The Sports Economy

The Red Sox-Liverpool Deal as a Global Model


When the English soccer club Liverpool FC agreed to be acquired by the Boston Red Sox ownership group, New England Sports Ventures, on Oct. 6 for $478 million, observers noted the similarities between the teams and their fans. Both cities absorbed massive waves of Irish immigrants during the potato famine of the mid-19th century; both have tricky accents. In addition, these clubs play in old parks cherished for their tradition and derided for their cramped conditions—the Red Sox at Fenway Park and Liverpool at Anfield. Finally, both feed on resentment toward their wealthier, more famous rivals—the New York Yankees and Manchester United, who, by the way, have a marketing partnership.

If the Red Sox offer clears legal challenges and a rival bid, it could provide a template for other possible multinational, multisport combinations:

Aston Villa/Chicago Cubs

Birmingham, the home of Aston Villa, and Chicago are both known as the "second city" in their countries. Aston Villa plays at Villa Park, a 113-year-old stadium with an iconic façade nestled in the neighborhood of Aston on Birmingham's north side. The Cubs play at Wrigley field, a 96-year-old park with iconic façade nestled in the neighborhood of Wrigleyville on Chicago's north side. Both clubs have local rivals to the south—Birmingham City and the White Sox. Aston Villa won the top division in 1910 and has won only once since, in 1981. The Cubs won the World Series in 1907 and 1908 and haven't won since.

Manchester City/New York Mets

The two clubs play second fiddle in their own cities to dominant franchises—Manchester United and the Yankees. In 2003, Manchester City moved from Maine Road, a now-demolished stadium (where the Rolling Stones played in 1990), to the largely publicly financed City of Manchester Stadium. In 2009, the Mets moved from Shea, now demolished (the Rolling Stones played there in 1989), to the largely publicly financed Citi Field. Recently both teams have spent massively on players with little to show for it.

Leeds United/ Pittsburgh Pirates

Leeds had its glory years in the 1960s and '70s under manager Don Revie and a brief revival in the early '90s. It now dwells in the obscurity of England's second division. The Pirates had their glory years in the '60s and '70s with legends Willie Stargell and Roberto Clemente. A brief revival occurred in the early '90s. Now they lead the league in losses, with 105 last season.

The bottom line: Transatlantic pairings of sports underdogs? They could work. Think of the airline tie-ins and the T-shirts.

Boudway_190
Boudway is a reporter for Bloomberg Businessweek in New York.

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