Tuesday, July 7, 2009

On Stein's View of Pro Teams & Franchises

I'd like to comment on Jeff Stein's post over at ProPaintball yesterday. (If you haven't read it, check it out first. It's about pro teams from the owner's perspective.) I find nothing objectionable in it but I'd like to piggyback off Jeff's comments. It's less a disagreement and more just a slightly different perspective on what is and will continue to be an issue in competitive paintball. And commenting here let's me ignore the bulk of the comments which were not particularly relevant. (Btw, Faction, if you wish to put your nickel's worth in here please include a link or links to your sources of info on pro sports and teams.)

Jeff focuses on the "value" side of the pro ownership equation and does a good job of laying it all out. The only things I'd add is that the original NXL franchise buy-ins weren't really about the teams. It was an investment in the mainstreamed future of the game. And in that respect it was a more expensive variation on the same 'promise' the NPPL tried trading in. What all of it amounted to was promoting a shared expectation of future value based not on paintball itself but on the ability to sell the game.

While I can (and do) take Jeff's conclusions at face value and understand the sentiment (and frustration) behind the post I don't see a future for his "solution" any more than I see a secure future from the status quo. (I don't actually believe Jeff considers his conclusion a solution either but that's just my opinion.) As long as there has been serious competitive paintball there have been those willing to make what many might reasonably conclude are irrational sacrifices to compete but there is a limit.

A dozen years ago Lockout was able to compete at the pro level on the budget of a broke ass hardcore D2 team frequently driving to national events and stuffing hotel rooms like they were illegal sweat shops. 5 years later some elite pro teams were competing in two or even three international series and operating on six figure budgets. From then until now the sponsor dollars have dried up but the demands placed on a pro level team to be competitive have only increased. (With the modest exception of the PSP roster mandate and the reduction of competition options. It's much cheaper to play pro ball when you're not actually playing. Go figure.) In many respects you can't succeed with just a team anymore, you must have an organization and you must at least come close to matching the time and resources of the richest teams in terms of effective preparation. It's not like riding a bicycle.

A couple of points. The measurable cost of that irrational sacrifice has, over the years, increased so much that what was possible a few years ago isn't possible any more. And the more it costs (forget value, forget return) the fewer owners there will be willing (or able) to pay the price. [If a prospective owner could count on 10K out of pocket every year there would be a lot more willing to pay the price than when the cost is 50K.]
That leaves us with one other group. Those who do receive some return on their investment. Who perceive some value in operating a pro team or teams. That would be PBIndustry and the league(s) running a pro division. Yes, assessing that value is problematic. The factory teams have a commercial as well as a competitive purpose. All sponsors are constantly evaluating and reevaluating the "value" of their sponsorship but they, and the league(s) will need to keep in mind that their teams do not operate in a vacuum. Are the Ironmen the Ironmen if they have no premier league to compete in? And will any national league survive if it's Pro division disappears? The assumption has always been that someone else will always step up to fill a void but if we haven't reached the point where that won't happen we're getting very close to it.


Anonymous said...

Actually, this was a PbNation post that ProPaintball liked and asked to cross post.

It wasn't meant as an article, but a thought starter for the forum readers.

I'll hold off further comments until after someone else responds here.


Baca Loco said...

Thanks, Jeff. (Those crazy ProPaintball kids.) Feel free to put up a link to the original if you'd like.