06 October 2013
|The supporter groups of the Fort Lauderdale Strikers and Tampa Bay Rowdies protest NASL Commissioner. Photo Credit, Chris Arnold.|
Before I get to the events that led to the actions at Lockhart Stadium during the Florida Derby, let's look at the man who is the commissioner of the North American Soccer League. Bill Peterson is a man who is use to failed ventures. According to the league's bio on Peterson, he has served as COO of the United Football League (A league full of so many problems it actually folded in season), and lasted less than a year as President of the poorly thought out NFL Europe (Despite being long serving GM of the Amsterdam Admirals). Soccer wise, he spent six years as Senior Vice President of AEG Sports and Managing Director of the Home Depot Center. Looking at all the various roles he's had over his years, it reads like a 'I'm not good enough for this, so I'm going to go do that'. He seems a man who can create a vision, but the man who cannot see any vision out.
Upon his arrival to the NASL, he immediately cut critical members inside the NASL front office. While costs need to be curtailed, replacing known soccer guys with people who were with Peterson during the dying days of the UFL is shoddy business at best. The current PR Director was an abject failure in steering the UFL's narrative during the days prior to closing up shop. The current Director of Operations was a man so non existent he didn't register on anyone's radar as a man who could conduct serious business. It doesn't stop there:
* He did not reverse a poorly thought out decision that allowed the New York Cosmos to be Soccer Bowl eligible despite only playing the fall half of the 2013 season. If the season was to end today, they would play Atlanta in the Soccer Bowl.
* In July, he approved expansion into the Oklahoma City market. Rumors have circulated (though it must be stressed unconfirmed) that the group accepted from Oklahoma City was rejected by USL and their tougher admission standards. There has some minor speculation that Peterson receives a hefty bonus for every expansion team the NASL approves. Again that's also unconfirmed.
* After an incident on September 15th in Edmonton that saw the majority of the Fort Lauderdale Strikers' coaching staff ejected, it took three days for Peterson to say anything publicly on the situation. During that time, Peterson did not speak on the subject despite numerous media inquiries on the matter until issuing the suspension.
* On September 20th, it was reported on the Ultras Alive Podcast, following a Fort Lauderdale Strikers fan forum that Bill Peterson admitted to a journalist that he had never read the NASL Rules and Procedures. It's a pretty damning admission that the head of the league has never read up on the procedures of the league he runs.
While fans have felt they could at least engage Peterson, it could be said that all changed after Tampa Bay's trip to New York. The fixture had been rearranged, and some fans were unable to get in on Tampa Bay's group rate to make the trip north. While those who had committed early to the group rate were okay, many others had to pay the balance out of pocket.
During the game there was a fan incident that took place at the end of the game in New York between the Rowdies and Cosmos. Depending on who you ask will determine who and what started the incident. on Monday, Charlie Cole, the leader of Ralph's Mob (the Tampa Bay supporters group), attempted to reach out to Bill Peterson in order see if any actions would be forthcoming in wake of that incident. Those calls went unanswered, and on Thursday sent a tweet to Bill Peterson, who then not only sent the reply to the wrong account (the account in question should have been @speedcake), sent the following as his official league response. The first bit has been proven to be an outright lie, the second bit is simply inexcusable for any leadership of a flailing organization.
Almost immediately after realizing how stupid the above mentioned tweet was, Peterson had already tried to go into damage control mode among the varying supporters groups. Those who were against the walkout did not believe what Cole was saying to be an accurate version of events that led to the above mentioned tweet. However, it didn't take long to convince them with actual visual evidence that Peterson's version of events were a lie. Once Cole was able to convince them Peterson was selling them a bill of goods, it didn't take long for all three supporter groups in attendance to agree to a mass walkout. The fact that all three groups agreed to do anything in unison is a feat in and of itself. While most of the banter between the Fort Lauderdale and Tampa Bay is generally in good fun, they have had plenty of heated moments in recent times.
Despite attempts from Andrew Nestor (CEO & GM of the Tampa Bay Rowdies) and Rishi Sehgal (Director of Business Development and Legal Affairs for the NASL) to stop the walkout from happening, 15 minutes into the Florida Derby, all three supporters groups emptied out. Once they got out of the field of play, some chanted expletives about Bill Peterson to let him know they were not happy with what he said. After 15 minutes, some returned to watch the remainder of the game while others simply left.
While I think a sustained chant of "Peterson Out" would have been a much better course of action than using expletives, I can empathize with those fans. With Jacksonville getting a team in 2015, I have to seriously question if Peterson is the right man running the NASL. If his reaction to very passionate fans that spend their hard earned money is to tell them not to watch, then he doesn't need to be the position of power he is. There needs to be a flat out apology written for the NASL website, he needs to go on every public forum and media that will still have him and offer a heartfelt regret. Anything that smells of bull will be quickly pounced on...just like his lies were Thursday night.