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11 Benefits of Promotion and Relegation

Benefits of Promotion and Relegation for a Club

The thrill of promotion to a higher level is one of the greatest emotion in supports. The benefits of Promotion and Relegation can be a game-changer for soccer clubs, unlocking a wealth of incredible advantages, financially and emotionally, that can take the entire organization to new levels of success. (See Wrexham promotion to League 4)

1. Ownership Opportunities

Currently, there are only 29 total teams in Major League Soccer (MLS), the first division of US soccer. Simply put, more than 90% of the top 300 populated cities in the United States (all over 100,000) DO NOT have the opportunity to be part of MLS. They only way they can be part of MLS is to buy their way in with a huge franchise fee…AND fulfill all the US Pro Standards. In the US, there are currently 95 cities over a population of 200,000 people and 37 cities over 300,000 that do not have a MLS franchise. That includes major cities like Detroit, Phoenix, El Paso, San Antonio, Jacksonville, Indianapolis, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Sacramento, Louisville, and many more.

Despite the lack of promotion, almost all 279 of the remaining cities have some sort of professional or semi-pro team in the USL, NISA, UPSL or another lower level league. In fact, the Richmond Kickers (the longest, continuously operating professional outdoor soccer club in the United States and a population of only 226,000) currently plays in the USL League One. Unfortunately, the Kickers and every other club outside MLS has zero opportunity to promote to the first division. This lack of ability to play at the highest level, with all the additional revenue opportunities, such as from broadcasting fees or sponsorship packages, gives little incentive for owners to invest in their clubs besides their the love of the sport. Hundreds have spent their own money of teams only to fail due to the closed system.

Ironically, American owners or consortiums have invested in many teams in Europe from top level team like Liverpool and Manchester United and AS Roma, to lower league clubs such as Wrexham, Crawley Town and Gillingham. Any of these clubs could be at risk to be relegated, but this has not scared off American owners. The reality is that the dream of making it big, which is a very American value, is available in the open leagues with promotion and relegation. This capitalistic lure of soccer success in other countries is not the same in the United States. The lack of promotion makes sense why lower level teams in the United States cannot get the investment they need. Read more about American investors in lower leagues: A New Wave of American Buyers Has Set Its Sights on European Soccer

Now, imagine if these 279 teams had the opportunity to play in an open pyramid, and could be promoted to the highest level. Isn’t it logical that there would be a plethora of ownership groups wanting to buy up these clubs to invest and build for the future. In the United States, we continue to seen small investments in lower level clubs with loyal passionate fan bases, yet little hope for success.

We see American investment in foreign teams in leagues with promotion and the risk of relegation. It only makes sense that with an open system in a United States with a growing, educated and passionate soccer fanbase, there would be little problem finding owners to invest in clubs taking part in a system with promotion and relegation. The only way to know is for US Soccer to permit this to happen by allowing this type of league to exist.

2. Financial Incentives

The possibility of promotion offers smaller clubs a chance to compete at higher levels, attracting greater attention and potentially generating more revenue. This can lead to increased sponsorship deals, ticket sales, and broadcasting rights, benefiting the clubs and the league as a whole.

For example, a newly promoted team typically starts receiving broadcast revenue from the higher tier, such as the Premier League, at the beginning of the season following their promotion. The broadcast revenue distribution is usually ensures that promoted clubs start receiving their share of the broadcast revenue at the beginning of their first season in the Premier League. This financial injection plays a crucial role in helping newly promoted teams adapt to the financial demands and competition that comes with top-flight play.

Team also receive merit payments rewarded to teams based on where they placed in the league, with a higher financial amount going to teams that finish higher up in the standings. In 2023, the merit payment for the first place team in the Championship League was only about $100,000 compared to the last place team that won only $7,000. That is not much money to pay for player salaries. The real incentives is for a club to be promoted to the Premier League where broadcast rights alone can bring in $100 million to each team, compared to about $7 million for teams in the Championship League. (see a good explanation from Interesting Football). And an even greater incentive for owners to invest in their club is the reward given out to the top teams that qualify for the Champions league. According to the Mirror, just qualifying for Champions League could bring an additional $124 million to each English club, with additional as the club is successful as a club progresses through the tournament.

