U.S. Soccer Federation welcomes JT Batson as new CEO

JT Batson

JT Batson has been named as the new CEO / Secretary General of the U.S. Soccer Federation.

Batson, who has a long history in grassroots football in America, succeeds Will Wilson and will start in his role immediately. Wilson, who made the decision to step down earlier this year, will stay on with U.S. Soccer through October to assist in the transition.

Batson has been a dedicated adherent of soccer from a young age, having played club soccer for Augusta Arsenal whilst growing up in Georgia and later helping run the club while serving as a referee and a referee assignor, mowing and lining fields and working in coaching recruitment. He has coached boys and girls at the grassroots level and has been active in supporting his childhood soccer club as a member of the Augusta Arsenal Soccer Club advisory board.

“JT is uniquely qualified for this position as a person who has vast experience working with large, complex organizations as well as an understanding of the intricate workings of modern business,” U.S. Soccer President Cindy Parlow Cone said in a statement.

“He also has a passion for soccer born out playing and growing up in a generation that saw a massive growth of the sport in the United States. His energy, leadership, creative thinking and personal connection to seeing U.S. Soccer and the sport thrive will be a huge positive for the future of our Federation overall.”

A long-time member of the soccer community, he feels his experience in grassroots soccer helped shape who he is today: an executive who prides himself on doing the work necessary to achieve goals and create important bonds with employees and partners while also teaching and mentoring.

Batson has spent his professional career at the intersection of media, advertising and technology, focused on solving challenging problems at scale through innovation and collaboration. The first software Batson ever worked on was for the assignment of youth soccer referees for tournament organizers. He also paid for college, in part, by working soccer camps.

“It’s an honour and a big responsibility to take on this position with U.S. Soccer, and I’m really looking forward to working with Cindy, our Board, our senior leadership, our players, coaches and referees, and all of our employees, partners and membership across the American soccer landscape,” Batson said via press release.

“I’m a big believer in the power of teamwork and collaboration, and during this historic time for soccer in the USA, that will be vitally important as we continue drive the Federation forward to even greater heights.”

A former member of U.S. Soccer Finance Committee, Batson comes to the Federation with experience heading large companies. He previously served as CEO of Hudson MX, a 425-person NYC- and Atlanta-based software company, which he co-founded and where he will remain a member of the board, that focuses on workflow and financial software for the advertising ecosystem.

His previous work with U.S. Soccer led to him helping spearhead the creation of the U.S. Soccer Development Fund which raises money to support U.S. Soccer’s development of world-class players, coaches and referees, all with the goal of continuing to inspire a nation.

Prior to founding Hudson MX, he was an Entrepreneur in Residence at Greylock Partners and Accel Partners.

Batson began his career as an early employee of Mozilla focused on international growth efforts of the then-nascent Firefox browser. He subsequently joined the Rubicon Project pre-revenue where he helped scale the company to six countries as the EVP, Revenue and Global Development. He’s also served in executive roles at Mediaocean and Cumulus Media.

As an undergrad at Stanford, Batson worked with the Stanford men’s and women’s soccer programs as a student assistant focused on recruiting, soccer operations, marketing, camps and fundraising. The Stanford men’s basketball teams took notice, and he also worked with that program, building a recruiting CRM system and managing dynamic ticket process and fan development. He also continued to referee during his college years, experiences that included running the middle during several scrimmages for the local professional teams.

Batson is a member of the board of the LGBTQ+ entrepreneur focused non-profit StartOut. He also serves on the board of directors for the NYC Ballet. Batson has guest taught at Stanford’s Hasso Plattner Institute of Design and the Graduate School of Business.

FIFPRO Asia/Oceania report of AFC Champions League assesses the cost of competition for players and clubs

FIFPRO Asia/Oceania has published a report on key financial findings from the Asian Football Confederation’s (AFC) flagship club competition, the AFC Champions League (ACL).

