Javier E. Altamirano, Sportradar director of federation services, North America, Central America & Caribbean
How do you assess the commercial performance of the Mexican league?
JA: The commercial performance of Liga MX is in good shape. Prominent sponsors have been secured, stadia are full week in, week out and merchandise is selling well. According to top league officials, Liga MX is more watched in the US than Major League Soccer itself. Stadium attendance is ranked fourth globally, above Serie A, while the league’s large fan base is spread across two of the most populous countries in the Americas (US and Mexico). We are talking about a league that serves ‘local’ fans in two large countries simultaneously: a commercial dream.
What is the potential for future growth?
JA: The Asian market is virtually unexploited by Liga MX and with stars such as Chicharito making waves in European leagues (especially in the Bundesliga) Mexican players are now more renowned in the Middle East and Asia. Almost every fan from those regions I have talked to recognises at least a couple of current Mexican players. Indeed, there has already been an approach made from Asia to Club America, which is the most popular and hated team in the league, by the Chinese consumer electronics brand Huawei, which was interested in becoming the club’s main sponsor. That deal’s value is $8.3m per season until 2018 – a significant amount.
What are the main barriers to that growth?
JA: Focus and time zone seem to be potential stumbling blocks. With a tight schedule where clubs play two national tournaments each year (Apertura and Clausura), plus the domestic cup, Copa Libertadores and Concacaf Champions League, it will be a challenge for any Liga MX team to go on a pre-season tour in Asia like teams from European leagues. Also time zones are not the friendliest to key markets: playing on Tuesday at 8pm in Mexico City means watching on the Wednesday at 3pm in Shanghai: not ideal.
Unfortunately, the new format of the Copa Libertadores does not help Mexican teams as it is now a year-round tournament and conflicts with the national calendar and Concacaf’s schedule. It seems inevitable that Mexican teams will leave the Libertadores in a group in 2017. This may be a big blow to current sponsors, but maybe the decision will free up time and energy for some of the clubs to focus on other markets, such as Asia.
If you could make one decision to transform the league, what would it be?
JA: Enter the dragon: partner with Middle Eastern and/or Asian companies to deliver a tailor-made domestic league cup, played at times that are friendly to the Asian and Middle Eastern markets (for example, Friday evening in Mexico which ends up with broadcasts at midday on Saturday in Asia) and find time to organise pre-season tours in those regions.
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