SBD/Issue 37/Franchises

WPS FC Gold Pride, Washington Freedom On The Verge Of Folding

 

WPS clubs FC Gold Pride and the Washington Freedom are "on the verge of folding," another sign that the "fledging league that started during the economic downturn last year continues to struggle," according to Elliott Almond of the SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS. The Gold Pride and Freedom announced yesterday that they are "seeking investors or new owners to save clubs that have some of the world's best players." Gold Pride GM Ilisa Kessler, whose club is just five weeks removed from winning the WPS Championship, said, "It's a do-or-die week for us." The teams have until Nov. 15 to "put money in escrow to ensure solvency" for the '11 season. WPS CEO Anne-Marie Eileraas declined to say "how much money teams need to commit, but yearly operating costs run about $2 million." Kessler said, "We're looking under every rock we can to find somebody who is interested." But she added it "doesn't look likely." Almond notes the "possible loss of two of the league's best teams comes in a year that saw the end of franchises in Los Angeles and St. Louis." WPS would have five returning franchises for '11 if the Gold Pride and Freedom fold, while a Buffalo-area team is expected to join the league. Eileraas said, "We'd rather not lose teams, but we could withstand losing a team or two and still have a season" (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 11/2).

DOWN TO THE WIRE: The Freedom issued a statement last night in response to a report earlier yesterday stating the DC club and Gold Pride were to announce this week their plans to fold. The statement read, "The Washington Freedom continues to have conversations with prospective investors and strategic partners. As previously reported, we are seeking investors and/or partners as part of a plan to align the team's costs with its revenues so play can continue in 2011 and beyond. ... Contrary to reports, Freedom does not plan an announcement about its participation in the 2011 WPS season until it has had an opportunity to consider all proposals." Freedom President & GM Mark Washo later added, "Discussions have been dragging longer than we've all anticipated. At a point, talk has to turn into action, clearly. But we are still holding out hope for a few lingering opportunities. We're approaching the 90th (minute), hoping for extra time" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 11/1). ESPN L.A.'s Scott French writes the "possibility they'll become the third and fourth teams in the second pro U.S. league to disband isn't remote by any means," and it could spell the "end of the nascent league" (ESPNLA.com, 11/2).

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