Merit pay for lower levels are even less, but teams can get another form of revenue from solitary payments. Although not fully a revenue because of promotion, solidarity payments provide a valuable source of income for a club when a former player is transferred (ie. sold) to higher level or wealthier clubs. Each club that helped train and develop the player along the way (over 12 years old) will receive a % of the future transfer fees. Solidarity payments are regulated by FIFA and are designed to support the development of young players and incentivize clubs to invest in youth training and development programs. This financial injection can help these clubs sustain and improve their youth development programs, facilities, and coaching staff. Unfortunately, this is not practiced in the United States so semi-pro, and youth teams and academies receive nothing, zero, zilch, if one of their players moves to Bayern Munich or another top club. For example, if solidarity payments were allowed in the United States, like the rest of the world, the PA Classic youth team, in Pennsylvania, where Christian Pulisic played some club soccer would have received 5% of his transfer fee to Chelsea, and the PA Classic youth club would have received $750,000, which is quite a substantial amount for any youth club. (Read more about legal battles over solidarity payments at SB Nation).

Beyond lucrative broadcasting rights, merit pay, promoted teams can also gain revenue from other commercial and and game-day avenues. Promoted teams naturally get a higher-profile and more lucrative commercial opportunities due to the increased exposure and prestige of being in the Premier League. Regular fans are more invested and the club will gain many new fans. Both will spend much more on club gear and merchandise. There will more likely be much higher matchday revenues due to larger stadium attendances and increased ticket prices resulting from playing against more high-profile opponents. The increased visibility and exposure of being in the Premier League can attract higher-value sponsorship deals, and the ability to attract higher-caliber players due to the enhanced financial resources and the allure of top-flight football.

The graphic below (from Statista) shows revenue in jersey sales for the Premier league clubs in 2022-2023 (in $ millions)

3. Increased Competition

The promotion and relegation system promotes intense competition throughout the league. If clubs functioned similarly to the leagues in countries with open pyramids, teams would have a strong financial incentive to perform well in order to secure promotion or avoid relegation. This creates excitement and drama, as every match holds significance. By challenging the team to perform at their peak and reach new levels of success, promotion can ignite a passionate drive in players, coaches, and staff alike. This, in turn, can fuel growth and development for the team as a whole, creating an environment ripe with possibilities.

4. Sporting Fairness

Promotion and relegation ensure that teams are rewarded or penalized based on their performance on the field. It provides a fair and merit-based system where success is earned through consistent performance rather than financial power alone.

5. Player Development

Promotion provides opportunities for young and talented players to showcase their skills at higher levels. This exposure to tougher competition can aid in their development and increase their chances of being scouted by bigger clubs or national teams. Higher level team typically bring in more revenue which they can invest in their youth academies.

6. Fan Engagement

Promotion of a team is one of the most exciting moments in sports. Duncan Niederauer, the American majority shareholder of Italian second tier club Venezia in 2018, after surviving its third bankruptcy in a decade, said: “When my wife and I don’t remember each other’s name 30 years from now, we will never forget floating down the canal with the players in the victory parade after we got promoted.” Promotion and relegation adds excitement and unpredictability to the league, capturing the interest and anxiety for fans. It creates a sense of hope and anticipation for lower-ranked teams aiming for promotion, while established clubs fight to avoid relegation. This engagement leads to increased attendance, TV viewership, and overall fan participation. Every promoted team has a new sense of pride and invests more in the club in jerseys, ticket sales, and team merchandise.

7. Club Sustainability

The possibility of relegation acts as a deterrent against complacency for established clubs. It encourages them to continually invest in their team and infrastructure, as failure to perform could result in demotion. This helps maintain a competitive balance within the league and prevents a small group of dominant teams from monopolizing success.

According to U.S. Soccer Reform, in contrast to the rest of the world where clubs rarely dissolve, in our closed US system, there are over 160 U.S. Soccer professionally sanctioned men’s teams that have failed since 1992:

