Relevent Sports Announce Partnership With Vikings

by Brian Quarstad on June 12, 2014

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Relevent Sports held a press conference on Wednesday afternoon in conjunction with the Minnesota Vikings and the Minnesota Gophers, to promote the Guinness International Champions Cup competition which will be held at TCF Bank Stadium on August 2. The teams competing are current English Premier League Champions, Manchester City and 41-time Greek league champions, Olympiacos.

Charlie Stillitano, CEO of Relevent Sports, was in the Twin Cities to promote the match and to announced a new partnership with the Minnesota Vikings. “We’re thrilled to bring two world class champions in Manchester City and Olympiacos to TCF Bank Stadium,” said Stillitano. “The sport of soccer is expanding rapidly in the U.S. and no more so than in the Minneapolis and St. Paul area.”

Stillitano reminded the public that there will be a double header on August 2nd with their game being followed by Minnesota United vs. the Ottawa Fury.

According to Stillitano, 20,000 tickets have been sold for event which puts it about average for their Champions Cup matches with two months remaining. But the press conference was clearly an attempt to stir up tickets sales for the double header. The Relevent Sports CEO said that they have been successful when partnering with universities and have also seen success working with NFL teams. However, this is the first time they have worked with both a university (U of M) and NFL team to promote an event. “I don’t think we can miss,” said Stillitano. He added that he expects to sell out the match. TCF Bank Stadium seats 50,000.

There had been some speculation of what exactly the Vikings partnership with Relevent meant. However, that seemed to be cleared up on Wednesday. “Our relationship is one of collaboration and marketing,” said Stillitano explaining they would help the Vikings to bring in other major soccer events to both TCF Bank Stadium and the Vikings new stadium after completion.

Of course Relevent isn’t the only one to bring in an English Premier team to Minnesota this summer. Although not the heavyweight status of Man City nor Olympiacos, Minnesota United FC is bringing in Swansea City, for a friendly on July 19, at the National Sports Center.

There is an NFL connection between the Vikings and Relevent Sports. RSE Ventures is the parent company and that is co-owned by Miami Dolphins owner, Stephen Ross. It was Ross who set the wheels in motion to get the Vikings help to market and sell the match on August 2nd.

“I think it (this event) helps us to get out feet wet and get our operation focused on grassroots soccer and building some momentum,” said Vikings vice president of public affairs, Lester Bagley. The Vikings spokesperson stated publicly at the press conference that his organization is now in pursuit of the 24th MLS slot commissioner Don Garber has said he would like to have playing by 2020.

An interesting aspect of Relevent’s new partnership with the Vikings is they are also working with Minnesota United FC and their double header. That may not seem odd except it appears that both parties may be making future bids for an MLS team in the Twin Cities. Awkward is a word that comes to mind.

“We want to do this the right way. We want to listen. We want to learn. We want to work with and collaborate with folks in the community,” explained Bagley. He also admitted that they have a lot of work to do and will have to build this movement “brick by brick.”

Bagley said that the Vikings made sure the new stadium was also built with soccer in mind and that the transparent roof and “largest pivoting doors in the world.” will help to give an indoor, outdoor experience to the fans. He believes the Vikings new stadium would be perfect for an MLS team in Minnesota, with the length of the MLS season, starting in early March and possibly ending in December.

He also said that the organization had visited both the Seattle Sounders and Sporting KC to take in games and have more trips planned in the future.

After the event Bagley told me that they have been doing their homework and market research over the last year. They have also been having conversations with MLS which is how they got to the point of making a final decision. When asked about the delay in making that decision he explained that between the legislative process to get the stadium bill passed, breaking ground, which he says was a monumental task, and winning the Super Bowl bid, which was another 5 month sidetrack,“ they just didn’t have the bandwidth” to make that decision until now. The Vikings hopes to show MLS their commitment by selling and marketing the Champions Cup event,  and show  them that Minnesota is a good soccer market and that they capabilities of his organization.

Bagley also said there is yet to be a time table but they are working hard with stadium architects and the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority to design a “house reduction mechanism” to cover up seating not used to make the facility more intimate with seating for 20,000 to 25,000 seats. A house reduction system was also part of Atlanta’s MLS bid which will make them the 22nd MLS team.

When asked if MLS has openly stated that they want a team in the Twin Cities, the Vike’s VP said he didn’t want to speak for MLS, but added that they know the Twin Cities area well and understand it’s a strong grassroots soccer market with great potential. “They are very focused on this market,” said Bagley. He also said that MLS would like to have another team in the Midwest.

The media were invited out onto the field after the press conference. Looking around the TCF Stadium, it’s obvious that the corners will be tight, but a member of Relevent Sports said that they are used to putting on events where field size is not always optimal. He said TCF Bank Stadium is actually larger then some major stadiums they have played on in the past. He also revealed that the turf will be covered with real grass for the match.

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KSTP-TV reported last night about the current state of MLS in Minnesota during the 10 o’clock news. Check out the video here: Minnesota Financial Titans Clash over New Professional Soccer Franchise. The video features our very own Dave Laidig.

The story revealed that MN United FC approached the Vikings to play in the new stadium. “McGuire owns the North American Soccer League Minnesota United FC, which plays at the National Sports Center in Blaine. Wilf owns the Vikings and has exclusive rights to bring an MLS franchise into the new Vikings stadium for five years. Sources say he and McGuire could not agree on revenue sharing and that talks broke off.” No details about the talks or the revenue sharing agreement have been made public.

Later today, the Vikings and Relevant sports will discuss the August 2nd Guinness International Champions Cup match at TCF Bank Stadium and their intent to bring a MLS team to Minnesota. MLS4MN will be there to report on the press conference.

Minnesota United FC is not standing still with an entire summer planned full of soccer. First is a 4th of July match against the Mexican U-21 National Team followed by a match against the Barclays Premier League’s Swansea City on July 19th.

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