By Hank Winnicki

The continuing growth of women’s sports was a major topic of discussion at the 2023 APSE Commissioners Meetings in New York City on April 24 and 25.

The meetings enjoyed a strong turnout as twenty six editors from 16 different outlets traversed the streets of Manhattan, making stops at the offices of Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League, Major League Soccer and the National Basketball Association and Women’s National Basketball Association. The group also visited the Associated Press headquarters in lower Manhattan for two sessions, one with National Women’s Soccer League commissioner Jessica Berman, who was making her second appearance in as many years.

Berman talked about the importance of the three R’s – Revenue, Reach and Relevance – that is essential to the growth of the NWSL. The 12-team league will add two more clubs in 2024 – the Utah Royals FC and a team in the Bay Area. Berman emphasized the need for women’s sports leagues to be viewed as sound business investments and not just philanthropic endeavors.

Reagan Carey, the commissioner of the Premier Hockey Federation — a seven-team women’s professional hockey league — made her first appearance at the meetings. Carey discussed the challenges and excitement involved in trying to build a league that recently completed its seventh season.

WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert said the league hopes to have two more teams for the 2025 season. She said Portland, San Francisco, Denver, Austin, Philadelphia, Toronto and Nashville are among some of the cities the league is considering for new franchises.

The main purpose of the meetings is to engage the leagues in discussions about media access issues and industry challenges, talks that are off the record. The discussions also included on-the-record subjects such as streaming services, TV rights and the future of each league.

Some of the other highlights:

  • MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said he “feels sorry for the fans in Oakland” when asked about the A’s potential move to Las Vegas. He also discussed the strong support from players, owners and fans of the new rules designed to speed up the game.
  • Gary Bettman, who has been the NHL commissioner for 30 years, said he still has the “energy and passion” the job requires and has no plans to retire.
  • On Lionel Messi, MLS commissioner Don Garber said, “I can tell you we would we love him in Major League Soccer. We will work very hard with Miami, which is the team that is hoping to be able to sign him.”