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Investment, leadership will be key to success of Toronto’s WNBA franchise, say Brock experts – The Brock News


It will all depend on dollars, sense of cooperation and leadership.

That’s what Brock University experts say will be necessary for professional women’s basketball to succeed after launching in Toronto in 2026.

As news spreads of an expansion of the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) heading to Canada, professors in Brock’s Department of Sports Management suggest there are some crucial steps that need to be taken to ensure the team gets a permanent home arena.

A willingness to invest resources long-term will be crucial to the success of Toronto’s WNBA expansion team, says Michelle Donnelly, associate professor of sport management.

“We know that fans want to be able to buy a shirt with their favorite player’s name on the back, attend matches in modern sports stadiums and follow their teams on various media platforms,” she says. “Making these things available to as many fans as possible will help Toronto’s WNBA team succeed.”

There are signs that fan interest is growing.

“Attendees at a WNBA pre-season game in Toronto in May 2023 clearly demonstrated interest and excitement about women’s basketball,” says Donnelly. “It’s time for Canada to have a WNBA team, and it’s good to see that Kilmer Sports Inc. has pursued this franchise after Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment (MLSE) declined to back a Toronto team.”

Donnelly says the wave of support extends beyond basketball, as more people are realizing how “exciting, entertaining and amazing” women’s sports are.

“Audiences around the world have increasingly been given the opportunity to learn this, due in large part to the efforts of female athletes and existing fans of women’s sports,” she says. “Female athletes have done an incredible amount of work to promote themselves and their sports using social media and other non-traditional media platforms. Their successes are being recognized, and more media outlets and companies are paying attention to the audiences these athletes have cultivated. From a business perspective, they are now seen as Professional women’s sports are viewed as a more profitable option for broadcasters and sponsors.

The NBA has created a collaborative culture that must be maintained as expansion moves forward, says Shannon Kerwin, associate professor of sport management.

“Ensuring that FIBA’s values ​​– and the values ​​associated with other Toronto sports franchises – are consistent with the new franchise will be key to its success,” she says. “We know that the movement toward embracing women’s sports is fierce and that staying true to the values ​​that have helped grow the professional women’s game in North America will be critical.”

A new WNBA team will need to navigate its place in a large sports market, but there is room to leverage relationships with the Professional Women’s Hockey League (PWHL) and the Professional Women’s Soccer League that have already been established within Toronto, Kerwin says.

“Considering the ground that has been laid for women’s sports in Toronto by leagues, sponsors, organizations and the sports research community will be important in overcoming any barriers you may face,” she says.

Taylor Mackey, associate professor of sport management, describes the arrival of the WBA in Toronto as a “watershed moment for professional sports in Canada” that is “long overdue” given the high-quality basketball talent the country has produced in recent decades.

At last year’s NCAA Championships, Canada had 22 women competing, along with four Canadian players active in the WNBA this season.

McKee says MLSE may have missed the mark by turning down the opportunity to expand the franchise.

Endless metrics It demonstrated the tremendous growth in women’s sports in North America. Closer to home, the apparent initial success of PWHL Toronto appears to have given MLSE enough proof of concept to support the pursuit of a franchise. “However, ultimately committing capital to bringing a WNBA team to Toronto is not a risk-free endeavor. It is certainly possible that MLSE’s decision will appear short-sighted if a WNBA franchise enjoys the kind of success that Many expect it maybe.”

Mackey says the team will benefit from the leadership of Larry Tannenbaum, the Toronto billionaire who heads Kilmer Sports.

“That Tannenbaum was the one who successfully brought a WNBA franchise to Toronto is crucial given the importance of stable, committed and wealthy ownership and Tannenbaum’s past track record,” he says.





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