MLS lays off 20 per cent of full-time staff; expands Second Spectrum deal
North America’s top-tier Major League Soccer had laid off 20 per cent of its full-time staff at its New York headquarters in a bid to mitigate the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic, it has been reported.
The job cuts amount to roughly 70 out of the 300 people employed at the league’s headquarters, ESPN reported, citing sources.
The cuts come after MLS authorised a 25 per cent pay cut for senior staff, including commissioner Don Garber, deputy commissioners Mark Abbott and Gary Stevenson, in April, following the league’s suspension on 12 March due to the global health crisis.
At the same time, middle managers saw their salaries cut between 10 and 20 per cent and the league announced a hiring freeze. However, entry-level employees were spared from taking any pay cuts.
In July, MLS resumed its season with the MLS is Back Tournament, which was held as a closed-door-tournament in Orlando’s Walt Disney World Resort.
In August, the league resumed its regular season with teams back in their home markets and is currently in its 2020 post-season.
However, with fans still unable to attend games, in June MLS said it is anticipating match day revenue losses exceeding $1 billion.
The restrictions have hit MLS particularly hard financially compared to other established American sports leagues including American football’s NFL, basketball’s NBA and baseball’s MLB as it derives the majority of its revenue from game-day operations including ticket sales, concessions and parking.
In 2019, MLS’ average attendance was over 21,000 fans per game and the current deal for domestic television rights, set to expire at the end of the 2022 season, is worth a modest $90 million per year.
Meanwhile, MLS has announced it has expanded its multi-year partnership with artificial intelligence specialist Second Spectrum as it looks to enhance its domestic broadcasts.
Second Spectrum first partnered MLS in February, becoming the league’s first official advanced tracking data provider starting from the 2020 season.
Under that deal, the AI specialist uses its optical tracking system for every MLS match, including the play-offs, MLS Cup and All Start Game, as well as the Leagues Cup and Campeones Cup matches, the annual competitions between MLS and Mexico’s Liga MX.
Under the expansion, Second Spectrum, which also serves as the English Premier League’s official tracking partner, will use augmented in-game analytics for live streams of the MLS Cup playoffs as part of a new second-screen experience for fans watching at home.
The live match streams will be available to view via digital platforms owned by MLS broadcast partners Fox Sports, Turner Sports and ESPN.
Chris Schlooser, MLS senior vice-president of media, said: “MLS continues to be at the forefront of utilising data and technology to positively enhance the fan experience and bring fans closer to the game.
“Working with Second Spectrum, we are pushing the envelope with what is possible when you combine the latest in machine learning and augmented reality technology.”