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Where does “The Buck Stop”?

Before I get in depth into this article, let me just show you the statement that Jeff Cooper gave that Tom Timmerman reported on earlier in the day:

“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.”

With all of that being said, let me go ahead and give my two-cents on the current situation involving the Athletica and AC St. Louis.

First, in regards to The Athletica…it is a sad day for women’s soccer in this country that a team that has had some success has to fold because of the current circumstances. So far this year, The Athletica averaged over 3,000 fans a game, which is right around what AC St. Louis is doing as well. And with the problems that the WPS has had in the last year, hopefully we will see the entire league be able to pick itself up and put teams in markets that can work. Again, the St. Louis market can work, just under better management and investors.

Secondly we would like to thank all of the players of the Athletica that have brought joy to the thousands of women’s soccer fans in the St. Louis area. Earlier today, I was talking to somebody about the WPS, and how it is the equivalent to the EPL in men’s soccer. The US is the place where women want to go for their soccer careers. So, imagine if the EPL just folded. It would be a shame! And, again, I hope that the WPS can work through this.

Now my thoughts on the current situation involving AC St. Louis.

In a few months, there is a high possibility that I might be writing another article like this. But what is sad is that none of this even had to happen.

In the statement Jeff Cooper made today, he stated that “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.”

But did these investors ‘default’, or were they even legally investors?

Mr. Cooper is an attorney. And thus being an attorney, I am kind of surprised that we haven’t heard that he is planning on taking these so-called “investors” to court. If there was a so-called “contract” with these investors, then one would assume that Mr. Cooper would have legal grounds to fight for the investment money that could possibly save both teams.

But, more than likely, if Cooper isn’t seeking damages because of a broken contract, then there probably was never a contract in the first place. Maybe this was a verbal agreement between the “investors” and Mr. Cooper? I have no idea. But the fact that Cooper isn’t fighting this battle and is instead laying down his sword and surrendering The Athletica shows that he probably didn’t have anything in writing.

Mr. Cooper, you are an attorney, you should have had this set in stone a long time ago. So why wasn’t it?

There is one very famous person that comes from the “Show Me State”, and his name is Harry Truman. Yes, he might have had his faults, but one thing that people always remember about Truman was his statement “The Buck Stops Here.” Basically, when all goes bad, everyone can point fingers, but the blame is put on the shoulders of the man on top. And in the late 40s and early 50s, it was Harry Truman.

In the case of The Athletica folding, instead of pointing fingers and blaming other investors, Cooper should have done a Harry Truman “The Buck Stops Here” moment. I feel that, while he might not be the most popular man right now, he would have gained more respect in the eyes of the fans, who are happy to even have a team, and the players, who have put their careers on the line with a team that might not even exist at the end of the season.

Still, without either having a legally binding contract or doing due diligence on prospective investors, the “Buck” really needs to stop at Mr. Cooper’s desk. It is responsibility time, and it would be nice if someone manned up and showed some spine in this crisis situation. Instead, it looks like we are just going to have months of ‘the blame game’. And if there isn’t any legal document that says that “other investors” are involved, then there is only one person to point to.

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29 Responses

  1. Cooper has always been the problem, folks. You judge a tree by the fruit it bears. You judge a man by his actions, which shows his character.

    Cooper failed at MSL, Cooper failed with Nike to purchase USL, Cooper became NASL because the standards were much lower than USL or MSL.

    You keep peeling the onionskin back layer by layer, you will find a very different story than what was presented to the public.

    • Says the guy who doesn’t even know what the top soccer league in the United States is called.

    • YUP, I got MLS and MSL mixed up in a typo.

      Taht (sp) doesn’t hcange(s) a thing.

  2. Well, it is harder to get into the MLS, but not the USL. All he needed was $100,000 and he could start a team. So that in incorrect.

    I assume now that since Cooper is out, that the NASL is mostly being run out of Miami now and that Aaron Davidson is pretty much the only top guy now. Still, for a while I have always thought that Davidson was running things. He always seems to be working, while Cooper always seems to be out of site.

    • And even this is factually incorrect. USL requires a far higher investment than $100,000 to start a team. At a minimum that team has to have the resources to post a $400,000 bond as is required by USSF.

      Further, if Davidson is running thing, then Traffic Sports, the Brazilian firm that rigged a bid to compete against MLS/SUM for the Mexican Nation Team marketing rights, is running the NASL league.

      I am sure that is what USSF wants, a foreign company that directly competes with MLS to control the fate of D2 soccer here in the US. NOT

      And the word is “sight”, not “site”. As a writer, you hsould nkow beter.

      • Ok, my typo now lol. I am running on 3 hours sleep!

        Still, in the USL, you are required to pay the $100,000 franchise fee to start the team. Also, you said you need the ‘resources’ to post a $400,000 bond required by the USSF, which is usually done through a line of credit, not actual investment dollars.

