Evening Express

Director Wicks: Aberdeen looking to benefit from US ‘soccer’ boom

Robert Wicks.

Aberdeen aim to tap further into the lucrative United States market to secure financial backing in a bid to help take the club to another level.

Pittodrie commercial director Rob Wicks hopes the Dons can secure new opportunities across the Atlantic, where soccer is booming.

American-based businessman Tom Crotty invested £775,000 ($1 million) into Aberdeen last November after buying up shares.

US-based software entrepreneur and investor, Dave Cormack, made a substantial seven-figure investment in the Dons last June through the acquisition of shares.

Life-long Aberdeen fan Cormack, who had previously held the role of Pittodrie chief executive from 2000 to 2001, was also appointed to the Dons board.

Wicks said: “Football is doing some amazing things in the United States.

“We have Dave Cormack, a major shareholder at the club and also a board director who is based over there.

“Dave is very well placed within the United States market to look at new opportunities for us.”

Aberdonian Cormack introduced venture capitalist Crotty to the Dons.

Crotty is a board member and major donor to US-founded charity Grassroot Soccer which was set up by Tommy Clark, the son of legendary Dons keeper Bobby.

Aberdeen, AFC Community Trust and the now global-based Grassroot recently entered into a formal partnership that focuses on adolescent health and well-being.

Through the partnership a football-inspired education programme for young people around mental health will be piloted at Aberdeen’s new £47m super academy at Lochside.

On confirmation of his investment last year Crotty admitted his first experience of Aberdeen was golf and playing the north-east’s courses. Cormack utilised that link and made a compelling case about Aberdeen’s future plans.

Wicks said: “There is such a strong relationship with the US and Scotland as we have the likes of Donald Trump and his golf.

“If you look at the visitor statistic of people coming into Scotland a very high proportion are Americans.

“They love golf, the whisky trail and there are some really interesting opportunities for us to broaden that relationship and look at new ideas and partnerships.”

Football, or “soccer”, is thriving in the United States and is closing in on the big three of American football, basketball and baseball.

A Gallup poll recently found 7% of Americans named soccer as their favourite sport to watch.

That represented a 3% gain from four years previously.

Soccer was the only sport to post such a large increase.

Gridiron was at 37%, down from 39%, basketball 11%, down from 12%, and baseball 9%, down from 13%. Ice hockey was at 4%, up from 3%. Only 1% of those polled over 55 named soccer as their favourite sport while the figure was 11% between those aged 18-34.

It is expected soccer will surpass baseball in popularity.

The rise of soccer in the United States also came despite the national team’s failure to qualify for the World Cup in Russia – the first time they had not been at the finals since 1986.

The MLS recently signed an historic eight-year TV deal with ESPN, Fox Sports and Univision worth $720m with games now broadcast in 140 countries.

“You look at some of the clubs out there in the MLS and what they are achieving and the fan experience that they are able to deliver,” said Wicks.

“There is a lot we can learn and we have to be cognisant of that. There are wider opportunities.”