Photo by ISIPhotos.com
By CAITLIN MURRAY
The New York Red Bulls won’t be acquiring a National Women’s Soccer League team anytime soon.
Negotiations dating back to December 2012 between the Red Bulls and New Jersey-based NWSL club Sky Blue FC have fallen apart and Sky Blue is forging ahead with a new plan for 2014, club CEO Thomas Hofstetter told reporters Thursday.
“Both sides were very eager to make it work but at the end of the day, we couldn’t get on the same page,” Hofstetter said. “… The question was, do we go left or right? The deal with Red Bull didn’t work so we made the decision to go right.”
Going “right” meant on Thursday bringing in a new general manager in Tony Novo, former general manager of the now-defunct New Jersey Ironmen, to help the club strengthen attendance and increase revenue. This past season was the first time Sky Blue met financial targets, Hofstetter said.
Under the proposed deal, Major League Soccer’s Red Bulls would have been named part or majority owners of Sky Blue, which would have played home games at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J.
Future negotiations remain possible, though. The negotiations ended “on good terms” and the next two years will put soccer front and center in America with the men’s World Cup in 2014 and the women’s World Cup the following year in Canada, Hofstetter said.
“If any of those things might strike Red Bull and us together again, then it’s to be,” he said. “If not, that might be OK too.”
There was no deal-breaker, Hofstetter added, but philosophical differences that stalled negotiations.
“It’s us being small and Red Bull being a big global corporation. They have other goals and priorities. I don’t mean this in a bad way – it just comes with the territory of being two completely different organizations,” Hofstetter said. “At the end of the day, we just didn’t feel from a business perspective that the deal we were discussing, that we could get on the same page. It was mainly business-driven, our decision, and that’s all it is, honestly.”
The Red Bulls haven’t been the only MLS franchise seeking to snag an NWSL club of their own. The Houston Dynamo began a strong, public push this week to get a franchise in Houston.
Without MLS backing, Sky Blue is looking to continue operations as they stood this past season.
“We’re not looking to do any major overhauls,” Novo said Thursday. “What we’re looking to do is basically grow with what we already have. I think there’s a good product – the team has had a good product on the field and had a respectable attendance and exposure. And we’re going to take that to the next level.”
Sky Blue has struggled with attendance since it was founded in 2007 though, a nagging issue for the club. During the 2013 NWSL season, the club had the distinction of averaging the lowest attendance of the eight-team league.
A 2014 venue is not finalized, but Hofstetter said the club will likely return to Rutgers University’s Yurcak Field, which he admitted was “out of the way” for fans.
Hofstetter said the club is committed to remaining a New Jersey-based team, but said they “looked at every single option we have” in the tri-state New York City area, adding, “there’s just not a lot of options.”
A spokesman for the Red Bulls did not return a request for comment Thursday.