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From the Edmonton Journal:

Aviators Crash and Burn

Shareholders return troubled first-year soccer franchise to league; team's home game tonight indefinitely postponed

Collin Gallant

The Edmonton Journal

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

EDMONTON - The fate of the Edmonton Aviators soccer team rests with its league after the owners admitted Monday they flew straight into the side of a mountain.

The United Soccer League franchise ceased operations Monday following a weekend meeting proved the ownership group was unwilling to add extra money to the organization that has been hemorrhaging financially.

The rights to the men's team have been handed over to the league by the group which promised a three-year plan to return professional soccer to Edmonton after four failed attempts during the last 20 years.

Operating with a business plan that officials now call unrealistic and poorly executed, the end came eight weeks after the team's first home game at Commonwealth Stadium on May 30.

"We had a lofty goal," said interim president Tom Newton, the team's largest investor, at an early evening press conference at the team's offices.

"We created a very big machine ... and relied on the imagination of the people of Edmonton," said Newton.

"We didn't do this to make a lot of money," Newton said wearily. "The shareholders kept this alive probably past the point we should have."

While the team's owners, Edmonton Professional Soccer, Ltd., work on clearing up an undisclosed, but "sizable" debt, it's now up the USL and its 15 other A-League franchises to decide whether the Aviator men will complete the final five weeks of their inaugural season.

Tonight's scheduled men's home game against the Portland Timbers has been indefinitely postponed as players, coaches and fans wait to see if the league will take on the task of running and financing the team and its remaining eight home games and four road games.

Although the group retains ownership of the women's franchise, which completed its regular season on Friday, Newton strongly suggested a sale would be forthcoming before the 2005 season.

"The viability of professional soccer now lies in the hands of the USL," said Newton.

The decision to continue the season will be made no later than Wednesday, said Tim Holt, league director of operations.

"There is a precedent of the league stepping in to take over a team," said Holt by telephone from the league's office in Tampa, Fla.

"We did it in Calgary in 2003 and were successful in reselling the territory to (different) local investors."

The league also took control of the Vancouver Whitecaps in 2002 and the Montreal Impact in 2001 -- teams that are today among the league's most successful franchises.

Holt wouldn't comment on what transpired from today's league meeting, but for the league to run the team would likely mean breaking the Aviators' lease at 60,000-seat Commonwealth Stadium and rewriting a business plan that set the break-even attendance point at 10,000 spectators per home game.

The Aviators' main marketing thrust was to sell 30,000 minor soccer players a $14 season-ticket package, under the assumption players the would bring cash-paying parents and friends to games.

However, only about 8,000 of the dollar-per-game packages were sold and crowds never rose above 4,000 in six home games. The team averaged 2,552 fans a game at the city-owned stadium.

"I was told it was a three-year plan," said coach Ross Ongaro.

"It baffles me that people in that high of a position could make such a huge mistake, that would affect so many people."

Ongaro is not the only one questioning the venture.

"There are a lot of honest business people who are going to take a hit on this," said Don Metz, president of Aquila Productions, who claims his company has received none of the $50,000 owed for running Commonwealth Stadium's jumbotron replay screen. A host of other creditors include the City of Edmonton for rental of the stadium.

Many teams survive on fewer fans than the Aviators have seen this year, playing at high school or college fields.

The Seattle Sounders men's and women's teams draw near the league average of 3,300 at the 67,000-seat Quest Field, home of the NFL Seattle Seahawks.

A Sounders official said the team receives a reduced rental rate, does not use the replay screen and huddles the crowd in one section at the stadium that has an NFL-quality artificial turf field.

Commonwealth, with its fiercely guarded natural grass surface, has a policy of waiting three days before and after CFL games to allow the field to rejuvenate.

The Aviators' secondary status to the main tenant Eskimos forced many of their planned weekend games to be changed to weeknight games, where the draw at the gate certainly suffered, said Newton.

"The Eskimos have been helpful," said Newton. "But the key to success in this city is a proper-sized venue."

"A (expanded facility at 1,300-seat) Clarke Park would be wonderful."

