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Looking for a positive spin on the end of NWSL, A+E deal

When the National Women’s Soccer League and A+E Networks formed their landmark partnership two years ago this month, the long-term prognosis was that the relative success or failure would hinge on 2019, the final year of the agreement and the one destined to be impacted by the World Cup. It turns out that was fool’s gold.

The partnership ended on Wednesday. A+E will remain on board as a sponsor for the 2019 season, but they will no longer have an equity stake in the NWSL. Lifetime will no longer broadcast games.

“These changes came about very quickly,” Amanda Duffy said on a conference call in what amounted to her first public comments since being named NWSL president. “They are changes that resulted from discussions between the principles of the entities as we were looking at the future of the league. After discussions with the network and with A+E and what NWSL and NWSL Media would be beyond this Women’s World Cup year when we know we’ll have a lot of visibility and exposure, both parties agreed the time seemed right to allow the league to be better positioned for the future than wait until the end of the third year.”

That is a mouthful, and Duffy later acknowledged that the end of the A+E and Lifetime partnerships are likely to be met with visions of woe. But the big picture needs to be bifurcated. And the long-term viability of the NWSL likely rests on the answer to this question: Does the end of the deal mean that women’s soccer was not right for A+E and Lifetime, or does it mean that women’s soccer is not a good investment on any grounds?

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