Plenty of sports enthusiasts dream of being able to support a full time professional league for athletes to compete in. Football has a strong monopoly regarding the issue, but there are new leagues appearing all the time. In recent years there has been the creation of an Ultimate Frisbee League, Slam Ball League and Women’s Ice Hockey. However, only a small amount ever succeed and more often than not, only in certain places around the world. Well, we’ve put together the perfect step by step guide to take your sport from the Ocho to Sky Sports in 8 easy steps.
First of all, you need to gain some attention for your sport. No-one is going to compete, or want to pay to watch something they have never heard of or don’t understand. You’ll need to get a good spread of people around the country who are as passionate as you. If you don’t you may end up like the unicycle football league in San Marcos, Texas. The whole town is obsessed with the sport, but elsewhere it’s not even heard of, so get that grassroots program growing and spreading.
Once you have stirred some interest for your sport you are going to have to settle on a business model. This could be a make or break for your hopes of a new league. You’ll have to decide whether each franchise will be in charge of itself- managing its own profits, or whether all of the teams will be owned by the league as whole. The former means that teams are more likely to fold but the league as a whole would survive if one of the teams suffers financial difficult. The latter guarantees more stable teams, but if one team folds, the league as a whole will collapse.
So you’ve got some interest and a business model. Now the time has come to convince some investors that your sport and your model can turn a profit. This is going to be tough, as almost all new leagues run at a deficit for the first couple of years, and many collapse without ever producing a profit. Some examples of this include the professional Ultimate Frisbee league, and Slamball, a sport which combines basketball with trampolines. However, there are plenty of rich investors who dream of owning a professional team for the novelty (and also the tax havens they tend to be).
Now you will need to figure out where to base your teams. This is something that will have a major effort on costs and travelling times. Many leagues, such as the NHL in America, started off with having teams within driving distance to save costs on flights. Many other leagues do the same, but it is important not to place teams just because they are geographically convenient. You need to look at transport links, if there are venues to play at, and whether there is a good uptake of players for your sport in the area are just a few things to consider. The number of teams you chose is also important; a few teams always playing each other is less risky, but the matchups can quickly become stale. More teams carries more financial risk but has more interest as well.
Fans, investors, locations. Almost all the pieces are in place, now is the time to find some top talent to play on the teams. The better the talent the more exciting the games will be, so make sure you don’t settle for second best. However, this may be tough as people are unlikely to be willing to move across the country for a team that may or may not be able to pay them a cheque in the coming years.
So aside from making money from merchandise, tickets and possibly TV revenue, you’re going to start off highly financially dependent on sponsorships. Whether it be sponsorship deals to get free equipment and kit, or maybe a deal with a bus company for free travel, if you can get a big money sponsorship you’ll be set for a few months. However, make sure you never sit back and get complacent. These companies aren’t just handing you money, they’re making an investment and will want to see their adverts continue to reach more and more potential customers, aka your fans.
You have everything set up and ready to go. Finally, you need to focus on continual growth. Every single day your league exists is the most likely day it will fail. You will only be able to survive if you continue to grow in what is considered a highly saturated market. One of the cheapest and best ways to grow your league is by effective social media usage, be it Facebook/Twitter. These platforms give you easy access to thousands and thousands of people, and give the more casual fan an easy way to follow your sport. The number of leagues I have an interest in due to their social media presence is off the scale, so tap into it as well!