Sounders Women Press Conference – CEO & Co-Owner, Lane Smith.
October 9, 2012
CEO and Co-Owner, Lane Smith, addressed several members of the Seattle media regarding the potential move to a professional league, current and past organizational changes, and plans for 2013. Following the initial address, Smith answered questions from media about details.
“On behalf of the players, coaches, staff and fans, I would like to thank the fans for their interest in the Seattle Sounders women’s team. I am Lane Smith, co-owner of Sounders Women and U-23 team. There has been a lot of speculation about future for Sounders Women. With Seattle’s fantastic market for soccer, have experienced this past year’s success where we had four gold medalists from the US women’s national team, Seattle has been on the forefront for speculation.”
“The Seattle Sounders Women will be back next season. We have every intention of playing at Starfire Stadium where our players and brands are prominently displayed. What league or leagues that we will playing in and teams that we play against will be determined by US Soccer and USL (United Soccer League). Choices are being managed by US Soccer and Sunil Gulati and recent announcements made on Friday. At a minimum, we will play in the USL, W-League as we successfully did last year. We also want to let our fans know that we are on the forefront of all the latest developments with the proposed new league and have open lines of communication with representatives from USL and US Soccer. Sounders Women are on forefront for updates on women’s league. We are obviously an interested party in the proposed league. Sounder’s Women have not been in media or press regarding this situation for numerous reasons. We own two teams under the USL umbrella: The U-23’s that play in the PDL (Premier Development League) and the Sounders Women who play in the W-League. We are very proud of the brand affiliation we have with the Sounders FC. We are also protective of our brand affiliation as well. The Sounders Women were leaders in women’s soccer with our highly successful team drawing sold out crowds at Starfire. We were also blessed with having high profile women’s players on the Sounders Women team. We have an understanding of the responsibility that this bears on the other teams in the Western Conference. We have taken a measured approach in publicly discussing the newly proposed professional league as we would not anything that would disrupt the long standing W-League that date backs to 1989 that the Sounders Women have played in since 2001, and would also not want to send any negative signals to prospective teams entering the conference.”
“So, to recap; the Sounders Women are coming back next year, the league that Sounders Women play in is dependent by proposals created by US Soccer, and we will update our position as information flows to us from US Soccer and USL.”
“As far as our organizational announcement, we are proud to announce that Teddy Mitalas will be our Director of Community Relations effective immediately for both clubs. He will be focusing on Sounders Women at this stage in the game. Teddy Mitalas is a tremendous individual and recipient of the Golden Scarf. We are really proud to have him affiliated with our organization.”
“We also want to let everybody know that about two months ago, we let Amy Carnell know that we will not be renewing her contract as GM of the Sounders Women. We were now moving forward in the position where myself, Jon Billings, and Cliff McElroy are taking on the de facto role as GM right now. There are many important things going on in terms of business and we think it is that important.”
On the GM Situation
“Typically, a W-League manager is not a yearly position. We are obviously in the offseason. Most of the duties that happened for GM were game day type of things. GM had to be related with sponsorship, business issues and promotions type of things. GM role is changing and therefore new roles are being presented as a result. A professional league might dictate one GM role and the W-League would define another role for GM. Job outlines are different depending on the league. From a player component, we can’t talk to players until January of next year.”
Clarification on Sounders Women Returning…
“No matter what, the Sounders Women will return but the league is one of the key things that need to be sorted out.”
On playing at Starfire…
“There is no change of location in terms of the Women’s team playing at Starfire unless something goes terribly wrong. I do not speak on behalf of Starfire management, but we are very happy with playing at Starfire.”
Updates since announcement of a potential new league in summer?
“The Sounders Women still getting information from US Soccer. There is also a proposal that USL would be a part of the new management structure. None of this was really in place when the initial discussions were being made. We have two teams that are in good standing with the USL. Obviously the information flow is a little different now.”
Possibility of two ownership groups working together in Seattle?
There is a possibility. However, both entities want to control their own destinies. We have talked to Bill but both entities want to control their own destinies and I would not like to speak on the behalf of Bill.
Timeline of decision of future of Women’s Soccer and details?
The details are not up to us and we don’t have any of the answers. Once again, it is up to US Soccer regarding the timeline of the decision.
Amy Carnell, is she working with the other ownership group?
I would ask her that question, but it would appear so.
Would there be disappointment if the Sounders Women didn’t go pro?
I don’t know what the future holds for the league as far as disappointment goes. We want to do what is best for women’s soccer in this country. We did what was best for women’s soccer in the country last year and we were highly successful in doing that. We might be a little bit disappointed, but we would have a great league with 30 teams. We just want to represent the Sounders brand and women’s soccer to the best of our ability.
On the Sounders Women relationship with the Sounders FC whether the league develops or not...
We talked to Sounders FC management all the time and they have been very happy with what Darren Sawatzky has done with the U-23’s and what we have done with the Women’s professional team. We are in a good standing as of right now.
Anything Sunil [Gulati] of US Soccer didn’t cover? (See USSoccer.com)
Sunil has covered everything with his release on Friday. There is a timeline for all these things to happen. It’s about finding cities and teams. From there, the league structure, schedules, and salaries all come to place once that has been confirmed.
Details on how we got to this point…
Based on the release from US Soccer, they are driving this ship. Interest came when we purchased the franchise last year. We were always interested in providing the best soccer and there has been speculation about the league for a long time now. We are protective of the brand. We have venue, ticket sales, and employees. We have our team in place. There are other teams and owners out there that are excited when coming to Seattle. We are all in the same bathtub and we have to work together. We don’t want to appear that we are jumping ship and leaving some potential cities or markets behind. We don’t want to give the wrong signal. We are controlling our destiny. We are an interested party regarding the updates of the league and we have several options in front of us.
At this point, do the Sounders Women consider themselves a W-League team?
Yes. That is the only league out there. There is no other league. Excuse me, there is, there is the WPSL. W League and USL are great organizations. When we signed up, we signed up for a 3 year deal with the league. They are not looking for teams who leave and re-enter again and again. They are looking for commitments. There is a commitment and a vetting process that we had to go through with the USL. (Editor note: the contract could be voided if the Sounders jump to a USL-operated professional league)
What’s the next step?
US Soccer has a punch list and we don’t know how long that punch list is going to take. As we get information from US Soccer, we will release it. Information should be coming soon; hopefully by the end of October.
Chances of Alex Morgan and Hope Solo playing again?
“That is up to US Soccer and Alex Morgan. They are under contract with US soccer.”
If player salaries are paid by US Soccer, would that have any bearing on what team they play?
That proposed model is for the professional team. The way I read that is that it didn’t appear to me that that proposal would be for them to play in W or other leagues. They have to re-negotiate their contract with US Soccer.
What are the current salaries for the national team and how are those dictated?
Based on how much they are playing and how involved they are with the team. They are being paid to play in camps with the national team. There is the possibility that the players could not be happy with the league and could potentially move to Europe where they receive better offers.
Note from Director of Communications, Jon Billings –
“As US soccer drops down information, we will keep you posted on that. We want our fans to know that we are not sitting on the sidelines on this issue but we are very interested and have been closely following these updates. We have to be careful in what we say so that we can protect the brand and the league that we use and play in. It’s the only league that we can play in right now.”