Bulls & Bears: Good week for Forge FC, Hamilton’s entry in Canadian Premier League

Opinion: Business side of women’s sports — most notably payrolls — requires lot of growth.

Golden Tate of the New York Giants catches a touchdown pass against Cre'von LeBlanc of the Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on Oct. 22 in Philadelphia. Mitchell Leff / Getty Images

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Bulls of the week

It’s been a very good week for Forge FC, Hamilton’s entry in the Canadian Premier League (CPL) of soccer. They beat a Salvadoran side in the CONCACAF Club Championships and are off to Panama in November. The result isn’t only a good news story for Hamilton — especially with the Tiger-Cats and the CFL not in play this summer and fall — but it’s a positive tonic for the CPL itself, keeping one of its sides in the news during this pandemic-riddled year; the sophomore campaign for the league.

Women’s hockey — and women’s sport in general — is feeling bullish after the deodorant company Secret signed a $1 million sponsorship deal with the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association (PWHPA), the same week that Oscar-winning actress Natalie Portman and a celebrity-laden investor group christened the new Los Angeles women’s soccer team Angel City FC. 

The business side of women’s sports — most notably payrolls — requires a lot of growth before they can even be in the same ballpark as men’s sports. Yet the events this week demonstrate there’s a clearly positive corporate and investor outlook for an upside, especially in women’s soccer, hockey and basketball, where — despite COVID-19 — the WNBA has had the biggest season of TV ratings, social media traction and fan engagement in its 23-year history.

For women’s soccer and hockey to flourish, economies of scale and infrastructure dictate they need the same support from their respective leagues that the WNBA has received since its establishment by the NBA in 1996-97.

Meanwhile, by this time next week, we will have a “championship double” in North American sport. Either the Los Angeles Dodgers will join the L.A. Lakers as 2020 champs or the Tampa Bay Rays cosy up to the Stanley Cup-champion Lightning. That’s good news for those two markets, even if the World Series began with the lowest-rated opening game ever (an average of only 9.2 million Americans, down 25 per cent from last year). The problem is it sure doesn’t seem that a winning team is enough to make the Rays viable in Central Florida. 

Bears of the week

The New York Football Giants (valued at US$4.3 billion) and the New York Jets (US$3.55 billion) are third and sixth in the NFL in terms of franchise valuation, according to Forbes Magazine. Yet they’re anything but solid on the field, with records of 1-6 and 0-6, respectively, after the Philadelphia Eagles came from behind to beat the Giants on Thursday Night Football. The dichotomy between their financial worth — powered by the size of their media market and fan base — and football operations is inexcusable. No doubt that money can’t buy you everything, but the Giants and the Jets aren’t merely holders of losing records. They’re both playing with an embarrassingly inept deck of cards, making the Big Apple a much smaller apple when it comes to the NFL. That’s not good news for the Giants and the Jets, but it’s also a source of real concern for the league itself given how an engaged fan base in the largest sport market in North America helps drive national TV ratings, sponsorship value, and merchandising and licensing sales.

• The Sport Market on TSN Radio rates and debates the bulls & bears of sport business. Join Tom Mayenknecht on Saturdays from 7 to 11 a.m. for a behind-the-scenes look at the sport-business stories that matter most to fans. Follow Mayenknecht at: Twitter.com/TheSportMarket

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