Sahlen family issues statement after selling Flash

The Equalizer Staff January 9, 2017 9
The Flash championship celebration was the club's last on-field act representing Western New York. (photo credit: Brad Smith, ISI Photos; courtesy of NWSL)

The Flash championship celebration was the club’s last on-field act representing Western New York. (photo credit: Brad Smith, ISI Photos; courtesy of NWSL)

The Sahlen family, which owned and operated the Western New York Flash for the last eight years, released a statement Monday which acknowledged that Western New York is not the right market for the future of NWSL. The statement was released at the same time an event was going on in North Carolina announcing the relocation of the franchise to Cary as the North Carolina Courage.

The Flash were highly successful as an on-field product winning championships in four different leagues plus the 2013 NWSL Shield. The glory days were the summer of 2011 when Marta, Christine Sinclair, and rookie Alex Morgan helped the club dominate WPS in what would be that league’s final season. The results on the field though could not attract enough fans or sponsor dollars to make the team viable in the long-term even with significant gains in both areas during 2016.

The WNY Flash Academy will continue to operate.

The entire statement from the Sahlen family is below:

“Unfortunately, it has become apparent that the Western New York market is not the right fit for the NWSL and the future direction of the league. We know that the North Carolina market will provide what the players deserve and we are excited to see the team continue to compete at the highest level. The NWSL has been an incredible platform for the top women’s soccer players to perform in and we are proud to have been a founding member. We wish the NWSL and our other fellow ownership groups – as well as US Soccer – the best of luck and would like to thank them for the past four years.

Our dedication and support of the game will remain strong at the grass roots level through the WNY Flash Academy and Sahlen’s Sports Park. We are wholly committed to our Academy and we look forward to developing future collegiate and NWSL-caliber players.

Thank you to all of our former and current players for their efforts on and off the field and who always wore the Flash brand with pride.

We are eternally grateful for all of our front office staff over the past seven years who worked to make this vision into a reality. All current employees have been offered opportunities within our entities and we hope they continue to work with us for many years to come.

Lastly, we want to thank the Western New York area for welcoming us into their community for the past seven years and helping us celebrate five trophies throughout four different leagues in Professional Women’s Soccer. It has been an incredible journey and we will cherish these memories for a lifetime.”

  • Steglitz49

    Business is business.

    Remember Mannesmann and Chris Gent?

  • Som Termanni

    > the Western New York market is not the right fit for the NWSL

    RIP to an expansion revival involving the Sahlens, with a nice passive-aggressive burn on the fans on their way out.

  • Andy

    This is unfortunate, but from the outside looks like it’s being done the right way. No selling to an unvetted buyer. Releasing information to those affected as soon as possible. Hope it all works out well!

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  • Lindsey

    Looks like the chances of a Rochester Rhinos-NWSL team pairing or any NWSL revival up here in the future is dead. Anyone who would have been interested in starting up a new team certainly won’t now. Their thought process would be along the lines of, “Well they had a team before but the owners said this market isn’t viable for an NWSL team and that’s why they had to sell it”. No, they sold it because it was initially a pet project for Alex and her aspirations of becoming a professional soccer player. Once she and her coach husband became parents her aspirations changed. Anyone paying attention to this team for even a little while can tell that, but don’t blame it on the market when you won’t help yourself become more viable. I call bull on that opening statement. They helped prove that people WILL show up to woso games in Rochester if they just marketed the entire season like they did for the games where they had really good attendance. I am a demographic that they should have been marketing towards- a 20-something year old female with a disposable income who lives within 25 miles of the stadium yet the Flash were in Rochester for two whole seasons before I knew they even existed. You ask almost any adult, male or female, in the Rochester area and they know who Abby Wambach was, but you start talking to them about the WNY Flash and they had no idea. That’s pretty sad.

    • Steglitz49

      “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”

      It is always someone else’s fault when WoSo fails.

    • Lorehead

      I do feel sorry for the fans who did buy tickets to see their scrappy team of underdogs surprise everyone and win the championship. But at least you had a great season! And now new fans in Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill will get to see them, hopefully even more than they had in Rochester.

  • Lorehead

    The Western New York Flash never made any business sense, because it was never a real business. A rich family, the Sahlens, had a daughter, Alexandra, who played soccer and who married a soccer coach. They bought her an all-star team to play on. She was both player and president, daddy was the owner, and hubby was the coach. Their major sponsor was the real family business, Sahlen’s hot dogs, and they played in Sahlen’s stadium. Her husband eventually alienated a number of players and was promoted out of having to deal with them, she had kids, and her priorities in life changed.

    There’s nothing wrong with that. Good things came of it. It’s great that the Sahlens supported WoSo for a while and that fans around Rochester got to see Abby Wambach play in her hometown again, at least until she got so fed up with the management that she quit. Most BroSo owners around the world are sports fans happy to lose money in order to enjoy the prestige and the access they get from owning the local football club. If more of them wanted to own a great WoSo team instead, the world would be a fairer place. I’m glad they held on until the league established itself firmly enough that they could sell the team smoothly.

  • Lorehead

    I will disagree with one statement in the article. The highlight of the team’s history, for me, wasn’t when they trashed the salary cap, bought a championship and the most lopsided league record in U.S. Pro WoSo history, and even though they didn’t kill the league, did interest in the competition no favors.

    It was when they won the title with a team of unknowns and fewer subsidies from the federations for playing their stars.