  • AC St. Louis
  • Albuquerque Geckos
  • Arkansas A’s
  • Atlanta Magic
  • Atlanta SC
  • Atlanta Silverbacks/Atlanta Ruckus
  • Austin Aztex
  • Austin Bold FC
  • Austin Lone Stars
  • Baltimore Bays
  • Bay Area Seals/San Francisco Bay Seals/San Francisco Unite All Blacks
  • Bay Cities FC
  • Bethlehem Steel FC
  • Birmingham Grasshoppers
  • Boco Raton Sabres
  • Boston Bulldogs/Worcester Wildfire
  • Boston Storm
  • Califonria Gold/Stanislaus County Cruisers
  • California Jaguars/Monterey Bay Jaguars
  • California United Strikers
  • California Victory
  • Cape Cod Crusaders
  • Cascade Surge/Oregon Surge
  • Central California Valley Hydrea
  • Central Jersey Riptide
  • Chattanooga Express
  • Chico Rooks
  • Chivas USA
  • Cincinnati Cheetahs
  • Cincinnati Kings
  • Cincinnati Riverhawks
  • Cleveland Caps
  • Cleveland City Stars
  • Cocoa Expos
  • Colorado Foxes
  • Columbia Heat
  • Columbus Xoggz
  • Connecticut Wolves
  • Crystal Palace Baltimore
  • Dallas Rockets
  • Daytona Tigers
  • Delaware Wizards
  • Detroit Wheels
  • Eastern Shore Sharks
  • El Paso Patriots
  • Everett Bigfoot
  • F.C. New York
  • Florida Stars
  • Fort Lauderdale Kicks/Fort Lauderdale Strikers/Florida Strikers
  • Fort Lauderdale Strikers
  • Fort Lauderdale Strikers/Miami FC
  • Fresno FC
  • Greenville Lions
  • Hawaii Tsunami
  • Hershey Wildcats
  • Houston Hurricanes
  • Indiana Blast
  • Jacksonville Armada
  • Jacksonville Cyclones
  • Jersey Dragons
  • Lansing Ignite FC
  • Las Vegas Quicksilver
  • Lehigh Valley Steam
  • Lexington Bluegrass Bandits
  • Los Angeles Fireballs
  • Los Angeles Salsa
  • Los Angeles Salsa U-23/East Los Angeles Cobras
  • Louisville Thoroughbreds
  • Maryland Mania
  • Memphis Jackals
  • Miami Freedom
  • Miami Fusion
  • Milwaukee Rampage
  • Milwaukee Wave United
  • Minnesota Thunder
  • MLS Project 40
  • Mobile Revelers
  • Montclair Standard Falcons
  • Myrtle Beach Boys
  • Myrtle Beach Seadawgs
  • Nashville Metros/Tennessee Rhythm
  • New Hampshire Ramblers
  • New Jersey Stallions/New York-New Jersey Stallions/New Jersey Stallions
  • New Mexico Chiles
  • New Orleans Storm/New Orleans Riverboat Gamblers
  • New York Centaurs/New York Fever
  • New York Cosmos
  • New York Freedom
  • North Bay Breakers
  • North Jersey Imperials
  • Northern Nevada Aces
  • NY Cosmos
  • OKC Energy FC
  • Oklahoma City Slickers
  • Orange County Waves/Orange County Zodiac
  • Orlando Lions
  • Orlando Nighthawks
  • Orlando Sundogs
  • Penn FC/Harrisburg City Islanders
  • Pensacola Barracudas
  • Philadelphia Freedom
  • Philadelphia Fury
  • Phoenix FC
  • Portland Firebirds
  • Puerto Rico FC
  • Puerto Rico Islanders
  • Raleigh Express/Raleigh Capital Express/Raleigh Flyers
  • Rayo OKC
  • Real Maryland Monarchs
  • Reno 1868 FC
  • Reno Rattlers
  • Rhode Island Stingrays
  • Rio Grande Valley FC Toros
  • Riverside County Elite
  • Roanoke Wrath
  • Rochester New York FC/Rochester Rhinos/Rochester Raging Rhinos
  • Rockford Raptors
  • Sacramento Geckos/Team Sacramento
  • Sacramento Scorpions
  • San Antonio Pumas
  • San Antonio Scorpions
  • San Diego Flash
  • San Diego Gauchos
  • San Diego Loyal
  • San Diego Top Guns
  • San Fernando Valley Golden Eagles
  • San Francisco Bay Diablos
  • San Francisco Bay Seals
  • San Francisco Deltas
  • San Jose Hawks/San Francisco Bay Blackhawks
  • Santa Cruz Surf
  • Shasta Scorchers
  • Shreveport/Bossier Lions
  • Silicon Valley Firebirds
  • Sioux City Breeze
  • South Carolina Shamrocks
  • South Florida Flamingos
  • Southwest Florida Manatees
  • St. Louis FC
  • St. Louis Knights
  • Staten Island Vipers
  • Stumptown AC
  • Syracuse Salty Dogs
  • Tallahassee Tempest
  • Tampa Bay Cyclones
  • Tampa Bay Mutiny
  • Tampa Bay Rowdies (1974-1994)
  • Texas Lightning
  • Texas Rattlers/Texas Toros/Dallas Toros/Dallas Fort Worth Toros
  • Tucson Amigos
  • Tucson Fireballs
  • Tulsa Roughnecks (1993-2000)
  • Utah Blitzz
  • Valley United FC
  • Vermont Voltage/Vermont Wanderers
  • Virginia Beach Mariners/Hampton Roads Hurricanes/Hampton Roads Mariners
  • VSI Tampa Bay FC
  • Washington Mustangs
  • Wichita Blue Angels
  • Wilmington Hammerheads
  • Yakima Reds

8. Enhanced League Structure

Promotion and relegation add layers of excitement and significance to multiple divisions within a league. It allows for a hierarchical structure, with clear goals and rewards for teams at each level. This creates a pyramid-like system that strengthens the overall structure of the league.

