A couple weeks ago, as you might have seen, the NWHL cut their players’ salary in half without any input from the players. I had a few questions about that and the league as a whole, so I went to two of the leading authorities. Zoe Hayden is the editor of VictoryPress.org (@zoeclaire_) and Hannah Bevis is the editor of TheIceGarden.com on the SB Nation network (@Hannah_Bevis1).
With the NWHL cutting salaries in half, clearly they had some projections that were not met. Do we know what those were and why that might be?
To be clear about your first question, I believe New York Riveters forward Madison Packer said that it was “more like 60%” and we don’t have exact figured on the amount of salary that players will be receiving if they sign the proposed changes to their contracts.
With regard to projections, NWHL Commissioner Dani Rylan was not specific in her statements, but she did say that lower attendance had been a factor. Three NWHL teams changed their home rinks after year one which may have in part contributed to this.
I am actually working on a longer article about this so I don’t want to get too in-depth, but it’s been known since its inception that the NWHL was getting startup funds from private investors. Translating that into sustainable income has seemed to be a problem, which is why the players are calling for an independent financial review, something that I think is a more than reasonable request. I think that when you start talking about falling short of projections, it also becomes a question of how well expenses were planned for ahead of time relative to those projections.
You also have to start to wonder where those projections were coming from; for example, how conservative were they when planning for Year Two with regards to growth, especially considering rink changes and an expanded schedule? Ice time is expensive and fan retention with regard to ticket sales seemed an obvious hurdle with three teams moving to new facilities. I don’t think this should have been such a bombshell. It’s halfway through the season. The logistics need to be closely looked at if this was a surprise. And a vague answer about “projections” leaves a lot to the imagination.
In addition, we know that the league has had issues with some of its investors, namely Michael Moran and George Spiers (I can provide source links if you need). If the league’s Year Two revenue model included a significant amount of private investing as opposed to incoming revenue from ticket sales, merchandise, and sponsorship agreements, that’s a huge concern.