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Tonya Antonucci Stepping Down As Commissioner Of WPS

Antonucci To Step Down After Sept. 26 WPS Championship

WPS this morning announced that Tonya Antonucci is stepping down from her role as Commissioner following the '10 season. WPS General Counsel Anne-Marie Eileraas will take the title of CEO, and under a league restructuring will head up the business and organizational aspects of the league office. The WPS BOD will guide the strategic direction of the league. Antonucci's final event as Commissioner will be the WPS Championship on Sept. 26, after which Eileraas will begin her new role (WPS). SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL's Fred Dreier reports Antonucci will "retain a nonvoting chair on the seven-seat WPS board." She said that the "decision to leave the league is her own." Antonucci: "After six years of carrying it, I'm ready for something new." WPS Chair and Atlanta Beat Owner T. Fitz Johnson said that the league has "no plans to hire a new commissioner." The owners will "take charge of trimming costs while marketing their clubs locally." Dreier notes Antonucci during her tenure "wooed team ownership groups in nine cities, secured a sponsorship deal with Puma and negotiated a national television deal with Fox Soccer Channel as well as a regional deal with Comcast." But Antonucci "faced a series of challenges in her two-year stint as commissioner." The league "hoped to attract six primary league sponsors for 2009 but ran into recession-stripped marketing budgets and found only three." In addition, the L.A. Sol "folded in January, and the St. Louis Athletica abruptly shut its doors midway through the 2010 season." Johnson: "The first-year losses far exceeded what folks thought they'd be. We've done more work this year and we're still not there. I don't think you can lay the blame squarely on (Antonucci's) shoulders" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 9/13 issue).

CHANGES FOR THE LEAGUE: Johnson said that WPS has "been in talks with investors interested in starting teams in Buffalo, Dallas, Seattle and Orange County, Calif." In N.Y., Ken Belson reports in "another sign that the league is maturing, the Women’s Professional Soccer Players Union was certified last week to represent the players in collective bargaining talks" (N.Y. TIMES, 9/13). In DC, Steve Goff reported the WPS board has "approved a western New York franchise to begin play" next season. WPS Dir of Communications Rob Penner said that the league is "optimistic that the western New York franchise, which would play in Buffalo and Rochester, will join the league next year." Goff noted the new franchise "has existed as the Buffalo Flash in the second-tier W-League." Also, WPS is "planning to break from Soccer United Marketing, an arm of Major League Soccer, and pursue an independent marketing deal" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 9/11).

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