The NWSL announced yesterday the 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup, a 25 games tournament played in Utah from the 27th of June to the 26th of July. Ever since the pandemic NWSL faces testing times, especially under new leadership with commissioner Lisa Baird appointed days before the league’s suspension. Boosted by the USWNT triumph in the 2019 FIFA World Cup, appetite for women’s football in the USA is expected to be greater than ever.
Here are 5 things we can learn from the 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup announcement:
- Players first- since the beginning of May 2020 the league phased players back to training. The decision to return was ultimately for the players to make. Any player uncomfortable with it either had sufficient information or assurance of no fallback. Key to all steps is the NWSLPA, the organization in charge of representing NWSL players. Apart from training safely, the organization worked hard to ensure adequate compensation and day to day life matters are provided. More on this you can find in the following article on The Athletic
- Commitment to broadcasters- announcing a landmark broadcasting deal followed by the league’s suspension is hardly the scenario any of the stakeholders could have imagined. The launch of the NWSL Challenge Cup shows a commitment to its broadcasters and honouring the support shown in the league. Most games will be broadcasted on CBS’ on-demand platform, CBS All Access, making viewership data easy to track. Twitch holds the international rights. It will be interesting to see what would be the kick-off times given the six- and seven-hour time difference from Europe.
- Flexibility with sponsors- Procter & Gamble and its house brand Secret are the presenting sponsors of the 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup. The league cleverly split the rights of the semi-finals and finals to be presented by Budweiser as well as presenting the MVP awards. We rarely see such examples. Usually, the title/presenting sponsor of the competition benefits from the majority of a competition’s commercial rights. Nonetheless, the league used the launch of the tournament to announce a new high-profile partner, Verizon. Keep an eye as to how each will be activated.
- Collaboration and communication- check out how many organizations are involved in executing this tournament. NWSL, NWSLPA, NWSL Medical Task Force, Utah Royals FC, Utah Governor’s office, the sponsors mentioned above, broadcasters and more. Considering the month and a half from the NWSL’s suspension to launching this tournament, this is an impressive feat to pull off. The full health & safety protocols are available online here.
- No Olympics, No Euros, No problem- Sure, this is a tournament of different size and reach than the Olympics or the Euros. The NWSL saw the vacant space and stepped in. The set up of an NWSL Village in Utah provides players who were destined to play in the Olympics a similar setting. It will provide the media with a constant content buzz too as a way of fan engagement.
While more leagues are getting ready to resume playing others are considering how to start the new season. Well, it seems that the NWSL has found a way.