Friendly business where profit and sport collide

Thu Jul 24, 2014 4:27pm EDT
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By Steve Keating

TORONTO (Reuters) - Neither Tottenham Hotspur coach Mauricio Pochettino nor Toronto FC's Ryan Nelsen seemed particularly enthused about their mid-week friendly but smiled grudgingly while accepting the match as part of today's global soccer reality where new fans and revenue streams must be cultivated.

For both men, Wednesday's encounter was a meaningless contest where sporting and business interests collide.

Tottenham will play three such matches against Major League Soccer (MLS) opposition on a brief North American pre-season swing, a barnstorming expedition where the score lines will not matter nearly as much as the other numbers that will be crunched by the club's sponsorship and marketing departments.

Pochettino, in his first year in charge at White Hart Lane, has been provided with a sobering introduction into the concessions and demands placed on one of soccer's glamour clubs who seek to climb ever higher up the sport's food chain.

From a purely competition perspective, travelling nearly halfway around the world for a friendly against the Seattle Sounders last Saturday, followed by a cross-country jaunt to Canada for a date with Toronto FC before wrapping up at the weekend in Chicago against the Fire is not the ideal way to begin preparations for the upcoming Premier League season.

But from a commercial standpoint, the whirlwind visit has been trumpeted as a success, helping the Spurs grow their brand while tapping into new lucrative markets.

"This is a very good relationship with Toronto, this is a commercial relationship, this is important for our club and Toronto," said Pochettino, in a pre-match press conference.

"It's not easy for us because we are in the middle of our pre-season but we understand that the club is a big club, that they have to come here for different things."   Continued...

Mauricio Pochettino reacts during a English Premier League soccer match against Everton at St Mary's stadium in Southampton, southern England April 26, 2014. REUTERS/Eddie Keogh