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Bill Peterson Out, Leaving Many Unanswered Questions for NASL

by on 10 January 2017

This week, the NASL announced they had parted ways with former commissioner Bill Peterson. Peterson had taken over from David Downs at the end of the 2012 season. With a change in the works and provisional D2 sanctioning secured, there’s still much to resolve from 2016.

Peterson served as the main mouthpiece for the NASL owners’ intentions. FiftyFive.One learned that his base compensation was around $500,000 before bonuses. On top of this, some owners were put off by his grandiose promises of expansion, most prominently telling Sports Illustrated’s Brian Straus that the league was “in a process with maybe 40 groups.”

Peterson was on the outs before the holiday break. Find more about that right here.

As a part of their statement, the NASL called 2016 a “challenging year for the league,” promising that the league was “strong and primed for growth.” Rishi Sehgal, the NASL’s Director of Business Development and Legal Affairs, will hold office as interim commissioner until a replacement is secured.

While Peter Wilt’s name is commonly floated around on supporters’ wishlists, it doesn’t appear he’ll take the post of commissioner. As was the case with his success in Indy, he’s still the main catalyst behind Chicago NASL. This would mark a clear conflict of interests if he took over the league. Further, it appears his current role as an adviser to expansion projects best suits his skill-set.

Whether the leader ends up being Sehgal, Wilt, or (most likely) a third party, they won’t be inheriting a finished product. There’s plenty of turmoil to sort through. An abbreviated timeline before the USSF’s next sanctioning decision only heightens the severity. As has been the case lately, the epicenter of these turning points resides in The Sunshine State.

Keeping the Armada afloat

To the surprise of some, the Jacksonville Armada will be taking the field in 2017. Club owner Mark Frisch announced via Twitter that he would be selling the club, most likely to the NASL. FiftyFive.One has learned that the league will prop the Armada up using exit fees paid in 2016. This would include an estimated $500,000 from Minnesota United and $1.5M each from Ottawa and Tampa Bay.

For more on the role of exit fees in the NASL’s survival, read Wes Burdine’s article here.

While the estimated $3.5M is more than enough to run a club, it would be a smaller budget than the Armada has previously used. The Armada had the league’s second-highest payroll in 2015. While they cut this figure in 2016, their costs were in part offset by selling Richie Ryan for $750,000 to Miami FC.

It remains unknown as to what the plans for Jacksonville are after 2017. The exit fees can only carry the cost of operation so far for the Armada. The estimated total expenses of an average NASL franchise range from $3M-$4M, per an former executive. Meanwhile, the Cosmos have lost over $30M since 2012 and Miami FC likely spent $7M in 2016.

Continued turmoil in Fort Lauderdale

If Jacksonville is cloudy, a club to the south is completely lost in fog. Fort Lauderdale was notably absent from the list of competing clubs. It’s long been assumed the Strikers would be purchased by PSG Miami. However, FiftyFive.One has learned that the NASL Board of Governors rejected a purchase at the end of 2016. It’s believed that the NASL was unimpressed by the final offer value the PSG group put forward.

To revisit the initial missed payments from Fort Lauderdale during the summer, click here.

Another bid is expected to be put forward this week. This bid may be approved, but as of today the purchase hasn’t been completed. Therefore, there’s little reason to believe the Strikers will take the field in the Fall Season.

One expected hurdle for new owners is to square up with personnel that were shorted by the previous regime. As of January 9, those given settlement checks from Fort Lauderdale were unable to deposit them. As was the case during the season, the account the checks are linked to has insufficient funds. This is a major influence on the Board of Governors’ vetting of new owners. The league can’t afford for another group to treat their personnel in a similar, irresponsible manner.

A Cosmos comeback

Finally, the New York Cosmos — once presumed to be dead — are on the slate for 2017. As Dave Martinez of Empire of Soccer reported, media magnate Rocco Commisso’s purchase of the Cosmos was contingent on D-2 status. The conditional status seems to have been enough to get the purchase done. Martinez had also learned that the Commisso ownership would payout any unpaid wages to 2016’s staff.

However, this doesn’t mean that the Cosmos are going to run a shoestring budget. The Cosmos, Miami FC, and San Francisco are still planning to move ahead in an aggressive manner in terms of player compensation. There’s reason to believe that New York and Miami see the provisional D2 as conciliatory and want to prove they can be heavy hitters. FiftyFive.One has learned that San Francisco has been willing to have one of the top-three salary budgets in the league.

The NASL is back, at least for another season. That said, there’s much to do before the ball gets rolling in April.

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