9. Improved Sporting Standards

The presence of promotion and relegation incentivizes teams to improve their performance, both on and off the field. Clubs strive for better training facilities, coaching staff, and player recruitment to enhance their chances of success. This continuous drive for improvement raises the overall standard of the sport within the league.

10. Global Significance

Promotion and relegation are widely embraced and celebrated in soccer leagues around the world. This system has become synonymous with the sport and contributes to the global appeal and prestige of soccer as a whole.

11. Long-Term Stability

Promotion and relegation provide a long-term sustainability mechanism for leagues. It ensures that teams are accountable for their performance and face consequences for underperformance. This helps maintain the integrity of the competition and ensures that the most deserving teams participate in higher divisions.

It’s not just the team that stands to benefit from promotion, either. The community surrounding the team can also be positively impacted, with the team gaining the loyal support and adoration of fans. This can lead to increased team spirit and boosted morale throughout the entire community- a win-win situation in every sense.

All in all, promotion is a pivotal moment in the life of a soccer team, rewarding their hard work, dedication, and strategic thinking. By driving growth and competition, it creates a future filled with endless benefits and promise- something every team dreams of achieving!

10 Benefits to the Community

When it comes to promoting soccer, the benefits for a community or town extend far beyond just the game itself.

  • Local Pride and Identity
    Promotion and relegation create a strong sense of pride and identity within the local community. The success of a local team in earning promotion brings joy and a sense of accomplishment to the fans and residents. It fosters a sense of belonging and unity, as the community rallies around their team and celebrates their achievements.
  • Economic Boost
    The presence of a successful local team in higher divisions can have a positive economic impact on the community. Increased attention, higher attendance at matches, and potential promotion to televised leagues attract more visitors to the area. This, in turn, boosts local businesses such as restaurants, bars, hotels, and merchandise stores, creating job opportunities and stimulating economic growth.
    (See The Soccer Effect: How the USL Kicks off Economic Development in Small and Midsize Cities -Jan 2024)
  • Infrastructure Development
    The pursuit of promotion often requires improvements to stadium facilities and infrastructure. The local community benefits from these upgrades, as modernized stadiums not only enhance the match-day experience for fans but can also serve as multi-purpose venues for other events, attracting further investments and tourism to the area.
  • Youth Development and Engagement
    Promotion and relegation provide inspiration and motivation for young aspiring players in the community. The opportunity to witness local teams competing at higher levels serves as a catalyst for youth development programs and academies. This encourages more youngsters to get involved in soccer, promoting an active and healthy lifestyle, and nurturing local talent.
  • Social Cohesion:
    Soccer has a unique ability to bring people together and promote social cohesion. Local teams provide a platform for people from different backgrounds and walks of life to connect, bond, and form friendships based on shared passion and support. This fosters a sense of community spirit and breaks down social barriers within the local area.
  • Volunteer and Community Involvement
    Soccer clubs heavily rely on the support of volunteers and community involvement. Promotion and relegation generate excitement and a sense of purpose, leading to increased volunteerism and engagement within the community. This could range from match-day volunteering, fan clubs, youth coaching, or even community outreach programs organized by the club, fostering a sense of social responsibility.
  • Inspiration for Future Generations
    The journey of a local team through promotion and relegation can serve as an inspiration for future generations. Young fans witness the determination, resilience, and hard work required for success in sport and life. This can instill valuable life lessons and aspirations, encouraging them to strive for excellence in their own endeavors.
  • Cultural Enrichment
    Soccer clubs often play a vital role in promoting local culture and heritage. They become ambassadors for the community, representing the region in regional or national competitions. This showcases the unique characteristics, traditions, and values of the local area, helping to preserve and promote its cultural identity.
  • Enhanced Community Events
    The presence of a successful local team in higher divisions leads to an increase in community events and activities. Match-day gatherings, fan zones, watch parties, and parades during promotion celebrations create opportunities for people to come together, celebrate, and enjoy shared experiences. This strengthens the social fabric of the community and provides memorable moments for residents.
  • Overall Well-being and Happiness
    A thriving soccer culture with promotion and relegation contributes to the overall well-being and happiness of the local community. The excitement, camaraderie, and shared passion generated by local teams enrich the lives of residents, promoting a sense of joy, fulfillment, and unity that extends beyond the boundaries of the soccer pitch.

Overall, promotion in soccer can have wide-reaching impacts on a city, fostering a sense of community spirit, improving economic activity, and encouraging investment in local infrastructure.