Besides Newton, the Aviators ownership group is comprised of 19 shareholders and includes several prominent Edmontonians: Eric Young, president of Northlands Park; Maureen McCaw, former president of the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce; Gary Gregg, part-owner of the Edmonton Oilers; a number of smaller-stake shareholders and former Aviators president Wylie Stafford, who resigned three weeks after the team's home opener.

From The Edmonton Sun:

Doomsday for Aviators


A colossally flawed business plan has cost Edmonton another soccer franchise. The Aviators crashed and burned yesterday, with the club's 19 investors announcing that they were ceasing to fund the team and reverting the franchise rights back to the United Soccer Leagues. Tonight's game against the Portland Timbers was indefinitely postponed as the USL and A-League team owners decided whether or not to foot the bill to keep the Aviators alive for the remainder of the 2004 season.

The group of investors retained the rights to the W-League club but made it clear those rights are now for sale despite a belief that the women's team will be a worthy product in future seasons.

"In hindsight, the business plan was flawed and the execution of that business plan was not as good as it could have been," said Tom Newton, chairman of the team's board of directors and the largest shareholder in the franchise.

"Yes, we are letting people down. We as an organization did not earn the fan support that we wanted and when that happens, you obviously have a revenue problem. We were under the assumption that we were going to have a good base of people to come out to the game and over the three years we would build upon that base. I'm not sure that we ever captured that base.

"This was supposed to be a legacy and as it turns out it's been a very shortlived one."

While refusing to lay direct blame on anyone, Newton, the lone owner to attend last night's press conference at the team office, admitted that the investors made a fatal error in following a business plan that called for some 30,000 passes be made available to kids registered in Edmonton Minor Soccer - a move which convinced the group into setting up shop at Commonwealth Stadium with expectations of drawing 11,000 per game.

Only 8,000 of the passes were purchased at $15 apiece and the club attracted a season-ticket base of around 1,000.


Newton would not reveal the club's debt load, how much was paid in expansion fees (believed to be $300,000 US for the A-League and $30,000US for the W-League), or what the investors were asked to contribute at Sunday night's cash-call meeting.

He did say that the money required to stick it out for the remainder of the year and come back with a better business plan for the 2005 season was "scary."

The club did lose all of a $100,000 US performance bond although the A-League released a portion of it to the club for operating costs two weeks ago. Newton hoped the league would use the rest to keep the Aviators going for the rest of the season.

Although Newton maintained that Edmonton does not have an appropriate building for soccer, he did admit that several times during the year - including at that point when the teams' schedules were dramatically altered back in February by the Eskimos' schedule - the Aviators could have moved into Clarke Park despite the A-League's mandate of teams being in venues that hold more than 6,000 spectators.


"Warning bells went off but I'm personally probably the victim of having too much enthusiasm and too much desire to make this thing work," said Newton.

"In business, usually I try to be cold and calculating and this has been an emotional commitment. When you get emotionally involved in things, sometimes you just make the wrong decisions. Emotionally, I'm just fried.

"I should have been here more, the other owners should have been here more. We should have had our eyes a little bit more wide open and we certainly shouldn't have had rose-tinted glasses."

The investors were admittedly concerned when the Aviators drew only 1,100 fans for their home opener after aiming for more than 15,000. It went steadily downhill from there.

"When you take a look around the stadium, you get a very sickly feeling in the pit of your stomach and at that moment we had a very serious problem," said Newton reflecting on the dismal May 30 doubleheader.

"I'm sure the group (of investors) will get together one last time and throw one hell of a good wake."

Ross Ongaro, the head coach of the men's team, reacted as harshly as many of his players did when he was informed yesterday afternoon of the owners' decision.

"I'm very disappointed in a three-year plan lasting two months," said Ongaro.

"I'm very disappointed in the leadership of the people who basically sold the idea of what we are doing and I'm very disappointed in their outlook on what we were trying to do.

"I've been told all along that it's a three-year plan and we're trying to develop local talent and we're going to start small and work hard to develop it.

''Two and half months in, because it's not exactly what we projected, or the projections were totally out of line, it's dropped that quickly.

"It baffles me that people in that position can make such a huge mistake that effects so many people."

"It's remarkable. The team side is below budget and obviously there's a problem somewhere else," added Joe Petrone, the Aviators director of soccer operations.

