Global soccer reality: Friendly business where profit and sport collide

Jul 25 2014, 12:19 IST
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Manchester United forward Wayne Rooney during an international soccer friendly match against LA Galaxy in Pasadena, California. (Reuters) Manchester United forward Wayne Rooney during an international soccer friendly match against LA Galaxy in Pasadena, California. (Reuters)
SummaryIf Spurs are to challenge Real Madrid and Manchester United, world's most valuable sporting franchises...

Neither Tottenham Hotspur coach Mauricio Pochettino nor Toronto FC's Ryan Nelsen seemed particularly enthused about their mid-week friendly but smiled grudgingly while accepting the match as part of today's global soccer reality where new fans and revenue streams must be cultivated.

For both men, Wednesday's encounter was a meaningless contest where sporting and business interests collide.

Tottenham will play three such matches against Major League Soccer (MLS) opposition on a brief North American pre-season swing, a barnstorming expedition where the score lines will not matter nearly as much as the other numbers that will be crunched by the club's sponsorship and marketing departments.

Pochettino, in his first year in charge at White Hart Lane, has been provided with a sobering introduction into the concessions and demands placed on one of soccer's glamour clubs who seek to climb ever higher up the sport's food chain.

From a purely competition perspective, travelling nearly halfway around the world for a friendly against the Seattle Sounders last Saturday, followed by a cross-country jaunt to Canada for a date with Toronto FC before wrapping up at the weekend in Chicago against the Fire is not the ideal way to begin preparations for the upcoming Premier League season.

But from a commercial standpoint, the whirlwind visit has been trumpeted as a success, helping the Spurs grow their brand while tapping into new lucrative markets.

"This is a very good relationship with Toronto, this is a commercial relationship, this is important for our club and Toronto," said Pochettino, in a pre-match press conference.

"It's not easy for us because we are in the middle of our pre-season but we understand that the club is a big club, that they have to come here for different things."

GREATER DISTRACTION

For Nelsen, who himself had a brief stint with Tottenham during his playing career, the game was an even greater distraction.

Sitting third in the MLS Eastern Conference standings, the Reds played Houston on Saturday followed by the friendly against Tottenham with a game against table-topping Sporting KC looming large on Saturday as they try to reach the post-season for the first time in their eight-year history.

"For the English media, for you guys, it would be like playing a game in the Christmas period when you are third in the league and you've got Man. City to play on Saturday," said Nelsen. "Not the greatest time.

"For me, I just hope they come out unscathed."

For Tottenham, ambition comes not only

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