AYSO/Fox Sports deal turns youth soccer players into billboards

By: David Monahan

Parents are fighting back against the encroachment of corporate advertising into a national youth soccer league: the logo for Fox Sports 1 has crept right onto the front of their children’s jerseys!

AYSO, the oldest youth soccer program in the country, has entered into a five-year sponsorship deal with Fox Sports. Thousands of children playing in AYSO programs across the country are now walking, running, and kicking billboards. Their jerseys bear the AYSO crest on the left, and equally conspicuous is the Fox Sports 1 logo on the right. When you visit the AYSO website and see how prominent the Fox logo is in several photos of kids playing soccer, you get the feeling that AYSO has turned them into models in an ad campaign.

AYSO’s new uniform specifications, governing all players nationwide, say the Fox Sports 1 logo must appear on every jersey. Even leagues using older jerseys must request Fox Sports 1 patches to add. And AYSO says the jerseys may not bear the names of players, teams, or leagues. In other words: don’t add anything that will take attention away from the important Fox Sports 1 advertisement. 

As reported in the New York Times, parents in Brooklyn, New York, have voiced their opposition to AYSO leadership. They say they had no advance notice that this corporate logo would be added to their kids’ jerseys, and no opportunity to decline.

While it’s true that local businesses have long sponsored sports teams, forcing children nationwide to prominently display a logo for a multi-national corporation on their soccer jerseys is a disturbing escalation. Fox Sports has no presence in the community and shows no actual support for the local teams or families. The local organizations had no say in whether to accept this sponsor and don’t reap any benefits like improved facilities or lower fees, things typically cited as reasons for accepting sponsorship. So what’s in it for the kids? 

“Jersey sponsors are part of the global soccer sphere,” AYSO’s chief marketing officer, Lynn Berling-Manuel, said in a statement released by Fox when the partnership was announced. “It’s the same way viewers can see sponsored jerseys when they watch the biggest teams in the world play on Fox Sports 1, and we are excited about this sponsorship bringing an unparalleled level of sports and soccer credibility to AYSO and its nearly 900 community soccer programs.” Adopting the crass commercialism of professional sports leagues equals credibility? Wow. What’s next? Should we encourage Little League baseball players to use chewing tobacco to make their programs more “credible?” 

If Fox Sports wanted to donate to youth soccer, why did they require a quid pro quo of Fox advertising on uniforms? The network will benefit from a thriving AYSO, since more children playing soccer means more soccer viewers in the future. Isn’t that enough of a return for Fox on their “investment” in youth soccer?

The Brooklyn parents tell us they are ordering team patches, which they will place over the Fox Sports 1 logo. We applaud their determination to not have their children participate in corporate marketing. 

Let’s speak out now so that other companies don’t pick up on this bad idea. Please contact AYSO and Fox Sports to help get the message across: corporate advertising has no place on our children’s athletic uniforms!