The IX: Soccer Monday with Annie M. Peterson for August 24, 2020

Me, on my soapbox, handy links to transfer guides, other links and a look at Japan's WE League, which launches next year

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Hello! A reminder: our Thorns jersey giveaway is still going on for one more week! So if you sign up for a paid subscription through August 30, your name goes in the hat. I’ll announce the winner in August 31’s Soccer Monday!

And thank you, thank you, thank you to those of you who subscribed last week. I’m not doing this for me, I am doing this to amplify the voices of those covering women’s sports.

There’s still far too little coverage of women’s sports in general. And why is it that women only merit coverage when it comes to things like anthem protests, or when there’s some kind of men’s sports/adjacent angle?

Yes, this is a controversial take. But perhaps worth discussion.

On a broader scale: Why is it that we still have commentators on TV suggesting that men get their work done because women aren’t around?

I really was encouraged by the NWSL’s Challenge Cup, but then I went back and looked at some of the metrics associated with my work. The anthem protests got the most play. The day-to-day games? Not so much.

Newspapers and websites used the Challenge Cup stories at the start, when it was a “novelty”, but coverage trailed off as more men’s sports jumped into the fray.

This is the loop editors, producers and content providers fall into: They say there’s no audience for women’s sports yet they fail to provide the content that will draw the audience.

It’s just so maddening.

That’s why it is so important to click on stories about women’s sports, and not just soccer. Pay for the coverage that The Equalizer and The Athletic provide. Show love for those whose coverage you admire, like Sandra Herrera at CBS Sports.

And speaking of CBS, one thing I was encouraged by, that really demonstrates how collectively women can move the needle, is the decision for CBS All-Access to carry the UEFA Women’s Champions League. Jonathan Tannenwald covered it here.

So: see? Strength in numbers.

Getting off my soapbox: My sources tell me that an announcement is coming soon, in the next few days, on the resumption of NWSL games in local markets. This will not be a “season” per se. It will be friendlies. A chance to give young players work.

It will look much like what Steven Goff of the Washington Post reported last week, with “pods.” (Although once source I spoke to HATES that term.)

Anyway, stay tuned.

A couple of other things I wanted to point to today. If you are trying to keep up with all the transfer news, Jen Cooper aka Keeper Notes is keeping a Google Doc! It’s here!

The Equalizer also has a handy guide!

That brings me to another point: Even though some of the stars are heading overseas, please watch the broadcasts of these upcoming NWSL games. If you are able to go to games and feel safe doing so, wear a mask and socially distance, and cheer your head off. Send a message.

On to the links.

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(Reminder: First, the underlined words are the links. Second. CLICK these, even if you’ve already read them. ESPECIALLY NOW, as newsrooms are forced to make difficult choices. Clicks = Attention from editors, producers and webmasters. Third, if you want to push out stuff you’ve written or read, email me! apeterson@ap.

From The Equalizer today: PSG ends Arsenal’s run. And from yesterday: Lyon advances. The semifinal is going to be lit.

Katie Whyatt spoke to the ageless Formiga for the Telegraph. Whyatt also wrote about Jess Fishlock’s move to Reading.

Meg Linehan with the Athletic spoke to Becca Roux for the Full Time podcast.

Meg also with the story on Sacramento joining the NWSL, perhaps as soon as next season.

As mentioned above: Jonathan Tannenwald with the Philadelphia Inquirer broke the CBS All Access/Champions League story!

My colleague Howard Megdal talked to Christie Pierce, formerly Rampone, about her new book for Forbes.

More on the Cerritos College scandal I linked last week.

Caitlin Murray on the exodus to Europe, and it’s not all about COVID-19.

Kim Little appreciation from Kudzi Musarurwa at All for XI. Yes!

Also for All for XI, Sophie Lawson looks as the Aussie exodus.

Sandra Herrera on Sam Mewis’ debut for Man City for CBS Sports.

Donald Wine from Stars and Stripes looks at which players could benefit from a move abroad.

Five at The IX: My Interview with Kikuko Okajima! Former Japanese national team player and now chair of the WE League.

I had a fascinating conversation with Kikuko Okajima, chair of the WE League in Japan, which is set to launch next year. WE stands for Women’s Empowerment. It’s an ambitious effort to create a women’s professional soccer league.

When you talk to her, the first thing she says is “Call me Kiku.” She is smart and accomplished, and she knows her game.

Here are some excerpts. I’ll be having a bigger story on the WE League coming up for AP.

Question: How did you end up chair of the WE League:

Kiku: They tried to find somebody who has business experience. And so there are a number of people in Japan with a pretty good background in business a number of women. They obviously have to find a woman. But nobody had a connection with soccer, especially the women’s soccer, and not many female soccer players in my age or a little younger have business or corporate experience. I actually had both. And that’s why they thought it was pretty good person to take this position.

Question: What are your goals?

Kiku: “Next year we’re trying to, basically, have average spectators up to 5,000 the first year. Currently, the Nadeshiko League, the amateur top league, the average number of spectators is 1,300. And then on they don’t have a lot of diversity. It’s mostly middle-aged men who come to the stadium. So you need to have, just like the United States, you need to have families and young girls who play soccer, want to watch the game, want to become like Alex Morgan. I mean there’s so many potential soccer players, girls, who need need to watch the game. And they cannot come to games because the games are at the same time as their practices and their games. I need to talk to local soccer associations in some kind of arrangement.

I also need to have diversity in their fan base. Include more women, more young girls. And I really want to send the message to include LGBTQ community.

Question: So how do you create a league that attracts nontraditional fans to sports and also embraces some of those social justice issues?

Kiku: A lot of challenges. We have to do everything new. You have to try a lot of new things that overcome the challenges. The challenge is that it will be a first. Women’s sports are never viewed as professional. There’s no professional team sports in Japan for women. There’s obviously golfers, professional golfers, and professional like ice skaters. Individual athletes can be professional, but no team sports are professional.

I think the first thing is that you gave to make each of the games self-sustainable, meaning that you’d have to have enough ticket sales. And in order to do that we have to have a different fan base: Families, young girls and others. So to get that new type of spectator is a big challenge because a lot of women who we want to target go J-League, men’s professional league, and we don’t see women coming, in a big way, come to that game. So we need to have female fans interested in woman’s sports. In order to do that, you just have to have a little bit of a different aspect to it. Not just the game, but attractions at the stadium. So I’m thinking about having, like, vegetable stands, women’s craft items, breast cancer screening, those kind of things.

Trying to get that new group come to the stadium once, and then you have to make it so it happens again and again. And possibly those groups we target, like female groups, may not know anything about, like offside or how a free kick happens, so we have to think about the way to explain those at the stadium.

Question: The NWSL has seen success with teams that partner with MLS. Can you partner with the J-League?

Kiku: So eight of the J-League teams applied (For WE League teams). So they already like five or six teams already in the amateur league and two J-League teams are creating a new women’s teams, which is really good news. So the men’s league is very, very successful and have financial resources to try to support women’s soccer. But at the same time, we just need to find corporate sponsors who have that interest. We have two confirmed already.

Mondays: Soccer
By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson AP Women’s Soccer
Tuesdays: Tennis
By Joey Dillon, @JoeyDillon  Freelance Tennis Writer
Wednesdays: Basketball
By: Howard Megdal, @HowardMegdal The Next
Thursdays: Golf
By Carly Grenfell, @Carlygren
Fridays: Hockey
By: Erica Ayala, @ELindsay08 NWHL Broadcaster

Written by Annie Peterson