The report, AFC Champions League Analysis Report: Counting the cost for players and clubs, was produced alongside sporting intelligence agency Twenty First Group (TFG).

This analysis is in response to the announcement of AFC Champions League Elite (ACLE) commencing in July this year, as revealed by the AFC in December 2022.

Based on TFG’s analysis, insights and feedback from participating players and clubs, the report addresses the feasibility of running ACLE with key factors including on-field quality and competitive balance, attendances and fan engagement, economics for clubs and players, travel and workload, competition design, and football development outcomes.

The research undertaken focusses on the value of introducing ACLE, based on the current operations of the ACL.

“This report analyses the merits and drawbacks of the current AFC Champions League based on various data and the results indicate that the merits do not outweigh the drawbacks for most players and clubs, making it an unsustainable system,” FIFPRO Asia/Oceania Chair Takuya Yamazaki outlines in the report.

“However, this does not mean that the future of football in Asia is bleak. On the contrary, we believe that this economically significant region can lead a discussion for truly sustainable competition formats.”

The report is the most comprehensive public analysis of the ACL and includes recommendations for what the AFC should be implementing.

“For players, the development of competitions is central to their employment conditions and future opportunities. As its primary workforce, the players are determined to play their role to shape a sustainable and innovation-driven future for the football sector in Asia,” Yamazaki added.

World Leagues Forum is involved in representing professional football leagues on a global level. General Secretary Jerome Perlemuter explained that collaboration between all stakeholders in the Asian region would help shape and deliver sustainable competitions.

“FIFPRO’s contribution to shaping the future of Asian continental competitions is most welcome,” Perlemuter said.

“Sustainable football development requires confederations, leagues and players to work together with a common objective to shape high potential continental competitions in a consistent global calendar. In this context, it is important to consider economic, geographical and cultural specificities. We look forward to continuing these discussions with FIFPRO and all stakeholders.”

To see the report in full, you can do so here.

Wellington Phoenix team up with Chinese outfit Tianjin Tiger

Wellington Phoenix have partnered with Chinese Super League team Tianjin Tiger to boost football growth in both nations.

As part of the Wellington Phoenix Tianjin Tiger Sister City Friendship, the clubs have agreed to hold an annual encounter between their men’s first teams.

The inaugural Wellington Phoenix F.C. vs. Tianjin Tiger F.C. Sister City Shield match is set to take place in Tianjin this September, with the second in Wellington next year.

The strategic collaboration was formed after Phoenix general manager David Dome visited Tianjin in September as part of a business delegation headed by Wellington Mayor Tory Whanau.

The club hosted a delegation from Tianjin, and the two sides signed the Memorandum of Understanding at the Mayor’s office.

Phoenix general manager David Dome was thrilled with the partnership going through.

“The mayoral delegation to China last year was invaluable and I’m thrilled about this partnership with Tianjin Jinmen Tiger, which will be of benefit to the club on multiple levels,” he said via press release.

“Not only will the men get to play a Chinese Super League side as part of their A-League pre-season each year, but the academy will soon benefit from an influx of footballers from Tianjin.

“We’re looking to grow our academy to have an international component and Tianjin Jinmen have committed to sending some young players to Wellington to attend training camps in July and we’re discussing the possibility of their juniors being part of a new international academy annual programme.

“International students are essential for the secondary and tertiary education sector in Wellington and we are evaluating how an elite international academy focused on football can be part of New Zealand’s international education offering.”

Wellington mayor Tory Whanau added that the city is excited about the opportunity. 

“I’d like to congratulate David Dome and the wider team for the work they’ve done on this MoU,” he stated via press release.

“I’m beyond stoked that the delegation last September has resulted in this MoU between the Wellington Phoenix and Tianjin Jinmen Tiger. 

“The development opportunities for both the clubs will be invaluable to not only football but also our cities.”

The Phoenix are enjoying a successful A-league campaign where they currently sit top of the table 18 games into the season.

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