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August 17, 2012 at 12:45 AM

Chatting about a new women’s professional soccer league with Bill Predmore

predmore.jpgPhoto courtesy of Bill Predmore

I wrote a story recently on the plans to bring women’s professional soccer to Seattle next year. Outside circumstances — e.g. Felix Hernandez’ perfect game — cut space in the paper and what was available for my story, so I figured I should come back with a blog post.

I caught up with Bill Predmore (pictured), who would own a newly formed Seattle team in the yet-to-be finalized women’s pro league (more info in this press release and subsequent blog post), and here are some highlights from our telephone interview:

* * *

So who is Bill Predmore? Well, he’s a 42-year-old Seattle native, a long-time soccer fan, and the founder and president of POP, a Seattle-based digital marketing agency. His wife, Teresa, played collegiate soccer at Oregon State, which led to Predmore having more interest in the women’s game. “I just started seeing more and more matches, and got more and more excited about it,” he said. “I had toyed with the idea for quite some time — that if the opportunity ever came up, it would be interesting to own a women’s club. The opportunity came up, so I jumped at it.”

Is there much Predmore can share about the new league or team? “At this point, no,” he said. “There’s really not too much we can share.” Predmore anticipates more information will be made available in the coming weeks. The first team announcements will be staff related, likely the hire of a general manager and perhaps a coach.

So what about the Sounders Women? Predmore said he has had conversations with the local W-League team, which drew a massive amount of attention this past season for featuring U.S. women’s national team stars Hope Solo, Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe and Sydney Leroux. “I think everybody is — or at least should be — impressed with what they did last season with the Sounders Women,” Predmore said. “They basically had an all-star team put together and I think that obviously drove a lot of interest in the club. We are chatting with them to see if there’s a way we might work together and I think they’ve demonstrated that there is hunger out there for women’s soccer in Seattle. That gives me hope that in the upcoming season there’s going to be even more excitement about seeing women’s soccer at the top level.” It’s worth noting that the Sounders Women didn’t pay its players last season — something the pro team would, if all goes according to plan, be able to do.

So if a partnership with the Sounders Women didn’t work out, would that affect this new team? Predmore doesn’t think so.

But certainly there’s some value in the Sounders brand (name, colors, etc.), right? Predmore thinks it all comes down to the players. “I think when people go out, they want to see the best,” he said. “I’ll say there’s some certainly positive impact that the Sounders brand has had on the club, but it’s hard to say how much. I’m inclined to believe, however, that the big driver for attendance last season for the Sounders Women was having Hope Solo and Alex Morgan and that whole crew that they were able to put together. What that would suggest to me is the clubs that have those players are the ones that our going to draw the fans.”

So has Predmore had any talks with the MLS Sounders? He said he’s talked with Adrian Hanauer, Sounders FC general manager and part owner, on an informal basis. Hanauer has offered some tips and advice, but there haven’t been any formal discussions.

Is Predmore looking to add owners to his new team? He said it’s possible, but not something he’s actively pursuing at the moment. “I’m signed up and prepared to go alone,” Predmore said. “I’m comfortable doing that and feel that in and of itself won’t be a problem. As we go along, however, I may want to bring on additional owners to the extent it makes sense to do so.”

So with so much still to be done in finalizing the formation of the league, why did the owners come out with a press release last week? Predmore admits the owners would like to have been further along in the process before issuing the press release, “but we felt the big driver, of course, was the women’s (gold-medal match in the Olympics),” he said, “and we wanted to on some level let those players know that there was going to be a league that they could come back to. That was the best time to do it. I think there’s obviously going to be a lot of interest in those players worldwide from various leagues, so before things went too far in other conversations, we just wanted to make sure that, again, they knew that they were going to have that option that they could consider.”

So why is this league going to get it right after two previous failures when it comes to women’s professional soccer? Predmore said the league’s owners are very focused on sustainability and finding a financial structure that is set-up for the long term. “This will be the third go-around,” he said. “I think everybody understands the stakes in this and believes we’ve got to get it right this time. It’ll probably be a slower build than what’s been attempted in the past, but I would argue that taking it a little bit slower is probably going to be smarter in the long term.”

So what’s next? Predmore said finalizing the formation of the league is the first step. He expects the next announcement will involve the league’s name and participating teams, which would likely be more than the handful mentioned in the introductory press release.

So are Predmore’s efforts more on the league or team right now? He said it’s split. He wants to help the league get off on the right foot and build a solid foundation. Getting teams set up on both coasts with “stable financial footing” is a top priority. “We’re probably closer than it might appear,” Predmore said, “but once we’ve really got that wrapped up, then I think the majority of my focus goes on the Seattle club.”

Lastly, has he thought about any other details like a team name, colors, etc.? “Well, I’m a big fan of rave green, but unfortunately that’s taken,” joked Predmore, adding it was premature to talk about that stuff. He has been thinking about it though.

* * *

Any thoughts?

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