From The Edmonton Sun:

Players to ponder USL offer made last night


An initial offer to the Aviator players from the USL did not draw a favourable response late last night. According to team captain Kurt Bosch, the players were offered 13 contracts at $1,000 per month and another five at $500 per month. Those figures would mean the departure of the team's most notable names, including imports Jaime Lopresti and Jose Luis Campi, as well as former Drillers Nik Vignjevic, Sipho Sibiya, Chris Handsor and Bosch. Other prominent players like Gordon Chin, Chris Lemire and Sean Fraser would likely draw more money from other clubs by being declared free agents or through a dispersal draft.

"At this point, the consensus is that we would not go for that," Bosch said last night.

If they choose to accept an offer, the onus will be on the players to decide who will receive the 18 contracts being offered.

Bosch said the USL wants a decision from the plyers by 11 a.m.

From The Edmonton Sun:

'Was it a lie?'


A three-year commitment from team owners to make soccer finally work in Edmonton didn't last three months and that's what is burning the Edmonton Aviator players. It's a downright betrayal, according to veteran Sipho Sibiya, who's now been with two failed ventures in the city - the long-gone indoor Drillers, and now the Aviators.

"We were given three-year contracts. Was it a lie?

"Well, we believe what we signed ... and we expected (the owners) would honour it," said Sibiya.

"For a professional sports team to fold this quickly, that's unheard of. The Drillers lasted four years. This team, two or three months, that's a problem ... as soon as there was a little hot water and the numbers didn't fit, they fold."

As many arrived yesterday at the training facility at Archbishop O'Leary high schoolexpecting to prepare for a 4 p.m. practice and were told by teammates of the impending doom, they quickly began working their cellphones to call agents, friends and family.

If the United Soccer League does not keep the team alive through a takeover, some will be looking for work with other A-League teams.

"I'm OK because I have another job, but for a lot of these guys, this is their job," said Aviators defender Chris Devlin, who has already asked his former club, Edmonton Scottish, to clear up the paperwork for his return.

"They have families and children. It's hard to see them not knowing what they're going to do.

"The hardest part is for the city - it's embarrassing for the city. It's going to be tough for us to try get another professional soccer team because of what's happened."

Import midfielder Jaime Lopresti and Argentine goalkeeper Jose Luis Campi - believed to be the highest-paid players on the club - initially refused to attend the meeting, but were finally convinced by head coach Ross Ongaro to attend.

Afterwards, Lopresti expressed his frustration.

"I'm very upset. It's very complicated (and) I'm very hurt," said Lopresti, who was born in Vancouver but played extensively in Chile.

"It's very disappointing because people knew it was not going the right way."

Other than a few outstanding incentives and bonuses, the players are up to date on their salaries. That still doesn't take away their anger towards ownership pulling the plug.

"We started off struggling and that's going to happen to any expansion team," said Gordon Chin, who scored the OT winner in the Aviators' lone home victory. "Lately, we just started picking up and playing the best soccer that we've played and now for something like this happen ... "

Ongaro intimated that he would stay with the team if the league took over its operation but only if the players salaries were not affected.

Captain Kurt Bosch wasn't overly optimistic about league taking over the Aviators unless a deal would be worked out to move the club into Clarke Park.

"As players, we were the first to raise our hands and take responsibility for the lack of results," said Bosch. "But the owners, nobody has stepped up and taken responsibility for a business plan that tried to make 11,000 people per game viable and for suggesting we play at Commonwealth Stadium."

Team chairman of the board and interim president Tom Newton said the players would be compensated for the three days' of pay incurred on the weekend road trip to Milwaukee and that money or plane tickets owed to Lopresti and Campi would be paid for out of his own pocket.

From The Edmonton Sun:

Fade to black


They guaranteed three years. They didn't make three months.

They projected and predicted 25,000 fans for their first game. They didn't make 25,000 for the total attendance of their entire existence.

The Edmonton Aviators A-League team was pronounced as good as dead yesterday.

The ownership group, which is believed to have paid more than a quarter of a million dollars for the franchise, walked away from a commitment and left league partners without a team to play unless the league decides to take over the team for the rest of the year.

The women's Aviators team, which at least managed to complete their season, is for sale. A dollar might do it.

