Jacksonville NASL: Does the Commissioner Want You to Watch Another League if You Don't Agree?

06 October 2013

The supporter groups of the Fort Lauderdale Strikers and Tampa Bay Rowdies protest NASL Commissioner. Photo Credit, Chris Arnold.
Some supporters groups are finally fed up with Bill Peterson and his leadership of the NASL. After a flash point Thursday with the Tampa Bay Rowdies supporters group, they put their frustrations into action.

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.
The tweet that has since been deleted caused an immediate uproar among the supporters groups in Tampa Bay and Fort Lauderdale. They all knew something had to be done, but what to do still remained in question. Some brought up the idea of a banner, which seemed to be immediately accepted as an idea. But others wanted to go one further and stage a mass walkout on the game. That brought about some mixed reactions among the three supporters groups.

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.

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Premier League Preview: Curious Tests Await the Manchester Sides

04 October 2013

Before I begin, I want to apologize for the lack of posting over the last week. I've been a little bit under the weather. I cannot promise normal service next week either as life has gotten in the way of what I love to do. I will try and get something up this weekend, but I can't promise it. If you want my thoughts on the games I can follow as they happen, check out my Twitter feed throughout the weekend. With that said, onto my thoughts and predictions on this weekend's fixtures.

Kickoff times are EDT. PLET stands for Premier League Extra Time. All games available on NBC Live Extra. Check your provider for availability.

Manchester City v Everton (Saturday 7:45 am, NBCSN): I expect Joe Hart to start this weekend. Another saving grace for the hosts is that Gareth Barry cannot play for Everton this weekend. With the form Barkley and Lukaku are in, I can't pick Manchester City to win. However, I see Everton's unbeaten run continuing with a draw. Prediction: Manchester City 1 Everton 1

Liverpool v Crystal Palace (Saturday 10:00 am, NBCSN): This could be the easiest preview I write. With the Sturridge to Suarez combination already in perfect sync, it's going to be an extremely long afternoon for Ian Holloway's side. I see no way Palace score. Prediction: Liverpool 4 Crystal Palace 0

Hull City v Aston Villa (Saturday 10:00 am, PLET): I see Stephen Quinn replacing Robbie Brady for Hull City, while Benteke is still out for Aston Villa. I expect this to be a stalemate of the ugliest sort. I do expect Aston Villa though to get the breakthrough and get another three away points this season. Prediction: Hull City 0 Aston Villa 1

Cardiff City v Newcastle United (Saturday 10:00 am, PLET): With Newcastle having faced back to back 3-2 defeats, they must be hoping Cabaye can play from the start. His inclusion made the difference against Everton, and I expect it to be the difference here. David Marshall has had a bit of a blinding two weeks. However, I don't expect that to continue this weekend. Prediction: Cardiff City 1 Newcastle United 2

Fulham v Stoke City (Saturday 10:00 am, PLET): If Fulham cannot beat Stoke City at home this weekend, then I will join the ever growing chorus asking for Martin Jol to be sacked. I have a bad feeling for Fulham fans I'll be joining that chorus by noon on Saturday. Fulham have key players injured (Hughes, and Parker come to mind), while Stoke City only have Walters to worry about. I expect this to be another dodgy game. Stoke City are still in transition, but Fulham are in full-fledged free fall. While it won't be easy, I do expect the score line to look a little more comfortable than the 90 minutes will reflect. Prediction: Fulham 0 Stoke City 2

Sunderland v Manchester United (Saturday 12:30 pm, NBCSN): It just continues to get worse for Manchester United. Back to back losses, matched with a poorly played draw midweek, see the visitors needing a desperate three points just to kick start their season. While it may be quaint to say 'at least they are playing the side that are bottom of the table', Sunderland played with a fight last week that hasn't been seen all season. If Kevin Ball wants to be a serious candidate for the job on a permanent basis, it wouldn't hurt to get a result in this game. Unfortunately I just don't see that happening. In a sense, I expect this to be a repeat of last week's fixture. Sunderland will get forward, but Manchester United will get enough goals to win. Prediction: Sunderland 1 Manchester United 2

Norwich City v Chelsea (Sunday 8:30 am, NBCSN): While this game is on the road, I could see this playing out almost identically to how Chelsea's opening fixture against Hull City played out. By the time Norwich City start to play football, this game could easily already be over. Jose Mourinho has finally woken up to what Juan Mata brings to the squad, but he'll wish Samuel Eto'o would play to the non scratching levels Fernando Torres had been lately. Prediction: Norwich City 0 Chelsea 2

Southampton v Swansea City (Sunday 8:30 am, PLET): Southampton have been a dark horse this season, with only bad performance to their name. Swansea City are slowly adapting positively to their new European scheduling. Southampton's fixtures slowly get more competitive from here, so it will be curious to see if they their defense can keep up their greedy goals against record (only conceded two goals so far this season). Unfortunately, I don't see that happening here. This is a Swansea side that can score goals; it will just be a matter of if Southampton can keep up? I expect this to be the most exciting game of the weekend. Prediction: Southampton 2 Swansea City 2

West Bromwich Albion v Arsenal (Sunday 11:00 am, NBCSN): What a perfect opponent for West Bromwich Albion to have a major letdown against. Arsenal is flying high, and with a makeshift front line, this is going to be one long early evening for the hosts. Ozil has taken to the Arsenal way like a glove, and I expect him to have easier than normal distribution. Long story short, I see this over with by halftime. Prediction: West Bromwich Albion 1 Arsenal 3

Tottenham Hotspur v West Ham United (Sunday 11:00 am, PLET): Tottenham may have a few injuries, but with Andy Carroll not in West Ham's lineup, I don't see them scoring against Tottenham's brick wall defense. The only question I have is how many Spurs will score themselves? I see one in each half. Prediction: Tottenham Hotspur 2 West Ham United 0

These are my thoughts/predictions on this weekend. What are yours? Let me know in the comments below.

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Johnathan Starling, the self proclaimed 'most brutally honest man on the net, dishes out his own unique brand of opinions, and analysis on the Premier League, Bundesliga, and all things US Soccer.

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