51613_wambachabby_isi_nwslbs042013125 Brad Smith/isiphotos.com

Wambach, Morgan, and NWSL in the Media

The National Women's Soccer League learned a tough lesson about the fickle state of the media, but there are opportunities to grow. Maura Gladys on where the league is and where it should go.
BY Maura Gladys Posted
May 16, 2013
11:00 AM
Late in Western New York’s game against the Washington Spirit on April 20th, Abby Wambach took a ball to the face and crumpled to the ground. Teammates bent over the downed striker, but referee Kari Seitz did not allow medical personnel to tend to Wambach on the field. The striker finished the game but needed team trainers to help her afterwards.

Wambach assured fans that she was healthy enough to play in the Flash’s home opener, but the team announced later in the week that she would miss the game for precautionary reasons.

Slate writer Stefan Fatsis reported the story and wrote a scathing critique of the league’s handling of the situation, which prompted a statement from NWSL addressing its medical protocol.

While Wambach’s concussion situation never reached disaster-level status, it was not the best press for the burgeoning league. The bungling of a concussion issue, especially with a player of Wambach’s stature, is a dangerous reminder that NWSL’s portrayal by the media is an essential factor in league growth. While many people are keeping an eye on attendance numbers as a gauge for the league’s early success, the league is working to establish and maintain a strong media presence, from the traditional publicity cycle to its unique Youtube distribution method. Those are keys to the league’s health and long-term success.

Alex Morgan is another famous face who is promoting the league. She made several media appearances last week, including several appearances on Sportscenter where she bested a portly Hugh Douglas at penalty kicks. Morgan mostly addressed her new book series, but she did speak about the NWSL. SportsCenter even showed highlights from the Portland Thorns’ game.

"All the fans have come out and supported us full force; we have had so many sold-out games," Morgan said. "And the quality [of play] is really high."

While it was brief, Morgan’s appearance put the NWSL on the national stage, a rare but welcome occurrence.

Since those high-profile spots will be few and far between, the digital space, especially Youtube, is where the NWSL should focus on telling the rest of its stories. Currently, all of the NWSL’s content is shown exclusively on Youtube, or other online video services. (Fox Soccer will broadcast one game a week for the final six weeks of the regular season, as well as the two playoffs and championship game.) While some might consider it a disadvantage to have content housed primarily online, it actually allows the league the room to grow and expand on its own terms, something it hasn’t taken full advantage of yet.

The beauty of Youtube is that there are no time constraints, no format constraints. Teams and leagues can give fans as much content as they can consume. Teams could be using Youtube to craft personalities out of players and forge connections to a young fan base that practically lives online.

The stats for the NWSL’s current content are surprisingly good. The general rule for Youtube is to keep it short and sweet. But the NWSL’s full game uploads, which run more than two hours, often garner upwards of 7,000 views. FC Kansas City’s match against Seattle is pushing 100,000, a great number for any video.

By pairing smart use of both traditional media and digital content, the league can move closer and closer to sustainability.

Maura Gladys, a featured ASN columnist, works in production for KICKTV. She also runs the goalkeeping blog All You Need Is Glove.

Post a comment