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Jeff Cooper Tells WPS Athletica Players “Team has Folded-Players are Free Agents.” AC St. Louis Safe For Now

2010 May 27
by Brian Quarstad

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.

IMS has also learned this afternoon that two other WPS teams are rumored to be having financial issues.

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.”

7 Responses
  1. Super Rookie permalink
    May 27, 2010

    …so who are the two other teams in trouble?

    Teasing me like that isn’t very nice :)

  2. WeatherManNX01 permalink
    May 27, 2010

    If I had a guess, FC Gold Pride would be at the top of my list. Next would be maybe Sky Blue or one of the expansion teams. In my opinion, though, if it’s one of the expansion teams, it’s kind of a sad statement that they’re doing so poorly two months in to be in such a mess (which is why I’m guessing that it’s not one of the expansions that’s in trouble).

    Perhaps I’m missing something, but the first thing that strikes me as wrong is that it’s the first time many of the players have ever seen Cooper. The man has pretty much begged and pleaded for a team in St. Louis. He gets them both, then backs off? What’s up with that? I understand that few investors can go it on their own (hence getting others involved), but the man seems to have founded the teams then walked away. MLS was right not to give him the teams.

    I also have a problem with the fact that he’s suddenly willing to fun ACSL in their crisis, but he pushes the women to the curb. Classy, dude. Way to support the team that has their bonded reserve money and give the finger to the team that doesn’t.

    Note to WPS: might want to consider changing the finances just a bit so that teams have a funding reserve should something like this happen again. It’s bad press when a team folds; it’s worse when it happens midseason (or, as is the case here, two months into the season). Also, better make sure you are properly checking up on potential owners to reduce the risk of this happening again.

  3. Jim permalink
    May 27, 2010

    Does anyone know if Cooper had to bring in Anelka as coach because of the Vaid investment?

  4. JJ Paul permalink
    May 28, 2010

    Yea he was forced to bring on Anelka. He has tried to get rid of him. Anelka was signin players and collecting agent fees from players via a french agent of his. The agent was collecting fees from players he had never met or seen but it was arranged by anelka so they could split 50/50. Some of the fees were from 1500 – 10,000 per player. He is a theif.

  5. May 28, 2010

    WeatherManNX01 -

    Sky Blue FC is part of a larger organization, so I would be genuinely surprised if they went next.

  6. yankiboy permalink
    May 28, 2010

    @JJ Paul: Bro, I will be the first to admit that sometimes I call some soccer professionals out in a way that crosses the line and sometimes I have to take a step back after someone checks me.

    So please don’t take this wrong:

    I really hope that you are sure about Anelka because you have just assasinated the guy’s character.

  7. June 7, 2010

    If I had to take a guess at the other two teams in trouble it would be FC Gold Pride and Philadelphia. Gold Pride have players like Marta who’s salary is very high and was one of the reasons LA folded. Also Sinclair and now Shannon Boxx. They must be making a pretty decent salary as well. Also you figure that the travel costs for Gold Pride are seriously higher than all other clubs being the only team on the west coast. Any road game they must travel across the country. Philadelphia after a strong showing their first home game, have been averaging only about 2,500 fans a game. That is the lowest in the league. Players like Mitts, LeBlanc and Rodriguez on the payroll, I doubt the attendance numbers and revenue can keep up with operating costs.

    St. Louis was a different situation. The club was run into the ground because of an owner that had no clue what he was doing and when faced with the financial problem became a coward and looked the other way. It’s obviously not a good situation for the league with two teams folding in less than a 6 month span. I hope it is a different situation that the WUSA with a much different business model, but it looks like the writing is on the wall.

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