Jeff Cooper Tells WPS Athletica Players “Team has Folded-Players are Free Agents.” AC St. Louis Safe For Now
Separate meetings were held today with players of both St. Louis Athletica and AC St. Louis. Jeff Cooper, co-owner of the teams, presided over both meetings and according to a source it’s the first time players had seen the St. Louis attorney in months.
Cooper did the good-news-bad-news routine with players of each team. He had good news, at least for now, for the staff and players of AC St. Louis and very bad news for the players of Athletica.
Players of the WPS team Athletica have been told that the team has officially folded. Details on rescheduling of games in WPS and refunds for season ticket holders is still unknown.
The team made a Twitter statement this afternoon that simply said: “Thank you to all Saint Louis Athletica fans, players and supporters…”
The Athletica website was still business as usual this afternoon, with ads for WPS tickets.
IMS has learned that players were told that unlike the dispersal draft WPS conducted when the LA Sol shut down this past January, instead they are free agents. They were informed that each player could contact other clubs for new contracts. However, there was no clarification at the current time if the WPS or US Soccer will allow the current salary cap to be raised allowing Athletica players to sign new contracts with surviving WPS teams. When US Soccer was contacted they referred to the WPS for clarification. WPS did not answer calls from IMS.
WPS does not have a bonding system, unlike the USSF D-2 Pro League which has allowed AC St. Louis a lifeline at the moment. As IMS reported last week, a portion of the $400 thousand dollar bond was released to help US Soccer meet the payroll of AC St. Louis on Friday. Athletica’s payroll was due this week.
Last week it was reported that both the St. Louis teams were late on payments and that Cooper had been looking for new investors. In today’s meeting, Cooper told AC St. Louis players that he was actively looking for new investors and was willing to invest more of his own money if possible. However, Cooper said the situation was complicated by the fact that he was business partners with the Vaids who have defaulted on their contract.
In the meantime, Jeff Cooper has released a statement to the media:
“The termination of Saint Louis Athletica is a painful outcome from the funding shortfalls and ultimate default by the investors who had the obligation to fund and operate the team on a day-to-day basis. I’ve given this matter my complete attention since returning to a more active role in the last few weeks, and numerous parties have spent a lot of hours during that time exploring what options or solutions might be available. Despite best efforts, nothing was found that would answer the immediate needs of the franchise. With more time, it is possible the answer to the financial challenges Athletica faced would have been met, but unfortunately we do not have the benefit of extra time. The investors who defaulted on a contract to fund Athletica through this season and beyond broke a promise to a league, team, players and a community, and that is what is most troubling about today’s development. I am grateful for everyone’s support of Athletica and am particularly appreciative of our players who represented the sport and our community with such class and spirit.
Despite the disappointing outcome with Saint Louis Athletica, we continue to work hard on securing the long-term future of AC St. Louis.”