Perspectives on the Demise of St. Louis Athletica

I am not going to stick my oar in on this one. But there are plenty of oars worth taking a look at as we consider the demise of Women’s Professional Soccer’s St. Louis Athletica, taking the bullet while their younger brother team AC St Louis continue in USSF D-II.

Or as Richard Farley puts it more starkly and angrily:

The needs of AC St. Louis have been prioritized such that the men’s club has been allowed to compromise the women’s.  The amount of money they have paid for the likes of Steve Ralston, and Brazilians Gauchinho and Alex Titton would go a long way to running the Athletica for the year.  They paid for Claude Anelka to come coach the team and hired former Manchester United Academy director Francisco Filho as their head of player development.  And as St. Louis made each of these moves, they vaulted AC ahead of the club that deserved to be first in the pecking order.

But then we have the it’s-just-plain-old-economics theory, from Kenn Tomasch:

As for those who would ask, “Why would you get rid of the women’s team that’s cheaper to run than the men’s team?” I would say this: at this moment, they’re looking for investors to try to “secure the long-term future” of the entire enterprise. All you need to do is look at history and see how many people have, over time, invested in men’s pro outdoor soccer versus the number who have, over time, invested in women’s pro outdoor soccer. It may be that they felt they’d have a better shot finding a white knight to invest in AC St. Louis than in finding one for Athletica. There’s no question that a men’s outdoor team or league has a far greater upside (and, yes, a far greater expense, but I don’t think they’re looking at it that way, nor would they sell it that way to potential investors) than its distaff version.

The NASL (of which AC St. Louis is a part) is also in a battle with USL, one that will come to a head (again) over this winter when both sides try to get USSF sanctioning for second division play in 2011. All things considered, it’s very likely that the St. Louis and NASL folks felt that – for now at least – the men’s show must go on.

Fake Sigi is not buying that, offering instead the sexism theory (yes, I’m simplifying, giving you a good reason to go read the whole thing properly):

Dumping a women’s team with lower costs, similar attendance, a better record, and much better players IN THE MIDDLE OF THE SEASON, to save a men’s team that by all indications is bleeding cash, is undoubtedly a sexist action. And given MLS’s expansion strategy (ie, not to St. Louis) there is almost no basis in economic reality for the decision to shutter Atheletica over AC St. Louis. Kenn Tomasch and Wendy Parker want to pretend that sexism doesn’t exist, and it’s all about economics.

Which led to a retort from Kenn, and a comment from Wendy that “Women’s sports will never grow — and grow up — as long as its denizens instantly whip out the red card of sexism when something doesn’t go their way.”

In the bigger picture, Jeff Kassouf suggests letting Athletica die was the right call by 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.

Meanwhile, on Twitter, Grant Wahl wades in with a rare comment on WPS and everyone wonders why he’s suddenly paying attention now.

And elsewhere on Twitter. . .No-one can take your WPS away?

Let’s hope not.

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