How many times does Edmonton have to learn this lesson?

Our city is a big-time, big-event international-soccer city. It's a national team, international event, bring-us-the-best 60,000-seat, grass field, home of Canada's national soccer squad kind of city.

No-name teams in brand-X leagues don't work here. You can bring in Brazil and fill the place.

You can come close with a World Cup qualifying game against Australia and do very well, I suspect, with the U.S. in a World Cup qualifier if we ever get one.

But a can't-score, can't-win, kill-the-game team featuring a bunch of locals and a couple of guys nobody has ever heard of from Chile, Turkey or somewhere, isn't going to put people in the big park.

After people filled Commonwealth Stadium for the FIFA Womens World Championships, if you're going to succeed with a women's team in something called the W-League, you'd better have Christine Sinclair, Kara Lang and quite a few of their friends on it.

And, still, you wouldn't put the team in Commonwealth Stadium.

Think about that if you're thinking of spending that buck to buy yourself a women's soccer team.

The women, at least, play attractive soccer. They go forward, not backward. The players they had were of a much higher profile in the community than the men.


Maybe with an expanded Clarke Park and ... nah.

But fans will fill the stands next year when Sinclair, Lang & Co. play world-champion Germany in Commonwealth. One big game like that is what Edmonton is all about for this sport.

Commonwealth Stadium, of course, was the biggest (but hardly only) mistake by this ownership group.

The second big mistake was A-League and W-League. Does anybody know who won the A-League last year? Does anybody know who won the W-League last year? If 99.9% of people who call themselves soccer fans can't answer that question, what's your first clue?

Let us go back to the beginning.

Greg McDannold had just made the proclamation with great ceremony.

"A new era has taken flight,'' he enthused.

"The Edmonton Aviators have landed!''

With that he turned away from the podium, gazed into the glare of the television lights, and unceremoniously fell off the stage.

Crash-landed, as it were. Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?

If you were looking for something symbolic, unfortunately, McDannold's plunge without a parachute provided the obvious.

We should have wrote it all off then and there.

I mean, Joe Petrone was involved.

If Petrone is involved, you're dead before you begin.

How many teams in how many leagues has Joe Petrone managed to provide the kiss of death to over the years?

I've lost track. If he has nine lives, surely he's down to the last one or two.

But there was Wylie Stafford standing there at the press conference, telling us these guys were going to do it right.

"Our investors want us to go first class all the way, to do it right, with a bang and some flair,'' said Stafford.

"First class is the only way. We're set up and financed for a minimum three-year venture. We intend to do it first class from the beginning and give it every chance to be a success. If it doesn't work, we'll have nothing to be ashamed of in the attempt.''

Well, be ashamed. Very ashamed.


Now it's all going away with a trail of debt inside three months. A $100,000 performance bond is sacrificed. There are bills totalling that and more which have yet to be paid. And Edmonton's good name in sport has taken a hit. (Not in terms of the Aviators failing, but in terms of not finishing a season.)

"The entire concept is unique and special,'' said Stafford back in the beginning. "The owners are diverse and have a very sound business plan. Very few soccer entities in Canada have ever started like this one.''

Wile E. Coyote had better plans trying to catch the Roadrunner than Wylie Stafford had of selling soccer.

The only thing that's mystifies me about the end of the Aviators is why it's a story. Nobody cared about them when they were living. Why should anybody care in the end?

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Another bump in the long road of establishing Canadian Pro Soccer.

We need Edmonton as a franchise plain and simple.

In my undaunted belief that within 15 years that we will have a pro league I will take this as a speed bump.


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There is no need to really comment on the articles listed in the above post.

I will refrain from the "told you so" routine, as that is a terrible post-mortem. But one has to agree with some of the journalists' musings about the genesis of the Aviators...that given their planning, they were doomed from the start.

Maybe that is why the media didn't take the team seriously - that they too are jaded. If casual observers knew that the business plan was rubbish, certainly the writers did, too.

Coulda, woulda, shoulda.

It will be interesting now to see how things proceed. As some people have posted, the A-League is viable in Edmonton. The crowds were in line with the USL averages, and with cost controls, better management, a marketing strategy that makes sense, it could have a future.

