Seattle Reign FC co-owner Bill Predmore acknowledged that turning a profit remains an “elusive objective”, but also pushed back against a recent report that the club was taking “unsustainable losses” in an exclusive interview with Ride of the Valkyries/Sounder at Heart.
Although it was just a single line in a story by FourFourTwo’s Richard Farley about FC Kansas City’s ownership instability that could ultimately lead to franchise relocation, it sent shockwaves through the Reign FC fanbase.
What was your overall impression/thoughts on the FourFourTwo article that spoke about FC Kansas City’s uncertainty with their ownership and future in Kansas City?
We have been fans of Richard’s work and view him as one of the stronger writers following women’s soccer. However, in this instance we were both surprised and disappointed by his reporting, as the aspects of the article dealing with Seattle Reign FC were misleading given the context in which the information about our club was shared, leaving many readers with an incorrect impression about the stability of our organization.
In the article, there was a line that mentioned the Seattle Reign FC, “...continue to endure unsustainable losses…” which have raised some questions about the club’s stability. Would you care to comment on this passage?
Over the last three seasons, Reign FC has ranked among the top four NWSL clubs in both revenue and expenses.
We have generally felt pretty good about this, as from a revenue perspective it means that we have been the strongest amongst the clubs with “independent” (non-MLS affiliated) ownership. In fact, last year our revenue was just 4% less than the 3rd ranked (and MLS-affiliated) team. We are by no means satisfied with these results, but share them as we believe they demonstrate the relative strength of our organization.
From an expense perspective, from the outset we believed that creating a world-class organization – both on and off the field – would require significant ongoing investment. Such investment (which in this case is a more artful way of saying “losses”) has been intentional and strategic. These investments have made us a leader in the experience we provide to players, have delivered success on the pitch in the form of back-to-back NWSL Shields in 2014 and 2015, and have created the foundation upon which the club can continue to grow and prosper.
We continue to believe that the NWSL and its teams can and will be successful, and as such, we will continue to make the necessary investments in the organization to put it in the best position to succeed.
How does Reign FC's current business standing and revenue match with your vision for the organization when you launched in 2013?
When the team and league launched in 2013 we believed it would take a decade to achieve stability and sustainability.
Now, five years in, we think that timeline is still pretty accurate. We’ve accomplished much over the first five years, but we expect it will take another five before the league and teams mature to the point where we can consider the league’s future stable and secure.
Do you see Reign FC as a business endeavor that must be profitable in order to continue?
Profitability in any professional sport is an elusive objective, and for the time being, probably not a reasonable expectation for most NWSL teams, including ours.
That being said, it is critical that we continue growing revenue, as it will be necessary to remain competitive against teams in the NWSL and around the world.
Growing revenue at the needed pace will require a stadium situation other than Memorial Stadium. While Memorial has been a great home for us and Seattle Public Schools has proven to be a great partner, there are some inherent limitations in the facility that prevent us from generating revenue at levels that are required for long-term stability and success.
Further, given the expected demolition of Memorial as per plans recently shared by Seattle Public Schools, and considering the standards recently imposed by the NWSL related to playing surfaces, 2018 is likely to be the last season that Memorial Stadium will be a viable option for our club.
Have you considered bringing on other investors to ensure stability for the club, especially for the seasons ahead when league expansion is on a lot of people’s radars?
We have always been open to expanding the ownership group, as long as there is a shared, long-term commitment to building a world-class team and organization.
What would you say to Reign FC fans that may have read the FourFourTwo article and might be thinking, “Could I lose the Seattle Reign FC?”
Despite the concerns that the article may have provoked, Seattle Reign FC is and always has been 100% committed to playing in the NWSL in 2018.
One thing to put into perspective is the NWSL really is in uncharted waters. The previous women’s professional soccer leagues didn’t make it this far. The growing pains are exactly that, and of course the magnitude of some of those pains can range from a paper cut to a fracture. It can be — and has been — frustrating that it often feels like we’re shaking a NWSL-themed Magic 8-Ball and the answer we get is an ironically appropriate non-answer. The bottom line is, the people involved at the respective clubs and league as a whole, intend to stay. When you read the phrase “unsustainable losses” regarding a sports franchise, you might think it’s obvious things like travel expenses on away matches and attendance figures at home matches that we know could be and should be better. We know from the players that Reign FC ownership have gone to great lengths and to the best of their abilities to make sure there are enough resources available so each player can train like a professional athlete and live like one too. The NWSL now has a serious broadcast partner committed to the growth of the league, and while the route may not be the most efficient or smoothest, the assurance that the Seattle Reign FC will be playing soccer in 2018. And the club plans to do so beyond that wherever their new home in Seattle may be, should be taken in earnest.
Reign FC hosts FC Kansas City this Sunday at Memorial Stadium in their regular season home finale; depending on Saturday’s results elsewhere in the league the team could still have an opportunity to get into the NWSL Playoffs. Kickoff is scheduled for 6 PM.