Tom Marshall: Liga MX needs to move in globalized, digital era

In order to continue gaining more popularity, the Mexican top division must do a better job reaching out to more fans and journalists.
The second of a three-part series focused on the Liga MX/MLS rivalry moving forward and looking at ideas for Mexico’s first division to step up its game. See part one here.

Try and get an interview as a journalist with a Liga MX player or coach if you are based outside of the team’s city and/or aren’t fully acquainted with the league.

It is notoriously difficult and requires patience and tact if the institution in question doesn’t know you, even if you do speak Spanish.

The usual path for interviews in Mexico is getting a direct contact with the player, their agent (if you can find out who that is) or someone who knows them and then arranging it completely apart from the club.

There are some clubs that are noticeable exceptions (Morelia, Santos Laguna, Chivas, Xolos), but the difficulties don’t befit a league that should be encouraging more press and more column inches both inside and outside Mexico.

It is one area that MLS is light-years ahead of the Liga MX in the rivalry that is set to grow in coming years.

Just take one look at compared to Granted, the MLS website seems like it is intended to create interest in the game north of the border. But isn’t that what an expanding league’s website should be doing anyway?

One of the first things you will notice is that the MLS website offers a Spanish-language version. Overall, it is cleaner, brighter and much easier to navigate than that of the Liga MX. You can easily see when the next game is, switch through the different fixtures, the league table and buy products from the shop.

Not sold? Let’s try an experiment, predominantly aimed at people who can read both English and Spanish.

Answer these questions based only on looking at the MLS and Liga MX websites:

1) Imagine you are a Europe-based journalist impressed by one or two players from North America at the World Cup and interested in writing a couple of stories for, say, France Football. You want to interview one player from Chicago Fire and one from Toluca. How do you go about it? Who do you contact?

2) You mainly use your mobile device to check scores and keep up to date with the news of your league of choice. Check out the two websites on your usual browser. Which one would you go back to regularly?

3) You are a fan interested in records and historical information. Find out the score of the Clausura 2012 final in Mexico and the 2012 MLS Cup final.

4) Who does Club Queretaro play in week six of matches in Mexico’s upcoming Apertura 2014? What about San Jose Earthquakes on July 27? How would you go about getting tickets for each of the matches?

Which of the two comes out on top?

Expanding that out to the clubs, only a handful of the 19 current MLS franchises don’t have some social media account or website in Spanish, compared to just one in the Liga MX with any English-language content at all: Club Tijuana.

The Bundesliga may be a well-established top European league, but a few years ago it undoubtedly felt the threat of the Premier League and La Liga and has upped its game significantly both on and off the field.

Anyone without much previous knowledge of the Bundesliga who watched the World Cup and was captivated by the sweeping antics of Manuel Neuer, the sheer class of Thomas Muller or the rock that was Mats Hummels can follow them in the league on its excellent website, all in English.

Ligue 1, La Liga and Serie A have joined in expanding their coverage into other languages. It makes clear sense in terms of potentially expanding TV deals to new markets, attracting sponsors and fans from different places that had previously found it difficult to comprehend. It is being proactive, bringing money into the league over the long term to improve the product on the field.

It is clearly not the be all and end all of building a successful league, but with the amount of money floating around the Mexican game and such huge and obvious opportunities to expand (especially in the United States) with the continued globalization of the sport, it seems like a missed opportunity for the Liga MX.

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