Traffic Sports CEO Julio Mariz Resigns; Ramifications for NASL Unclear
A story involving Traffic Sports’ loss of TV contract was reported last July that went largely unnoticed. That story may have already had consequences with the Traffic Sports Group out of Brazil. Traffic is the benefactor that supports three of the eight teams in the North American Soccer League (NASL).
In mid July it was reported that Traffic Sports lost the broadcast rights to Integrated Sports Media.
Integrated Sports Media has secured the rights to more than 40 CONCACAF WC qualifiers from Traffic Sports USA, while Schramm Marketing Group, through a pact with rights-holders Full Play Group and Al Jazeera Sports, is representing 72 CONMEBOL matches.
While many know of Traffic’s dealing in the world of players rights, that aspect of their business is relatively new. For over 30 years the bulk of Traffic’s income has actually derived from TV rights to sporting events and sports and event marketing. With soccer-passionate countries from South America like Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, and Colombia, the CONMEBOL WC qualifying matches were one of the many pieces of their income stream.
The article goes on to say they have also lost future CONMEBOL rights which may or may not be true, depending on whom you talk to.
From the same Multichannel.com article: Joe Schramm, principle of Schramm Marketing, said his company has been working with Full Play — which has gained the rights to the 2015, 2019 and 2023 Copa America tournament, whose rights were previously held by Traffic Sports with the current tourney airing on Univision Communications networks – since 1999. The last round of CONMEBOL WC qualifying matches were represented by Sports Capitol Partners.
According to Aaron Davidson, President of Traffic Sports USA, Traffic still owns the rights to Brazil’s World Cup qualifying matches. In the past they would use those high demand matches as leverage to negotiate deals with other TV rights distributors with the goal of getting pay-per-view rights to other CONMEBOL matches. Being the host nation for the 2014 World Cup, Brazil has an automatic berth into the games and therefore plays no qualifiers in this cycle. That means Traffic cannot leverage those rights to acquire other CONMEBOL rights.
Davidson takes exception with one of the article’s claims. “We didn’t lose 72 matches,” said Davidson. “Using the Brazil leverage we split those rights equally with Full Play.”
Full Play is claiming they have the rights but Davidson says Traffic still owns the rights with COMMEBOL for 2015 and the right of first refusal after that. While he would not go on record as to why he makes that claim, other sources have told IMS that Traffic lost a lawsuit surrounding the deal in which there still may be litigation.
But the bigger news in all of this is Traffic Sports in Sao Paulo announced the resignation of Julio Mariz as CEO of the organization on September 28th. Mariz oversaw all aspects of the Traffic Group in Brazil. Mariz was first the President of the American operation of Traffic before taking the CEO position in Brazil in 2008. He worked closely with Davidson who then took over his position as president of the US office in Miami, Florida. Whether the loss of those TV contracts had bearing on the decision is not known. In several articles from Brazil it stated Mariz’ resignation was for personal reasons. Davidson said he did not know the exact reason for Mariz stepping down but also believed it to be for personal reasons.
It is known that Mariz was a supporter of Davidson and that each were advocates for breaking away from the USL and starting a new Division II league; a move not everyone at Traffic Sports Group in Brazil were convinced of. The NASL group originally known as the Team Owners Association (TOA) started breaking away from the Division II USL in 2008. With diminished support from owners for the USL First Division and the bulk of those same owners moving to support the NASL, the new league was eventually sanctioned to run a Division II soccer league in the U.S. under the umbrella of the USSF. But the February 2011 decision to sanction the league was provisional, as the US governing body of soccer was concerned with the amount of support that Traffic was giving the NASL.
Initial reports on Mariz’ resignation said that Traffic Sports Group would have more information last Tuesday explaining Mariz’ departure and his replacement but no such announcement could be found. However, Davidson said Mariz’ replacement would be Traffic Sports owner J. Hawilla’s son, Stefano Hawilla. He also explained that Mariz will continue to be involved with Traffic Sports while the position transitions to Stefano.
Stefano Hawilla also spent time working for Traffic Sports USA and lived in the US. It’s said he is very familiar with American culture and has a good grasp of strengths and weaknesses of soccer in the U.S.
A source who has previously given IMS information regarding US Soccer, USL and NASL states that both Davidson and possibly NASL Commissioner David Downs have been requested to travel to Brazil in the next several weeks to discuss the status of Traffic Sports USA and the NASL.
It was also announced this past week that Traffic Sports has been awarded the rights along with Grupo Águia, to sell hospitality packages in the host country Brazil for the 2014 World Cup and 2013 Confederations Cup.
Traffic Sports owner J. Hawilla said, “We are proud of having been appointed exclusive sales agents with Grupo Águia for one of the key areas of the most important sports events in the world. The 2014 World Cup is the ultimate proof of the evolvement and professionalisation of Brazilian football. We are truly excited that we have been granted this privilege to apply our more than 30 years market experience.”