An all-star lineup of team executives and athletes described international markets as “the next frontier” for major U.S. sports during a Sawyer Business School forum on emerging trends in the business of sports.

The forum also looked at how Boston teams have held up during the recession and the impact of league rule changes on both fan interest and player safety.


  • Rich Gotham, president, Boston Celtics
  • Bob Sweeney, director of development for the Boston Bruins Foundation and former Bruins center
  • Kristine Lilly, World Cup soccer champion, Olympic gold medalist, and Boston Breakers star
  • Murray Kohl, vice president of sales for The Kraft Sports Group, which includes the New England Patriots and the New England Revolution.
  • Ted Johnson, former New England Patriots linebacker and Super Bowl champion

The discussion was moderated by Catherine McCabe, associate professor of marketing in the Sawyer Business School, and by sports marketing consultant Karin Piscitelli.

Effects of recession

Gotham described the effect of the recession on professional sports as “profound,” but added that Boston has held up better than many cities. “We have tremendous loyalty from our fans,” he said.

International play

Panelists pointed to growing interest in their teams and leagues overseas. The biggest hindrance to franchises popping up in London or Munich is the travel problem, they said, especially for U.S. teams based on the West Coast. Still, panelists predicted it’s only a matter of time before leagues begin to expand internationally.

Given soccer’s status as the world’s most popular sport, significant rule changes to boost fan interest in the United States are unlikely, accordng to Lilly.

“Just come watch us play, then be a critic,” she said. “Every time someone comes and watches us play, they come back.”