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Seven is stronger than one: Prolonging Athletica's demise would have been worse for WPS

One day far from now May 27, 2010 may be looked at as a good day for Women’s Professional Soccer.  It is tough to see it that way now, even impossible for some.

Saint Louis Athletica officially folded Thursday, joining the Los Angeles Sol as the second WPS team to fold in four months.  As bad as things may look for WPS, they could be much worse.  Many fans are surely upset about Saint Louis Athletica’s demise, as they should be.  But saving Athletica from the position the team had fallen into would have been more detrimental to the league.

Keeping Saint Louis afloat would have required financial support from the seven other teams in the league (a move that would scream of single-entity in a league that is anything but).  The other seven teams, while not in any positions to have similar fates, are not exactly raking in millions in revenue.  They too are slowly building toward profitability and with small, tight budgets, asking each team to kick in a five figure number to help save a franchise that may not make it past 2010 even with that help is absurd – fatally stupid, even.

The comparisons are often unnecessary, but it should be noted that the WUSA fell into its financial rut thanks to overspending and its ‘march on’ attitude.  WPS has found a way to be sensible and responsible enough to stop and look at Saint Louis and realize that while it may have saved face to keep the team around, it would do so at a severe detriment to the league.  If there is a bright spot to take from the situation, that is certainly one that should please fans, because as ironic as it may seem, it actually does indicate a long-term commitment by the rest of the owners and investors in WPS.

By no means am I trying to be the rah-rah, positive spin, delusional optimist.  The loss of Saint Louis sucks.  The fact that AC Saint Louis survives is salt to the wound, as there is clearly a precedent being given to the men’s team.  Money does prevail and Jeff Cooper clearly sees much more value in his men’s team, but there is a clear problem with Athletica closing up shop and AC Saint Louis – a much less talented team relative to its competition and much less influential in it’s respective league (see: Shannon Boxx, Hope Solo, Eniola Aluko and other superstars) – sticking around.  Then again, who knows how AC Saint Louis will last.

The bottom line is, fans should have been more concerned had the league stepped in and “saved” this team.  The long-term (or really, somewhat short-term) effects of that could have been disastrous.  Maybe one day down the road Saint Louis will return, similar to the way Los Angeles is expected (or hoped) to soon.  For now, everyone needs to move on from the situation, which has a resolution that will not change.  The key now is ensuring that the seven remaining markets are strong and viable and expansion is well thought out to ensure that only financially strong, committed owners enter the league.

3 Comments… read them below or post one
Kevin Yost said…
I encourage the dissappointed fans of the St. Louis Athletica to support the women’s soccer team of St. Louis University come fall and other women’s teams of SLU during the university’s academic year.
Jeff said…
Chris – The problem was that WPS had no idea of the team’s financial difficulties until about two weeks ago. Cooper/Athletica kept the league in the dark, so unlike with LA, there was not much of an opportunity to look for that new investor with much time to spare. The team had to make payroll today and already missed other payrolls. Management is too broad a term because these are all individual teams with their own owners, but you could certainly say that 3,000 fans per game like Saint Louis was getting won’t cut it. That wasn’t the reason for this failure, though.
Coach Chris said…
What I am wondering is how long were they aware of the financial “crisis” and why was it not a top prioritiy to sell the team to another group. Even selling the team/ business at a below market value seems a better option than completely folding. What is the bigger problem with WPS the lack of support or the lack of quality management?

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