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New WPS CEO talks 2012 vision

Jennifer Pogorelec O’Sullivan was recently appointed as WPS CEO, taking over for former CEO Anne-Marie Eileraas on September 26. O’Sullivan recently took the time to talk about how it has been settling into her new job and touched on a few things to expect from WPS in 2012. Most notably, all six 2011 teams are expected to return next season. A Connecticut team could join, but nothing has been finalized. WPS will look to go west in 2013. Also the No. 1 sponsorship goal is securing a league-wide apparel, equipment and footwear sponsor to replace Puma. Here is what she had to say:

Jeff Kassouf: How has it been adjusting to your new role with a virtual office?

Jennifer Pogorelec O’Sullivan: It’s been great. The owners, certainly having them in the same time zone as me has been great. I think I’ve been able to connect with them just about daily on a lot of things and to know what is going on in their individual markets. I plan to visit each of them, to visit their facilities and meet their coaches and staff, so that is great to know that they are right in my backyard. Being able to operate virtually as far as a league level goes with the staff in San Francisco, the time zone makes it a little bit difficult but certainly not too much because everybody is working hard and kind of working around the clock. The staff has been wonderful and I have plans to visit them in San Francisco as well. I’ve met just about everybody so far. It’s worked out pretty well so far. I can’t say there have been too many bumps in the road.

JK: What was it that appealed to you about the position and WPS in general?

JPO: There are a number of things that were appealing when I got the opportunity. I am a lawyer by trade. That is my background. The opportunities to use my legal background and my law degree in an alternative way where I can be more involved in the business side of sports was more appealing to me. When I was with the Arena Football League, part of what I loved about my job there was as the legal counsel in a small league, you necessarily get involved in just about every aspect of the league. And so again, I have the opportunity to do that here and that is what I really love. Being in a position where I can deal with people and talk with current partners, potential sponsors and our ownership and really have that day-to-day contact with people is something that I really enjoy.

Then there is also the fact that I have worked in male-dominated industries and male sports most of my career, so to be able to be part of a women’s game and promote the game of women’s soccer in this country is something is really appealing to me. There is a tremendous opportunity for growth in the country for the sport and the women’s game in particular, that to be a part of building that and helping it succeed is something that was really appealing to me.

JK: What is the update on Boston and magicJack, two teams that are in fluid situations?

JPO: As we stand right now, we are all six teams that are moving forward and looking forward to the 2012 season. Boston is very close to finalizing their ownership – securing the 100 percent of funding that they need. They have every intention of going forward in 2012, so that is great. As far as magicJack goes, the owners have internally been working with Mr. (Dan) Borislow, on solving some of the issues that took place last year. So we are just excited to move forward with everybody and as of today it is working out that way. We are excited about it and we are just looking forward to next season.

JK: With the talk of a potential Connecticut team, is there concern about that affecting the Boston Breakers?

JPO: I don’t think so. I think it is just another great soccer market and there is an opportunity for a built-in potential, if that were to occur. I think we look at it as a positive market for us, certainly not the other way around.

JK: What is new on the CBA and Players Union front?

JPO: We are continuing to talk and negotiate with the union on potential issues and a potential CBA going forward. I am sure you can appreciate that we can’t talk about many details with that, but part of my goals coming in were to kind of cultivate my own relationship personally with the union folks and work to establish that so we can continue with the talks that we have already started and we are continuing to do that with them.

JK: Puma has been a big supporter of the league. I know you cannot talk specifics of conversations being had, but is a league-wide gear supplier the only option or could it come to putting that task on individual teams?

JPO: The goal obviously is for the league to secure that sponsorship. If we got to a point where we weren’t able to, we would certainly look at other options, but obviously that is our No. 1 priority and our No. 1 goal when it comes to sponsorship, is for the league to secure that apparel and equipment and footwear sponsor.

JK: There is one year left on the Fox Soccer deal. Is the league looking to do anything differently with its broadcasts to enhance them and make them more visible, especially with MLS no longer on Fox Soccer beginning in 2012?

JPO: Obviously it is something we have been hearing a lot from our fans and we take that very seriously. So we are always looking for ways to get more of our games out there and to provide opportunity for fans to view the games. So that is certainly something that we are constantly talking with Fox Soccer about and trying to figure out other opportunities for fans to watch. We listen to what our fans are telling us and so that is one of our priorities as well.

JK: How about regional broadcasts? Can those engage more fans locally?

JPO: Yeah, I think we will definitely look to try to build that out if we can.

JK: Taking an Olympic break poses a similar challenge to this summer’s World Cup, but the Olympics fall even later in the season. Is there any worry about how that will affect fan interest?

JP: I think we are looking at it in terms of it being very similar to World Cup. We are strongly considering taking that brief break to allow the players to compete with the national teams without missing club games and also allow the WPS teams to field the best possible teams without having to compromise their line-ups. We are certainly not looking at it from a negative standpoint. We are looking at it from a positive standpoint, to be able to allow our players to do that and then transition back in with their WPS clubs.

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