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Ajax looks to keep up with European rivals by opening New York office

Ajax’s regional office in New York City represents the club’s latest attempt to expand its brand internationally in order to grow the fanbase and gain new commercial deals.

The Manhattan office – which opened in November and employs three staff members – follows partnerships with Guangzhou in China, Sagan Tosu in Japan and Sydney FC in Australia that were announced earlier this year. Ajax is also the majority owner of Ajax Cape Town in South Africa.

“Ajax has a history of expanding throughout the world. We do have that history of exploring other territories and markets and this is another extension for us,” James Caporusso, who runs Ajax’s New York office, tells SportBusiness.

The Dutch club is specifically looking to utilize its famed youth academy – which developed the likes of Johan Cruyff, Marco van Basten, Dennis Bergkamp and Patrick Kluivert – to form academy partnerships in the United States.

“We think the US market is going to be very good for us in terms of player development. We’ve had a lot of interest in that before we came to New York,” Caporusso adds.

“Most of our options are to partner with existing clubs and youth clubs. We’ve also had interest in standalone academies to partner with us. There might be the possibility that we might partner with a [professional] club in the US. We just want to be cautious with the steps we take.”

From a commercial perspective, Ajax is looking to form partnerships with American companies who want to push their brands in Holland. “We are looking for entities in the US that are looking to break into the Dutch market,” Caporusso says.

Starting at ‘ground zero’
Ajax has somewhat suffered from Dutch soccer’s lack of exposure on American television networks in recent years but the Eredivisie’s recent deal with ESPN+, ESPN’s OTT subscription service, should help grow the club’s US fanbase.

“Because of the lack of broadcasting in the US, we are starting at ground zero. We have a fanbase in the US but this is where we have to push,” says Caporusso. “We are also looking to push our brand in terms of marketing. We’re very happy that we’re on ESPN and we’re happy to be able to market that for the first time.

“Producing content for ESPN or any other outlet will be advantageous for us. That’s one of the roads that we’re taking.”

Ajax will also launch its own US social media accounts, in addition to English-language ones, in order to engage with its American fanbase.

The club has agreed to take part in the Florida Cup friendly tournament in January and participating in the International Champions Cup in the US in the summer is an aim.

Ajax is following in the footsteps of Bayern Munich, Paris Saint-Germain and Barcelona – as well as LaLiga and the Bundesliga – in opening an office in New York. The club will look to adopt best practices but add its own mark.

“We’re taking pieces that work and examining pieces that don’t work from other clubs that have been here and taking it step by step. We are also injecting our own thoughts on how success will come about,” Caporusso says. “The soccer world is very international and in order to keep up you’ve got to be in that club.”