TOA “Breakaway” League Moves Forward (UPDATED)
UPDATE FROM USL
USL has responded to the application by the TOA members with a somewhat predictable press release. But most interesting is that USL in opposing the new league’s application is alleging a certain degree of public misrepresentation and if we were to take a leap of faith, fraud in the TOA’s public posture. FIFA regulations do not state that sanctioned leagues must be club owned. The USL is alleging that by perpetuating a false premise for splitting from the league, the TOA application should be rejected.
While the USL is legally correct, I have found exactly zero professional first or second divisions in major football playing nations that are not club owned OR operated. Those leagues cited by USL that are run by national Federations, whose board are elected by the clubs in the league, and often times consist exclusively of club representatives. So in fact, USL’s own statement is a little bit misleading on this front.
FIFA regulations may not require club ownership, and the TOA was likely in error to allege so. However, it seems to be an established international precedent that the clubs manage the leagues they participate in. USL will be hard pressed to cite a major football league abroad that operates in the same fashion as they do.
This having been said, on the legal principle the USL and not the TOA is correct. But the USSF is a governing body that deals with its fellow federations all the time, and may be urged not to rule in USL’s favor because the precdent of club owned and managed leagues is so established in world football.
Additionally, USL has wisely cited the contributions the league has made since 1986 to the maintenance and ultimately the growth of the game in this country. Without USL, it is doubtful the sport in the US and Canada would have developed to the extent it has.
On the surface, the USL response has great merit. However, I am a little perplexed by the bitter sounding shot at both the Vancouver and Montreal franchises at the end of the statement which can be found here. Countless examples of clubs who felt they failed because of a lack of interest from USL’s head office can be cited in response. Whether these club owners were justified in expecting help from USL can be debated, but by including the statement about the two Canadian clubs, the league has opened the door for more controversy and bitter feelings.
Last week, we reported on the preemptive moves by USL to stop a TOA breakaway league. Today, the remaining TOA members (minus Tampa Bay who has returned to the USL First Division as mentioned last week on this site) have announced that they are going ahead with a breakaway league. Montreal Impact owner Joey Saputo will serve as the Chairman of the new leagues Board of Governors while Jeff Cooper will serve as the league’s spokesperson.
The league has applied for second division status from the USSF and first division status from the Canadian Soccer Association. Currently, the TOA league has only seven teams but are seeking partnerships with clubs around the globe and are working on potentially adding more teams for 2010.
“This is not your typical new league,” Saputo said. “Most of our teams have existed for years. We have united some of the best owners, teams and markets around a new vision for a professional soccer league in North America.
“This will be a league that will offer the best of both worlds – outstanding experience and leadership at the ownership level combined with the promise and ability to chart our own course for success as a new league,” Cooper said. “It’s this structure that motivated me to bring St. Louis into the new league, and why I believe the new league will have a lot of success at launch next year and well into the future.”
The seven teams that make up the TOA and have applied for the breakaway league are as follows:
Atlanta Silverbacks, Carolina Railhawks, Miami FC, Minnesota Thunder, Montreal Impact, St Louis United, Vancouver Whitecaps
The Whitecaps will move to MLS in 2011 but are likely to support another side in this league. While applications have been filed with the appropriate governing bodies, a return to USL is not completely out of the question for these teams. However, that possibility is looking less and less likely.
We are still working on getting some quotes for our readers. I can report that a source inside the TOA confirms what our poster J writes about the possibility of going back to USL for one or more of these clubs. However, I am told that possibility is increasingly unlikely.
Another issue is Vancouver’s involvement. It has been confirmed for me that a criteria for sanctioning by the USSF is that a new professional league (1st, 2nd or 3rd division) have teams in at least three time zones. With Puerto Rico’s decision to stick with USL (I am told the Islanders were the most likely remaining USL-1 side to join the TOA’s new league) keeping Vancouver was absolutely critical.