Many would agree soccer’s popularity in America has increased slowly but surely over the last decade mainly due to the influx of aging overseas players seeking to broaden the sports brand in the globe’s largest sports market. Many of these aging stars come to America for large transfer fees hoping to show the American fan how exciting soccer can be and convert them to the sport. But is such a practice financially worth it? Often such players are grossly overpaid and rarely improve the teams they are on. The MLS clubs agree to these deals in the hopes of furthering the brand of their club and the league as a whole. But do these players truly further the clubs brand? Through the case study of Steven Gerrard, I will investigate this question.
Steven Gerrard, the Liverpool FC legend joined the LA Galaxy in the summer of 2015 for a transfer fee of $9 million. Currently Gerrard, despite being the 16th oldest player in the league, is the highest paid player on the Galaxy roster and the 4th highest paid player in the entire league with a base salary of $6.2 million. Despite the gaudy amount of money spent on him Gerrard hasn’t proved himself on the pitch. Last season Gerrard only had 3 goals his lowest total since his 2nd season at Liverpool (1999-2000). And though he did play in fewer games the drop off in play is still apparent. And with his lack luster play the team has struggled, losing in the first round of the playoffs last season, after wining the MLS cup the previous year.
And though such a fall can’t be attributed all to Gerrard, as soccer is a team game, he is at least partially to blame for the outcome. Especially as in the single elimination playoff game, the man he was marking taped in a goal off a free kick that, Gerrard should have been able to stop with ease.
Despite it all he is an exteremely popular player in the league. His jersey is the second most sold jersey in the MLS, and he was chosen to play in the all star game. Additionally, since Gerrard’s arrival average attendance has increase 10% rising to the highest level since 2008. Also the value of the LA Galaxy has skyrocketed since Gerrard’s arrival. Forbes reports that the value of the team was $170 million in 2013 and is currently $240 million. For background it took 5 years (2008-2013) for the teams value to increase the same amount. Despite such an increase in value and ticket sales, also according to Forbes, the team’s revenue has remained steady at roughly $44 million.
All in all it is easy to see Gerrard’s arrival has had a very complex effect on the team. The team hasn’t performed as well on the pitch and hasn’t increased revenue but its value has skyrocketed. Such a high value is good for the owner and the team as a whole as it increases resale value and awareness of the sport and the club. Additionally the MLS as a league has much to gain from Gerrard’s arrival as it increases the value and prestige of their league as a whole. In conclusion, aging veterans such as Gerrard due in fact further the brand of their own clubs and soccer in America as a whole, in this case at the expense of team revenue and team performance.
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