

"I consider Sunil [Gulati, the U.S. Soccer president] a good friend, and I believe he's been a very good president of the federation," Garber said. "And I will support the position he takes on behalf of the U.S. Soccer community."

But if you were the U.S. Soccer president, Don Garber, would you have voted for Blatter in the 2011 FIFA election as opposed to abstaining (as England's FA did)?

Garber had no comment on that one.


Read More: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/soccer/news/20130102/don-garber-sepp-blatter/#ixzz2GtOOaFPt

The parts in red I find particularly telling or important.
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Post by fatman123 Thu Jan 03, 2013 7:04 am

mr-r34 wrote:
fatman123 wrote:Having said that on the occasion i do watch an MLS game the crowds look pretty solid (way better then A-League crowds) is TV viewing the issue or crowds still not good enough?


Buck for buck, im more impressed with Aussie crowds. Somewhere in the 10-15k average, considering our population and the marquee players the mls brings in i think were doing ok.

Ive never been to an MLS game but i watch a few games here and there and the crowds do come across better then the a-league ones (of course you have to go both to be in a postion to judge, fox could me muting the crowds on the telecast like ESPN do) and in this seasons finals series some of the crowds were electric.

I dont remeber which club but during Chelseas pre-season we played a club who had built a little platform amongst the seats so a few people could go up there and lead the chants, awesome move imo
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Post by rwo power Thu Jan 03, 2013 11:15 am

One thing I always wondered - how is a football match broadcast in the US? Do they show the full 45 minutes of each half uninterrupted, or do they put ads in it there, too? *curious*

I heard somewhere that a problem might be for the US TV audience to actually watch 45 minutes of uninterrupted play, which makes for different viewing customs.
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Post by sportsczy Thu Jan 03, 2013 11:19 am

Sepp is talking out of his arse. MLS is doing fine. They just had a bad TV deal that expires this year. Even despite that, attendance is moving up very well. You can't get TV rating if the games aren't shown and/or promoted. That will change.

I actually m the most optimistic i have ever been in regards to the MLS.
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Post by Be/\/ceCALI Thu Jan 03, 2013 7:03 pm

rwo power wrote:One thing I always wondered - how is a football match broadcast in the US? Do they show the full 45 minutes of each half uninterrupted, or do they put ads in it there, too? *curious*

I heard somewhere that a problem might be for the US TV audience to actually watch 45 minutes of uninterrupted play, which makes for different viewing customs.

It's broadcast the same way as in Europe. The only ads are during the half-time break. There are no ads or breaks while the clock is still running.

American sports still have ads every 2 minutes... but in football here, it's no different than it is in Europe.

The only Americans who have a problem with watching 45 minutes of uninterrupted play, are those who already can't stand watching real football anyways, and they stick to the slow, sub-par, and more simple-minded American sport, like NFL. Baseball is slow too but I have much more respect for it as a sport than NFL.
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Post by RedOranje Thu Jan 03, 2013 7:05 pm

rwo power wrote:One thing I always wondered - how is a football match broadcast in the US? Do they show the full 45 minutes of each half uninterrupted, or do they put ads in it there, too? *curious*

I heard somewhere that a problem might be for the US TV audience to actually watch 45 minutes of uninterrupted play, which makes for different viewing customs.

Yes, we also have commercial breaks every 10 minutes for movies in the theaters, and during musicals, operas, and concerts. :facepalm:

Come on, rwo, you're better than this. Football is shown live as you would expect it to be... live. Unless there are issues with the signal or something of the like there are no breaks in the coverage of the halves.
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Post by sportsczy Thu Jan 03, 2013 7:06 pm

Yeah... i watch college football because i think it's fun. The NFL is not my cup of tea at all. In fact, i'm getting tired of the NBA too a bit.
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Post by rwo power Thu Jan 03, 2013 7:19 pm

RedOranje wrote:
rwo power wrote:I heard somewhere that a problem might be for the US TV audience to actually watch 45 minutes of uninterrupted play, which makes for different viewing customs.
Yes, we also have commercial breaks every 10 minutes for movies in the theaters, and during musicals, operas, and concerts. :facepalm:

