Chick Soccer Chicanery 

Chick Soccer Chicanery

Why the WUSA Folded When It Did
By Jack Ferdon

Fans of the Women's United Soccer Association as well as every sentient being on the planet, were left befuddled when the league announced its own demise. The cause of the head-scratching was not that the WUSA was going bye-bye, its breakup was even more in the bag than Affleck's and J-Lo's, but rather that the incredibly unpopular league chose to make the announcement five days before the start of the biggest event in their sport, the Women's World Cup. It was like a girl tying to score by telling all the guys at the bar she has the clap.

There is never a good time for news of this nature, and we are obviously saddened for not only the players and coaches, but the fans, administrators, and investors in the league as well. The league has been very positive for the sport across the United States, and we appreciate the hard work from everyone involved in providing the highest level of professional women's soccer in the world.

It is disappointing that the league could not find the additional funding and investors they needed to continue," said WUSA chairman John Hendricks, who probably tried to get his wife to sign a pre-nup during their honeymoon.

Here's Hendricks' explanation for the timing of the announcement: "We couldn't keep the doors open even another 24 hours without jeopardizing a decent and fair severance package for our employees." He also said the league, in order to continue operation, needed to find eight corporate sponsors willing to throw down $2.5 million each, but thus far had signed up only two (Hyundai and Johnson & Johnson).
And here's why you shouldn't believe Hendricks.

Now, no one will deny that the WUSA was broke. But so broke that their daily operations' in the off-season must consist of simply answering a few junk e-mails, couldn't trudge along for a few more weeks if only to avoid casting a pall over the World Cup? Doubtful.

What makes more sense is that Hendicks and his throttled fellow owners found a way to cut their substantial losses ($100 million was invested in the league) by folding when they did.

One possibility: Hendricks was shorting Hyundai and J & J, whose shareholders would surely dump them like chicken feed when it came out that they were willing to give a girls' soccer league two and a half million bucks. The SEC should look into this.

Another possibility: FIFA and others with a financial stake in the Women's World Cup paid Hendricks to close shop when he did to drum up some publicity for their show, which a week ago had less buzz surrounding it than the UPN's new fall lineup.

If true, this may have been a wise investment for FIFA as the WUSA's closing was deemed front-page news by papers across the country on Tuesday. Combine that with Mia Hamm's appearance this week on the cover of Sports Illustrated and suddenly there's a media blitz on women's soccer, all thanks to Hendricks' announcement Monday.

One more possibility: The announcement was a ploy to stir up sympathy and investors for the WUSA, like those big concerts they used to have for Willie Nelson every time the IRS was after him. The league's players' scared, as they should be, of having to get real jobs, are hoping for a rich savior to bail them out. "We are not just going to give up, even though the odds are stacked against us. We will still hold out the possibility of reviving this," said WUSA and US national team veteran Julie Foudy.

Outside of the WUSA's troubles, this has been a landmark year for women's sports with Annika Sorenstam competing on the PGA tour and the WNBA drawing a record crowd (22,000) to its recent championship in Detroit. Now women's soccer fans -- I think I'm safe using the plural there -- are hoping 2003 will be a miraculous one as well.

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