SBD/Issue 241/Leagues & Governing Bodies

Several USL Teams Unhappy With Sale, Could Form New League

Joey Saputo One Of Eight Team
Owners That Formed TOA In '08
The USL Team Owners' Association (TOA) yesterday "reconfirmed its commitment 'to achieving a team-owner controlled league' and is prepared to pursue all avenues to make it happen," according to Randy Phillips of the Montreal GAZETTE. The group is upset that Nike's "surprise sale" of the league to Atlanta-based NuRock Soccer Holdings was "concluded while it was in the bidding process." The TOA, formed 18 months ago with "owners wanting more of a stake and say in how the USL operates," consists of eight team owners, including the Montreal Impact's Joey Saputo. Saputo said, "I can tell you the other teams that are not part of this group have expressed verbally that they're interested in taking our lead and moving forward. If we decide we're breaking away and starting our own league, so be it. We'll have eight to 12 teams that will be with us next year." The TOA contends that the "previous structure -- with the USL operating as a single corporate entity responsible primarily for governance of the league -- stifled the growth of the league in general, and its teams [in] particular, during the past 25 years." The group has pressed the league to "change how it operates, but to no avail," and Nike's decision to sell the USL to a "non-USL First Division team owner effectively was the last straw." Saputo: "It's very disappointing that Nike decided to sell to a group that was unheard of instead of selling to the group of owners. ... I hope they have a plan that makes sense for all of us. But right now, nothing shows me that that's where they're going" (Montreal GAZETTE, 9/2). Nike chose NuRock over an offer from a group of USL team owners led by Brazil-based Traffic Sports, which controls Miami FC. The bid group also reportedly included the Carolina RailHawks and Minnesota Thunder, among others (Vancouver PROVINCE, 9/1).

STARS STILL SHINING: In Cleveland, Bill Lubinger reports the USL Cleveland City Stars faced a deadline yesterday to commit for next season  but that "came and went with no action" primarily because last week's sale of the league "bought them time." City Stars Exec Dir Aaron Tredway: "Most teams have been waiting to see what was happening with the league." The Cleveland Soccer Foundation "continues to seek a buyer" for the club, which has been "struggling financially off and on the field." The owners "haven't set a specific asking price, but seek at least $400,000" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 9/2).

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