I do feel for Mr. Ongaro and Mr. Petrone...people are pointing the finger at them for this failure, and while it might not be fair to leave them blameless, they cannot shoulder the lion's share for this debacle.

Ross is right to voice his frustration, as were some players...3-year plan? 3-month crash-and-burn...wow. How does that work? And Bosch is right...I chatted with him long ago about playing in Commonwealth, and he laughed at it straight away. Maybe, just maybe, if someone comes to the fore they could consult the players with A-League experience what the expectations should be.

I can't imagine what the overhead must have been for the ownership group...imagine needing 10,000+ attendees, at their ticket prices, to make it work. Ouch.

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quote:Originally posted by Jeremy Loome

It would be nice if some of these perspectives were mailed to the editors of the two papers. It's very rare to see informed comments about soccer on the letters page. You don't have to fax, you can just email to letters@edmsun.com

As opposed to the perspectives shared by guest columnists like Wes Montgomery?

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Still kickin' ... maybe

Aviators hope to finish season on league cash

By SCOTT ZERR -- Edmonton Sun

* Interest expressed in ladies side

* Warning signs

The Edmonton Aviators, rather appropriately, are in a holding pattern, but there is an apparent liftoff on the horizon.

After a day of wheeling and dealing and exorbitant cellphone charges, the Aviators have assembled enough of a team to carry on for the remainder of the A-League season.

There are a couple of obstacles in the way, but the United Soccer Leagues - the umbrella organization that operates the A-League - appears set to pay the way for the Aviators to complete the club's inaugural season.

That continuation would begin tomorrow night when the Aviators host the Milwaukee Wave - a contest that will likely take place at Foote Field.


"I sure hope so. We're just waiting for a final verdict," said Aviators head coach Ross Ongaro, who played the entire 1983 championship season with the Edmonton Eagles without being paid a cent.

"It was never a question of loyalty from the players. Once they committed to the program, they were committed. If we get the chance to finish this year that's the only way that we can possibly have a team here next year."

Sticking with the Aviators will cost the remaining players dearly - many of whom quickly passed up the USL's first offer, which came Monday night and was then discussed at a players' meeting yesterday morning.

An initial proposal from the league offered eight contracts at $1,000 per month and another five at $500 per month.

A second offer was made yesterday afternoon and the players met again to hash things out.

"The players are prepared to do whatever it takes to keep the team here for the rest of the season," said Aviators captain Kurt Bosch following the late-afternoon team vote.

After the team's breakfast meeting, Bosch declared he would not play another game with a "makeshift" squad that would make an embarrassing situation even worse.

"There's a lot of guys who are taking a huge pay cut and they're prepared to do that, which shows a committment right there," said Bosch. "Everyone's sticking together, we're all on the same page."

The players agreed to the revamped terms but the USL and A-League team owners wanted a second look at the Aviators' travel expenses.

USL chief operating officer Dave Askinas was informed that the Aviators' former ownership group had not purchased advance plane tickets for Saturday's road game in Minnesota, so suddenly a $15,000 trip had become a $50,000 journey based on last-minute ticket purchases.

"That was a gem of a surprise,"scoffed Askinas.

Under the ownership group that bailed out Monday night, players' salaries ranged from $500 to $5,000 per month.

With the league taking over, the top-dollar contracts are expected to be cut by least 50 per cent, but even with the substantial drop in pay, high-end players including Chilean import Jaime Lopresti, along with veterans Sipho Sibiya and Nik Vignjevic chose to stay.

"As players, when you have nothing under your control in terms of financial things, it really becomes tough because all of sudden you're hung out to dry," said defender Chris Devlin.

"When the league comes back to you and gives you an offer to play out the season and at least give something back to the fans that bought season tickets and want to come to the games, it's our responsibility as players to step out there and try to do the best we can for our fans."

All the players were declared free agents once the ownership turned control of the team over to the league and three players did leave the Aviators yesterday.


Striker Chris Lemire, who was on loan from the Montreal Impact, went back to his former club, former Driller Chris Handsor returned to his home in Toronto and may join the Toronto Lynx, and standout goalkeeper Jose Luis Campi opted not to stay in town.

