According to Sports Day, futsal is one of the fastest growing sports in the world, and is played by around 30 million people. In Europe especially, futsal is played by professional football players during off-season (usually winter and summer breaks).
People in the US started talking about this sport last week, after Mark Cuban purchased a principal ownership stake in the Professional Futsal League.
OFFICIAL: @mcuban joins ownership group in New American Pro Futsal League!
— Dallas Mavericks (@dallasmavs) February 3, 2016
At this moment, UEFA Futsal Euro is underway in Europe, and later this year Colombia will host FIFA Futsal World Cup.
WHAT IS FUTSAL?
You had the opportunity to read about futsal already on our blog, but I will explain one more time what is futsal. Futsal is a fast-paced 5-on-5 indoor sport. Its name comes from Portuguese „Futebol de salão“, which can be translated as „indoor futsal“.
Because of the smaller pitch and fewer players than football, futsal requires a high level of ball control and technique, emphasizing player’s improvisation, agility, creativity and passing in small spaces. Therefore, futsal is an excellent breeding ground for football competences because players learn how to react well under pressure. It is not surprising that some of the greatest footballers in the world like Ronaldinho, Pele, Xavi, Messi, Neymar and many others owe their skills to futsal,
The game of futsal is economical, simple, dynamic and it can easily be played by everyone, and everywhere. Thus, it’s very popular among people of all ages. Futsal is nowadays officially recognized by both FIFA and UEFA.
REASONS WHY IT’S NOT ORGANISED
Futsal is under Football associations in Europe and in many countries around the world. For example, here in Croatia we have a board in charge of futsal and its name is Comission for Futsal and Beach Soccer (these are totally different sports!). Football federation keeps futsal under their wing only because they’ve been told to do so by UEFA, but they are treating it as their bastard child.
Futsal is considered an unnecessary expense for football federations, but only because they didn’t try to improve its marketing, organisation, or anything else within the sport. Football associations live in fear of another thing – what will happen if futsal becomes stronger and more popular than it already is?
Why should Football associations invest in futsal? Because futsal improves football players’ skills and proof of that are Ronaldo, Messi, Pele and other football legends who started with futsal before moving on to football.
“In Portugal, all we played growing up was Futsal. The smaller court helped my footwork skills, the nature of the game made me feel so free when I played. If it wasn’t for Futsal, I would definitely not be the player I am today.”
Because of these moments, futsal is more and more popular, even without the strong support from governing bodies.
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UEFA DOESN’T HAVE STRATEGY FOR FUTSAL
It’s interesting to see that not even UEFA, as a governing body of football and futsal, knows what’s the right strategy for futsal. I have spoken with Lauren Morel, Futsal Competitions Manager last year for SPORTO magazine, and he told me:
“At UEFA, we are willing to further grow the awareness of the game in the newcomer countries, inform better the associations about the benefits of developing futsal, keep on delivering high-profile UEFA Futsal EURO in 2016 in Serbia and in 2018 in Slovenia. Also, we would like to look into better strategies to generate more revenues with sponsors and TV from our top events (Futsal EURO and Futsal Cup Finals). This could then help to evolve with our competitions, in terms of formats, participation, contribution, etc. At the moment, UEFA is contributing a lot to sustain financially its competition, so we are willing to look for a self-financed system, to allow easier development in the long run.”
Is UEFA’s plan to separate sponsorships in football and futsal or will football sponsors be engaged in futsal? (the answer will surprise you)
“It is definitely a question that we are tackling with my colleagues from marketing at UEFA. The football packages offer the guarantee to have major companies linked to your event, giving the prestige and the dimension of a top sport event. On the other hand, partners are generally more active on big markets, and have less activations when it comes to smaller-size countries like Serbia or Slovenia (or Croatia and Belgium..!). Sponsors willing to invest in futsal do exist, however, they are more working on domestic markets, and are therefore not properly positioned to work for UEFA events that are clearly labelled as international. There are consequently pros and cons to move to a more specific futsal partnership package. We should have some further market study, especially with our eastern-country partners…”
Through these answers you can see the answer to what I marked as a main problem – UEFA and FIFA don’t know what they want with futsal.
MARK CUBAN INVESTED IN FUTSAL – THIS IS A NEW OPPORTUNITY
Mark Cuban’s investment in futsal showed other people that futsal is the next big thing!
“Futsal is one of the fastest growing sports in the world and it’s time to make it even bigger in the U.S. market. We are ready to introduce the best global brands and the world’s best players to our growing fan base and I’m thrilled to be part of the PFL.”
I strongly believe that this push from Mark can open the new horizons for the whole futsal world. Why? Because with a strong, organised and watched league, he can show others, mainly UEFA and FIFA, what to do with this sport.
His investment can boost other investments because Mark wouldn’t invest in something that he doesn’t think can win and can be big.
MARKETING IMPROVEMENTS AND SPONSORSHIP ARE KEYS FOR EXPANSION!
Futsal needs a good marketing strategy, and nothing more than logistic support from UEFA and FIFA. A great example comes from Spain with Javier Lozano Cid in charge. He is in charge of the best organised futsal league in the world, LNFS.
Other interesting leagues are the Italian and Russian, and other interesting futsal markets are Brazil, Portugal and Iran. Futsal is also very popular in the Southeast Europe region in Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro etc.
A big expansion is hapenning in Asia, and we all know how big this market is. Just take a look at all the European football clubs in Asia every year during preseason.
American profesional futsal league will start futsal expansion on US soil, and with Mark Cuban investment and well known commitment, I strongly believe the sky is the limit.
They must build a good foundation, and if they follow the footsteps of MLS (you can read more about it here) and their marketing, they can take the whole futsal World to new heights.
Here at Overtime, we also recognized futsal as the next big thing. We brought together a great team of futsal influencers and professionals – Mićo Martić, Marko Šimurina and Matija Đulvat One of the best ways to do this is through futsal camps that include education for all futsal players (including women futsal teams). It’s a great experience for all that come to Futsal week and learn from many famous futsal coaches such as Tiago Polido (Qatari national futsal team coach), Flavio Do Amaral Monteiro (Qatari U-20 national futsal team coach), Roberto Osimani (Italian futsal coach), Lucio Solazzi (Zambian national futsal team coach) and Doug Reed (English national team player).
You can find out more about Futsal Week here.