        So yes, if you have good credit and $100,000, you can start a team.

  3. This is poor logic:

    “But, more than likely, if Cooper isn’t seeking damages because of a broken contract, then there was never a contract in the first place. Maybe this was a verbal agreement between the “investors” and Mr. Cooper? I have no idea. But the fact that Cooper isn’t fighting this battle and is instead laying down his sword and surrendering The Athletica shows that he didn’t have anything in writing.”

    Cooper had two weeks to make decisions. No way on Earth could he get a contract case through court in time to save this team.

    Cooper will have 10 years to sue on a contract. So a suit might come. Then again, if the Vaid brother’s do not have any money, why spend the time and money needed to sue them when there’s nothing to recover.

    • Why would you wait 10 years when you need the money now.

      • Do you have any idea how lawsuits work? I’m not trying to be obnoxious, but come on. The simplest car-accident lawsuit takes at least a few months to work through. You can’t honestly believe Cooper could have filed suit and gotten money out of the Vaids to save Athletica, all in a couple of weeks – can you?

    • 10 Year? Hardly, the Statute of Limitations is far less than that, but still, Cooper would not just file a lawsuit in an emotional state to see if he can force investors to ante up funds.

      I will bet those funding requirements had thresholds attached to them, and they were not fulfilled.

  4. In past articles you have called yourself a journalist. If you are going to profess to be that, then be that. Don’t write and editorial, right the facts that you have gathered through your investigations and back them up with reference quotes.

    Going after someone in a court of law “COSTS MONEY” and if you have none to start with, you get the point. Everyone that enjoys sports, would like to see every sport succeed, and the Athletica is no exception. Women’s professional sports has a much tougher time than male dominated sports. Comparing the WPS to the EPL is like comparing the NBA to the WNBA, there is NO comparison attendance wise, money or fan base.

    Remember this is just sports, ENTERTAINMENT for a select few. According to City Data Dot Com, St Louis in 2000 had 2,698,6897 in the metro population, I would guess in 10 years there are more. How many people have attended a Soccer game? Keep this in perspective. The athletes that are competing do. If St. Louis folds they move on to a better team better place and continue life but I would guess most would like to turn AC into a soccer dynasty in St Louis.

    No one really knows what is going on except two or three people, the rest is all speculation, by blow-v-ating people. It takes quite a bit, to keep a business going these days, and I hope AC can keep going. It is a business, run it like one.

    AC St. Louis put way to much emphasis on St. Louis players when it should of been, on players that will make up a team that WINS, which is what everyone wants in the end. AC St. Louis built it’s team on Defense. If AC could just score 1 goal more a game they would only have THREE losses in the season and two of those had circumstances that effected the game. I wish AC St Louis the best, work out of the problems and build to the future.

    • AC St. Louis just BLEW through all of their money in seven games. Now, all of a sudden, the team would be ‘worried’ about money to do a lawsuit? Get real!

      • He is real. You are not living in the real world. It costs lot of money to get litigation going and there is no guarantee that there will be any recovery, EVEN if they won a judgment in court.

  5. This is an opinion piece, and this is all ‘my opinion’. I don’t think this should be confused with a factual reporting piece at all.

    • Statements such as:

      “But, more than likely, if Cooper isn’t seeking damages because of a broken contract, then there was never a contract in the first place.”

      “The Athletica shows that he didn’t have anything in writing.”

      are not written as opinions. They are written as facts.

      If they are incorrect, they are per se defamatory statements that could get you sued.

      Liable laws still apply to your lowly blog.

      If you are not willing to post what you write on a billboard, it shouldn’t go on your blog.

      • Just added the word “probably” two times, so now it is an opinion piece. Better?

  6. If I were you, I would learn a lot more about (a) this situation and (b) business and law before I wrote another post like this.

    First, every source is reporting that the Vaids bought a majority interest in the team. So unless everybody’s lying, of course there was a contract. Do you honestly think the Vaids were majority owners based on a handshake?

    Second, it means nothing that we haven’t heard whether or not Cooper is suing the Vaids. Any lawyer would have to be crazy to loudly share all of his future intentions with the general public. In any case, not every broken contract is worth suing over. If the Vaids don’t have enough money to make a suit worth it, or if their assets are hard to reach because they’re in the UK, a suit would serve little purpose other than to make you feel better and to spend a lot more of Jeff Cooper’s money.

    We’ve already seen way too much of this kind of half-assed, dimly understood “logic” from the hysterical commenters on BigSoccer and Free Kicks. The armchair business experts aren’t helping. The Fanatic should be better than that.

    Jeff Cooper is the one person actively working to make sure you and I have a team to root for – just as he has been all along. I guess no good deed goes unpunished.

    • “Do you honestly think the Vaids were majority owners based on a handshake?”

      As of right now, yes, unless it is proven otherwise that it wasn’t.