Ongaro added that local products Vik Kaushal and Cesar Molina may be released so that their eligibility to play for a Canadian college or university team would be protected.

If the Aviators do play tomorrow night, it certainly won't be the best lineup that Ongaro has fielded during the year, but it might just be the most cohesive unit he's had.

Adversity had better bring out their best.

"We can't be thinking that any of these teams will take mercy or have pity on us," said Ongaro. "They'll be coming for three points and absolutely trying to steamroller and kill us.

"We're going to have to give 100 per cent effort every second and not use our situation as a crutch. They're going to have to work harder than they ever dreamt of.

"We're not going to be as strong, but we'll work better as a unit - and sometimes you become stronger by subtraction."

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Warning signs

League to owners: 'We told you so'

By SCOTT ZERR -- Edmonton Sun

There's being optimistic and then there's being downright delusional.

Executives of the United Soccer Leagues and the owners of the 14 other A-League franchises repeatedly warned the former owners of the Edmonton Aviators that their expectations for a first-year club were completely out of whack, said USL chief operating officer Dave Askinas.

"We tried to temper their expectations and told them not to go bragging about what they were going to accomplish,"said Askinas from the USL headquarters in Tampa.

"(The league) doesn't have much control over how people execute their own business plan.

"The Edmonton owners told us they were going to go their own way and they didn't listen to us despite our years of experience. Other teams cautioned them back in November to calm down and that this was a hard business to succeed in.

"They were extremely confident and that worried us. All our owners cautioned them to be prepared to be in it for the long haul and we thought they were."

Askinas conceded that the Aviators owners were plagued by scheduling hangups after the Eskimos released their plans which forced the soccer team into playing almost exclusively on weeknights.

However, Askinas did say that the USL was prepared to let the Aviators move from Commonwealth Stadium into Clarke Park, forgoing the league's venue requirement of 6,000 seats for one year before more permanent conditions could be constructed.

"For them it was Commonwealth or nothing," said Askinas, who took in the Aviators' home opener back on May 30.

"It takes years for teams to get a fan base built up. Their goals were unrealistic and they had a bad budget. I think now they realize the error of their ways.

"It's damn frustrating and disappointing to us. I think it's unfair to turn around and say this was all about not having a good fan base. This wasn't even a commitment, this was almost a non-starter."

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Don't know if Ben Knight's latest has been posted...

Crash landing

Soccer's Edmonton Aviators couldn't live up to their own ambitions. So what else is new?

Owning a minor-league professional soccer team in Canada sure ain't easy. Talk about a faith-based initiative! Yeah, the world loves its footie, but this particular part of the world isn't all that eager to dig into the wallets for tickets or replica jerseys.

It doesn't help any that this is only the A-League, where there are no big-name players in their prime, and the standard of play is, well, let us be kind and just say it's naive.

So before this blast begins, let me just take a moment to express admiration for the owners of the Montreal Impact, Vancouver Whitecaps, Toronto Lynx - heck, even the Calgary Mustangs - who continue to hang in there and put the product on the field, regardless of the odds. Rest assured, I support your efforts, even if I'm not crazy about the league.

And then there's the Edmonton Aviators. Born a few months back to apparently strong local ownership, Northern Alberta's latest soccer adventure pancaked on the runway this week. The franchise has been returned to the league, the next home game has been cancelled, and it seems very unlikely the team will escape the history book that is now slamming shut.

In retrospect, it should have been obvious. The Aviators were born in a cloud of grandiose dreaming, exactly the flavour of far-fetched fictional fantasy that has flattened Canadian soccer hopes far too many times in the past.

Specifically: The team announced it would play its games at Commonwealth Stadium before average expected home crowds of 11,000-plus. No, I didn't like it when I heard it, but I opted to take an optimistic approach, figuring the truth would become clear soon enough, and the Aviators would settle into a smaller park and get properly about the business of creating a couple, then a few, thousand honest, loyal fans. That, after all, is how the A-League game is played.

Surprise, surprise, the Commonwealth caper was a dud. Just over a thousand curious souls showed up for the opener. The team lost a lot, and games started getting shunted out to make way for Edmonton Eskimo football practices. Indeed, Commonwealth conflicts meant the Aviators' inaugural schedule was heavily front-loaded with road games. That didn't help either the team's record or the generation of a fan base.

