Women’s Professional Soccer 2012 Season Killed

A new bit of bad news, the 2012 Women’s Professional Soccer season has been terminated. In fact, the news is so new, the WPS website webmaster didn’t get the memo, because the ad in your face reads “2012 WPS Tickets Now On Sale.” But one click on the link with the title “news” reveals this:

Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) announced today that its Board of Governors has voted to suspend the 2012 season to permit the League to focus on the resolution of certain pending legal issues and the challenges that now face the League as a result of its ongoing dispute with a former owner.

“We are proud of what the League has accomplished in the first three seasons, but we do recognize the necessity to resolve our existing legal and operational issues so that we can continue to support and grow WPS the right way,” said Sky Blue FC Owner Thomas Hofstetter. “This was a very difficult decision, but one we as owners feel is the best business decision for the League at this time.”

The Board voted on Monday morning to suspend the 2012 season. Over the last year the league has faced significant challenges, including a lengthy and expensive legal battle with a former owner. The litigation has diverted resources from investment in the league and has forced the Board to take action, suspending the 2012 season in order to address the legal issues head-on before moving forward with competition.

“We firmly believe there is a place in the global sports landscape for Women’s Professional Soccer,” said WPS CEO Jennifer O’Sullivan. “Making the decision to suspend the 2012 season was a difficult and painful one, but it is necessary to take the time to address current issues and solidify our business in order to provide appropriate support needed to achieve the League’s long-term goals. Those that take part in our League – players, partners and fans – deserve the best, and that is what we are taking the time to ensure we deliver when we resume play in 2013 and beyond.”

WPS has established its plans to return to play in 2013, and all five owners of the League’s existing teams – Atlanta Beat, Boston Breakers, Philadelphia Independence, Sky Blue FC and Western New York Flash – will remain active with the CEO, Jennifer O’Sullivan, in the governance of WPS throughout the current year.

“We are deeply grateful to our fans and partners for the tremendous support they have shown for WPS, our players and the sport,” added O’Sullivan. “With our supporters and athletes in mind, we are committed to complete the hard work necessary to resume play in 2013 and reestablish WPS as the premiere women’s professional soccer league in the world.”

As I said in my interview with Brandi Chastain at CES, Women’s Professional Soccer must be saved, but also needs a strong commissioner at the top – a woman. The owners have too much control and are wrecking Women’s Professional Soccer. At CES Brandi Chastain expressed the idea that, at the time, WPS was in a kind of limbo state regarding its future.

Well, and because (it’s said) of the legal dispute between MagicJack, and Women’s Professional Soccer, the owners elected to cancel the season.

It’s not the legal dispute that should stop WPS, it’s the overall lack of coordination and organization such that it can’t fight a court battle and run a season at the same time. The NFL can do this, as can many sports leagues. The fact that this is happening shows that Women’s Professional Soccer is not a league, but a club ran by the owners without a strong leader at the top.

The Commissioner of WPS should have the final call on these issues, but there is no commissioner – there’s a CEO. That means the CEO serves at the pleasure of the owners and has no real power at all.

The owners must vote to step out of the way. They’re wrecking Women’s Professional Soccer. Also, WPS needs its own Pete Rozelle – someone who can step forward, get the owners to fall in line under a more beneficial system, and move forward. Is Jennifer O’Sullivan that person? I do not know.

UPDATE: the main problem is staying in the lawsuit, or maintaining the season. Apparently the owners elected to keep the legal fight going and stop the season. A better answer would have been to file a class action lawsuit against MagicJack and on behalf of the players in WPS. The objective would be to have the MagicJack fall in line and stop actions that are harming the ability of the players to make a living at what they do.

Stay tuned.

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