      “In any case, not every broken contract is worth suing over.”

      So, you are saying that this contract isn’t worth suing over? Are you saying that it is better to let two teams fold and kick the players, who are committed to both AC and the Athletica, out in the streets.

      “If the Vaids don’t have enough money to make a suit worth it…”

      If they didn’t have enough money in the first place, why were they approached as potential investors? Again, if this is the case, it was bad 1. judgment and 2. business practices by the current owners.

      “if their assets are hard to reach because they’re in the UK, a suit would serve little purpose other than to make you feel better and to spend a lot more of Jeff Cooper’s money.”

      Then, again, why were they approached as investors if there was a huge risk of them skipping town and not paying the money that they promised, which we don’t know if they promised, because a contract hasn’t been produced?

      “Jeff Cooper is the one person actively working to make sure you and I have a team to root for – just as he has been all along. I guess no good deed goes unpunished.”

      I think Athletica fans would disagree.

      • “As of right now, yes, unless it is proven otherwise that it wasn’t.”

        Seriously, you aren’t free to make shit up and offer it as fact simply because the opposite hasn’t been proven.

      • “So, you are saying that this contract isn’t worth suing over? Are you saying that it is better to let two teams fold and kick the players, who are committed to both AC and the Athletica, out in the streets.”

        No, it isn’t worth suing over if the expense of filing the suit would exceed any damages Cooper could recover.

        Are you saying that a lawsuit could have saved Athletica? That’s why it matters how long a suit would take. There’s simply no chance that a contract lawsuit against the Vaids could have brought in any money in time to save the team. Several people have pointed this out now. What’s your reply?

  7. Toon, it doesn’t matter “how long” a lawsuit takes. And yes, I do know how long it takes. I was thinking of becoming a lawyer, but decided against it because, well, I hate lawyers.

    Anyway, that is besides the point. There are three main points here:

    1. Cooper went into risky investment deals with people that we don’t know that much about. Same as what we saw in Portsmouth in the EPL.

    2. If there was a contract between the two parties, produce the contract. If we see that there is one, then we can put this speculation to rest. Otherwise, we can’t. All possibilities are open.

    3. Nobody is taking the blame. Who is the current owner? And whoever that current owner is, that is who needs to take responsibility. A simple call to the USSF could answer this question. And if we were to ask them, I would highly doubt that they would say the current owner’s last name begins with a V.

    • Why does he need to produce a contract?

      We as fans don’t have rights to inside info such as that.

      • He doesn’t ‘need’ to, but maybe he should to…uh…lets see….clear his name?

        You said stuff “hasn’t been proven”. True. But has it been disproven either? Nope.

        I would surely like to be disproven so that we can get a TRUE answer to this question!

  8. Again, it depends on how much the contract is for. I know for a fact that many of the new NASL teams entering for next season are starting with a minimum investment of at least $10 million. Some has high as $20 million. So, if we are talking about this kind of money, then, yes, it would help in the long run. Would it help ‘today’? No. But wouldn’t you figure that Cooper might want to get back some of the money that he lost, no matter “when” it comes in?

    And if Cooper isn’t worried about getting back some of his initial investment, why is that?

    Even if there is or isn’t a contract, there were BAD BUSINESS DECISIONS MADE HERE. And who is the one that has the final decisions on these business decisions….Jeff Cooper, period!

    As far as the contract, and I guess you didn’t read #2 on my list that you replied on, we should see the contract to END THE SPECULATION! Who is at fault?

    We want to find out answers, and not the “everything is fine” like we have heard recently, because we know it isn’t.

  9. You know for a fact that some teams in teh NASL are starting with a minumum investment of $10,000,000, and some with $20,000,000?

    That is pure poppycock, Mr. Trotter. Not one team outside of Montreal that will be available for the 2011 season has the financial wherewithall to do this.

    Nor would they, as the numbers don’t work with the average fan base NASL teams have.

    This is no longer an opinion piece you have now approached fantasy land.

    • Unlike you, I have talked to people within the NASL office a few months ago, and they told me about their vetting process and making sure that the fund are available to run a successful team.

      We were talking in regards to the investment for the possible new teams entering the league in 2011. And, yes, $10,000,000 was the number that they had stated. So, that is 100% correct, unless the person that I was talking to quoted me incorrectly, which I highly doubt.

      • There are two people in the NASL office and one of them is a former blogger who is biased towards NASL.

        The other would be Davidson who is with Traffic.

        If you think ANYONE would plunk down $10,000,000 for a D2 soccer team in this country, you are dreaming.

        And if NASL thinks that is the case, their business plan will fall apart before we approach 2011.

  10. So, it looks like all the Cooper bashers were a bit wrong. According to the following article, Cooper could not put in his own money because it would be breach of contract.
    http://www.thetelegraph.com/sports/athletica-40692-team-league.html

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