Relevent Sports' Lawsuit Against U.S. Soccer Claims Conflict Of Interest
Relevent Sports yesterday filed a lawsuit against U.S. Soccer in a "sudden escalation of a long simmering feud," claiming the federation is "jeopardizing Relevent’s soccer promotion business and has a conflict of interest in sanctioning professional matches," according to Kevin Draper of the N.Y. TIMES. Relevent is a promoter that brings high-profile European clubs to the U.S. each summer to "play exhibition matches in football stadiums" during its Int'l Champions Cup. However, yesterday's lawsuit "makes clear that the company has ambitions outside its usual summer window." Thwarted in its efforts to bring a Spanish league match to the U.S. in January, Relevent’s "latest attempt is an Ecuadorean first-division match between Barcelona SC and Guayaquil City, scheduled for May 5 in Miami." Relevent has "written approval for the match from both Ecuador’s soccer federation and Conmebol," but according to the lawsuit, USSF has "refused to sanction the game." USSF has the "authority to sanction all professional soccer matches played in the country." It is also "allowed to collect sanctioning fees." According to the lawsuit, USSF has "chosen not to sanction the match" because it has questions about whether Relevent’s listed match agent -- Relevent Chair Charlie Stillitano -- is a "properly certified and insured FIFA match agent" (N.Y. TIMES, 4/23).
READ THE FINE PRINT: The lawsuit goes on to contend that the "only possible explanation for this blatant disregard of its own charter is that USSF is economically conflicted and is abusing its authority, in order to protect" MLS. It adds, “In refusing to sanction Relevent’s application, USSF has thus elevated the economic interest of a select group of its members over its statutorily-mandated purpose.” MLS and its owners own Soccer United Marketing, which holds the commercial and marketing rights for USSF and also promotes other international matches in the U.S. (Ian Thomas, THE DAILY).