Come on, rwo, you're better than this. Football is shown live as you would expect it to be... live. Unless there are issues with the signal or something of the like there are no breaks in the coverage of the halves.
As a matter of fact, there were discussions about this a while ago in a discussion round with international experts on German TV where it was actually suggested it might be a good idea to introduce 4 quarters in football/soccer to make it more attractive for the US market. They put as examples that in many other sports there were lots of natural breaks that could be used for ads. I have never watched any sports on US TV, so I really have no idea how it is broadcast over there.
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Post by stevieg8 Thu Jan 03, 2013 7:26 pm

rwo power wrote:
RedOranje wrote:
rwo power wrote:I heard somewhere that a problem might be for the US TV audience to actually watch 45 minutes of uninterrupted play, which makes for different viewing customs.
Yes, we also have commercial breaks every 10 minutes for movies in the theaters, and during musicals, operas, and concerts. :facepalm:

Come on, rwo, you're better than this. Football is shown live as you would expect it to be... live. Unless there are issues with the signal or something of the like there are no breaks in the coverage of the halves.
As a matter of fact, there were discussions about this a while ago in a discussion round with international experts on German TV where it was actually suggested it might be a good idea to introduce 4 quarters in football/soccer to make it more attractive for the US market. They put as examples that in many other sports there were lots of natural breaks that could be used for ads. I have never watched any sports on US TV, so I really have no idea how it is broadcast over there.

The point is that it's not about the American public's viewing span, many of whom use Tivo/DVRs/Adblockers online to disable commercials, but is about the businesses controlling things. The TV Networks aren't as interested in airing something that will make them less money, especially considering the large sums of money being paid for the licensing deals (see the other recent thread). Since these games are already being aired on off-channels, and the foreign ones are typically at hours of the day not usually designated for sports, the networks aren't going to push their few remaining customers into streaming by removing parts of the gameplay. That would be an absolutely mindboggling decision.

Just imagine the first time they cut away to commercial and a goal gets scored? Or two? Or a red card given? How do you deal with that? "Welcome back from the break, here's a quick recap to get you up to speed... Back to you, John"
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Post by Be/\/ceCALI Thu Jan 03, 2013 7:40 pm

RedOranje wrote:Yes, we also have commercial breaks every 10 minutes for movies in the theaters, and during musicals, operas, and concerts. :facepalm:

Laughing

sportsczy wrote:Yeah... i watch college football because i think it's fun. The NFL is not my cup of tea at all. In fact, i'm getting tired of the NBA too a bit.

Yeah, i feel ya. European football, NBA (occassionally) , and Baseball (play-offs) are the only sports I watch. Nothing comes close to European football and a lot of my friends think i'm a snob because of this, but i couldn't care less tbh. I tell them it's not my fault that I have a better taste in sports and that they don't understand the beautiful game Smile

rwo power wrote: As a matter of fact, there were discussions about this a while ago in a discussion round with international experts on German TV where it was actually suggested it might be a good idea to introduce 4 quarters in football/soccer to make it more attractive for the US market. They put as examples that in many other sports there were lots of natural breaks that could be used for ads. I have never watched any sports on US TV, so I really have no idea how it is broadcast over there.

I don't think altering a football match to 4 quarters for a US audience would make it more attractive for the US market. I don't see why more ads would make it more attractive. Sure, the Super Bowl has tons of ads, but usually those are funny commercials and tens of millions of $ go into those ads and they're made to be funny. Some people watch the Super Bowl just for the ads. However, ads in regular NFL games are sh1t..nobody likes them. The Super Bowl is like the Champions League for America, but really it doesn't even compare.

Americans either like European football, or can't stand it. It's not really a part of American culture like it is for us Europeans.. we eat, sleep, and breathe football. There are some Americans who feel this way as well, but in general the focus and culture is on other sports and it isn't taken seriously here like the other big sports.
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Post by rwo power Thu Jan 03, 2013 7:48 pm

stevieg8 wrote:The point is that it's not about the American public's viewing span, many of whom use Tivo/DVRs/Adblockers online to disable commercials, but is about the businesses controlling things. The TV Networks aren't as interested in airing something that will make them less money, especially considering the large sums of money being paid for the licensing deals (see the other recent thread). Since these games are already being aired on off-channels, and the foreign ones are typically at hours of the day not usually designated for sports, the networks aren't going to push their few remaining customers into streaming by removing parts of the gameplay. That would be an absolutely mindboggling decision.

Just imagine the first time they cut away to commercial and a goal gets scored? Or two? Or a red card given? How do you deal with that? "Welcome back from the break, here's a quick recap to get you up to speed... Back to you, John"
*nod* That makes sense.

BTW, you prolly can't imagine how I got ballistic when one of those media experts went "Well, one could introduce two more breaks"... XD
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