Foreman works to forge trans-Atlantic link

October 21, 1991|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,Evening Sun Staff

Graham Walker, the man who represents the Major Soccer League in England, went right to the heart of the matter to show two businessmen from Birmingham and Sheffield how attractive the MSL can be.

"We went to the U.S. National game [against North Korea Saturday] and then we came to the MSL's home opener in the Baltimore Arena," said Walker. "When we contrasted the crowd reactions at the two games, it was easy to see what a great product the indoor game is."

Walker, Richard Callicott, who is responsible for putting all sports events into the just completed 12,000-seat National Indoor Arena in Birmingham, and Roy Redman, a Sheffield businessman who operates the Bristol Rovers, a well-respected English football team, are all impressed by what they've seen.

"None of us could help but be impressed," said Walker. "We're not here just to watch a soccer game. We're here to talk business. My business is sports, and I deal in realities. We want a tournament to involve the Blast in Birmingham in January and we want at least one -- at least one -- team operating in the league next year."

MSL commissioner Earl Foreman visited with the group at Saturday night's Blast game. Met with them over breakfast yesterday and will have another meeting today.

Yesterday, he said he hopes to have details for the January tournament in Birmingham's National Indoor Arena finalized within the month. He also said he is working on an agreement for MSL telecasts to be shown on a British sports channel and on a marketing arrangement that would get MSL merchandise into circulation in the United Kingdom.

"I want to do this responsibly," Foreman said. "First, we play thtournament, then we get the television exposure to broaden our appeal and visibility. I want us to lay the foundation, the infrastructure, and have a clearly established program that leads XTC to expansion."

Foreman did not say the MSL is definitely going internationanext season.

"We'd like it to reach fruition in time for next season, but I don'know if it will," he said. "It's a prediction. Neither Graham nor I want to create pie in the sky, but it all looks very doable. It can all be done, as long as we all stay focused on the problems."

Among the questions to be answered: Who are candidates for ownership? How would such expansion effect current club budgets? How would the schedule work? How would the travel affect the level of play?

Walker believes it will be worked out. And he sees the indoor game as a natural in England.

"Soccer, as a commodity in the United Kingdom, attracts corporate expenditures and gets extensive television coverage," he said. "Right now, the people aren't very familiar with the indoor game, but the indoor game is inevitable in Europe. Our weather is such that sports fans want to be seated in comfort, we don't have a lot of indoor sports and the fans already identify with soccer."

Unlike in this country, where proponents of the outdoor game are inclined to view the indoor game as less than real soccer, Walker says European soccer fans will accept the indoor game.

"We invented soccer and gave it to the world," Walker said. "We're not afraid of the indoor game taking away from the outdoor game."

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