AC St. Louis Update – 5/22/10
Just a few new details that I know of this morning. Sources are telling me that the Vaid brothers from England, who were majority owners of the franchise, have had financial difficulties in England and are out. It has also been confirmed that Jeff Cooper is also out but continues to work closely with USSF to find investors to save AC St. Louis. Yes, save is the correct word because it is very possible that if investors are not found quickly for AC St. Louis they could fold. As I posted yesterday, the USSF bond for this year’s teams is said to be about $400 thousand dollars. Some of that money has been used by USSF to make payroll for the team who were to get paychecks on Friday.
AC St. Louis had a team meeting Friday morning and several players who attended the meeting said they were told that the Vaids (English investors brought in during the off-season) have not contributed any money to the team in a long time and because of that the team was not able to make its payroll. They were also informed that U.S. Soccer will be covering payroll for the next two weeks as Cooper tries to find a new investor.
As we found out last year in Minnesota with the Thunder, when a team isn’t making payroll it’s usually on the tail end of trouble not the beginning, as organizations usually choose to pay their players before their bills. An unpaid player is likely to talk to press and that’s something most teams don’t want. My point being, I am sure AC St. Louis and Athletica, the WPS team owned by Cooper, have plenty of debt beside the payroll and the team would need to find an investor who was willing to pick up some of that ongoing debt beside the operating expenses. It’s doubtful the bond money could carry the team through the season.
As sad as this situation is for the fans of soccer in St. Louis it has to be a terribly frustrating situation for US Soccer who are not normally in the business of running soccer leagues and did so this year only because of the instability of both the USL and NASL in running the league. They also have a few other important things on their agenda right now like preparing a team for the World Cup and trying to get a World Cup Bid to host the games in 2018 or more likely 2022. This can’t be helping an already very busy US Soccer House in Chicago, Illinois.
As the USSF said at the time they decided to run the USSF D-2 Pro League this year, neither the NASL, which is a league only in name, or the USL were ready to run a league for 2010. USL only had 3 teams at the time. Many of the former USL teams were unhappy with USL’s franchise business model and teams coming and going all the time, so they made an exit to the NASL. On the other hand the USSF said that the NASL was not ready yet and needed to get a lot of things in order before they were prepared to be sanctioned. The hope was that both organizations could get their acts together this year and be prepared to bid for sanctioning in 2012. In light of the financial issues of Crystal Palace and AC St. Louis, Minnesota last year and the many other teams that have gone belly up over the last 10 years of the USL, it seems that USSF, with Dan Flynn and Sunil Gulati leading the charge, need to take a look at the possibility of a new model for this league. However, with CEO/Secretary General Flynn being a native St. Louisan, this has to be a particularly difficult time.
I appeared on the Kick This radio show out of Rochester, NY this morning with host Jeff DiVeronica and producer James Weise. We talked about this mess and the the future of USSF D-2 Pro League or whatever it may be called going forward. Peter Wilt joined the program after I was on to talk about the next city MLS may expand into. It was a good show and you can find the archives here later today here.