Average attendance for a Philadelphia Souls game has hovered around 10,000 for years, although it topped 12,000 recently.
The very first game arena football game played in China drew an audience of 9,800, former NFL quarterback Ron Jaworski told me during our Leadership Agenda interview in Monday's Philadelphia Inquirer. Jaworski is co-majority owner of the Philadelphia Soul arena football league. He got into the China business as a partner with one of the Soul's minority owners, Martin Judge, founder and chief executive of the Judge Group, a local staffing agency with a big presence in China. (You can read my earlier story on the effort to bring arena football to China by clicking here.)
"We were told and we have no way of knowing whether this is right or wrong, because they don't have a rating system for television, that 9 million watched the game on TV," Jaworski said. "We'd be doing high fives and jumping through hoops, if that were here in the U.S. and we had 9 million watching."
That game occurred in November and Jaworski said he hopes a full season, with four teams, can launch in the fall.
"Since then, it's gotten very exciting," Jaworski said. "Big companies like Reebok. Subway, have all reached out to us as a way to get our products to market. Another kind of interesting thing is that once the story broke – the game was televised on CBS SportsNet back in the U.S. as well, a lot of universities started reaching out."
"American universities want to bring Chinese students to America. They want to meet with us and advertise in China, because of the high percentage of foreign students coming to study in the U.S., -- so with 1.4 billion people, that's a market they want to get to. Quite honestly, that didn't even come to my mind, reaching the students in China to come to the U.S. and pursue their studies here."