Carolina RailHawks 4th NASL Team to be Propped up by Traffic Sports
News was circulating last week concerning the Carolina RailHawks and a potential investor in a deal that ended up collapsing. According to sources, the deal would have brought in an investor that would have taken Selby Wellman, owner of the RailHawks, off the role of primary owner.
According to those same sources, Wellman had lost nearly $4 million on the team over the last three years. Wellman, who had stated previously he was looking for a new investor for his team, could no longer sustain those sorts of losses. With the collapsed deal, Wellman contacted both the NASL and the USSF to notify them he needed help if he was to keep the RailHawks up and running for the 2011 season.
Rishi Sehgal, who was named Director of Business Development and Legal Affairs of the North American Soccer League (NASL) at the November AGM, confirmed the situation.
“There are a lot of different scenarios on the table but nothing has been decided yet one way or another,” said Sehgal, who spoke to IMS by phone on Friday evening. “We are in discussions with Carolina. They are definitely not going to fold up. The League is committed to find a way to help Selby (Wellman) out and keep Carolina alive.”
Wellman founded the RailHawks in 2006 and played their first game in 2007 under USL-1 (2nd division). But Wellman was one of the leaders of the runaway group called the Team Owners Association (TOA) which fought to get sanctioning of 2nd division soccer away from USL and into the hands of the TOA spinoff league called the NASL. He and the other founding members felt the team owners needed more control of the league they were investing heavily in.
In 2008, Wellman took in new investors, including Canadian Bob Young, founder and CEO of LULU.com and owner of the CFL Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Dr. Paul Singh also became an investor in the RailHawks. Since those new investors came aboard the team has invested heavily in player personnel and hired Martin Rennie as coach of the team.
The RailHawks have been in contention for the league title the last two seasons and finished first in the USSF D2 Pro League’s NASL Conference this past season with a 13-9-8 record and finished 2nd overall behind the Rochester Rhinos with 47 points. Carolina made it beyond the first round of the playoffs for the first time ever this season, defeating first Minnesota and then Montreal, both in a home and away series. The RailHawks played the Puerto Rico Islanders in the first leg of the two legged final. They were defeated 2-0 by the Islanders in Bayamón and then tied 1-1 at home the following week to lose 3-1 on aggregate. But the deep playoff run and 2nd place finish was a new high mark for the organization.
“We knew, we knew,” said Aaron Davidson, CEO of the NASL, President of Miami FC and Vice President of Traffic Sports USA. “We haven’t worked hard for 4 or 5 years not to get this thing (NASL) launched. Anschutz, Kraft and Hunt suffered a lot to get MLS to where it is today. In our case we have Traffic behind it and we’ll do what we have to do. At least in Brian and Selby Wellman we have people who want to do the right thing. Their number one investor didn’t work out. We’re going to help them out. They’ve invested for five years now and there’s been a lot of growing pains. He’s (Selby) learned a lot.
“It’s really, really hard to get the right ownership mix at a league level and a team level until you have something you can sell and I mean really sell,” continued Davidson as he tried to explain the complexity of getting new owners in a league that has yet to play an official game. “Understand that we’re in this for the long haul and the owners that you see today will most likely not be the same owners you see in a couple of years. If we’re going to ratchet this thing up towards MLS standards then we’re going to have to diversify ownerships.”
Selby Wellman was contacted for comment but did not return the calls.