So now, to the sad, resigned shock of the players, coaches and such fans as actually exist, yet another weak group of big-talking owners has been flushed back to reality, and another Canadian pro soccer team bites the dust.

The timing is beyond terrible. After playing most of the season on the road, the Aviators were just about to start a run of eight games out of nine at home over the next five weeks. Whatever money this team was ever going to make - or at least not lose this year - was going to start coming in now.

In Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto, A-League owners know they can't afford to fantasize. Surviving one season at a time, selling season tickets one fan at a time, they gear their entire operations to financial survival, and hope their local minor soccer systems turn up enough young talent to lift their teams into contention. It's not out of the question that the Whitecaps or Impact might even win a championship some day. That would really help, but no one's counting on it.

Contrasting all this to the Edmonton fiasco, I'm feeling pretty steamed.

Folks, let's talk about a Canadian professional soccer league. We've already got three of the teams that will be there. Unless, that is, either the Lynx or the Whitecaps (or both) get wiped out by the next few rounds of MLS expansion. Calgary? Too soon to tell. They played the big-stadium card as well, and no one is exactly saying they're financially healthy.

What we have to do - and I include myself here, because I didn't lean hard enough on the Commonwealth crap - is stop the fly-by-nighters before they get started.

Okay, admittedly, we don't really have any power here, and I'm not saying Edmonton soccer fans should have boycotted the Aviators. But can we at least agree that there are two different ways of running an A-League soccer team in Canada? There's the steady, patient, non-spectacular way (Vancouver, Montreal, Toronto, Calgary if they survive), which is the good and proper way forward.

Then there's the grandiose grab-bag gravy train (Edmonton, Calgary if they don't survive). My question to all of us? Why do we believe these jokers? I bit on Edmonton because I wanted it to be true. I'm sure I've got lots of company. So what do we do the next time a Canadian soccer league proposal comes along?

The biggest reason we can't have a league now - maybe ever - is there just aren't enough good owners out there willing to run a small team for marginal returns. This is why the CUSL proposal could never, ever, ever have flown. We have to understand that a new Canadian league would essentially be A-League north, with the talent level boosted a bit by a handful of international players in the early or late days of their careers.

What we do not need - and must no longer tolerate - is the big-talking blowhard owner who makes huge promises and says "trust me." It doesn't work, people.

What really galls me about the crash of the Aviators is that I believe there is a good chance this team could have caught on if it hadn't lashed itself to the Commonwealth Stadium boulder before it leapt into the A-League sea. The local ownership seemed to have a good pedigree. They seemed like a pretty good approximation of what A-League ownership - at least when their mouths were shut.

Well, they didn't, and we all got fooled again.

Can we make a deal here? The next time this looks like it's going to happen, let's all speak out against it.

What's that old saying? "Fool me twice, shame on me?" Well, this is more than twice, people. From the NASL to the CSL to the NSL to the CPSL to the CUSL to the Aviators, we've been fleeced more often than a blanket that got left in a laundromat dryer for a month.

Not all ownership is good ownership. Let's promise ourselves to all find the courage to say "no" to the next bunch of incoming glad-handing buffoons.

... Or this is as good as it will ever get.

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I read only the beginning of Ben's article and then I stopped. He's made it clear numerous times that he doesn't like the A-League (thinking the quality is not good enough, but doesn't he like English soccer that is at the same level?) and he'll never write about it unless there's something negative going on.

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quote:Originally posted by DJT

I read only the beginning of Ben's article and then I stopped. He's made it clear numerous times that he doesn't like the A-League (thinking the quality is not good enough, but doesn't he like English soccer that is at the same level?) and he'll never write about it unless there's something negative going on.

If I'm not mistaken he pontificates about the virtues of supporting Port Vale.

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quote:However, Askinas did say that the USL was prepared to let the Aviators move from Commonwealth Stadium into Clarke Park, forgoing the league's venue requirement of 6,000 seats for one year before more permanent conditions could be constructed.

Clearly this venue requirement of 6,000 seats is crap. If thats the case Toronto, Vancouver, Milwaukee, Charleston, and Minnesota all don't meet the requirements.

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