Tampa Bay Rowdies owner Bill Edwards could be soon adding another soccer team to his lineup — the Fort Lauderdale Strikers — after the team failed to pay back several thousand dollars in loans.
In a complaint filed Nov. 17 in Pinellas County’s Sixth Judicial Circuit Court, Edwards says his Marketing Solution Publications loaned the Strikers $450,000 in mid-2016. The Strikers is the DBA name of the Miami FC professional football club.
After the team allegedly claimed to lack funds for a Sept. 3, 2016, match against the New York Cosmos, Marketing Solutions, based on Central Avenue in St. Petersburg, wired the organization another $80,000.
The complaint claims Miami FC never repaid the $80,000 loan, as well as owing Edwards $305,000 in principal and interest on the original $450,000 loan. Edwards is seeking to foreclose on the Strikers assets, which were used to secure that $450,000 loan.
If successful, the move would give Edwards, the successful St. Petersburg entrepreneur, control of teams in both the USL and the NASL.
Established in 1975, the Rowdies became the first professional sports franchise in the Tampa Bay region while remaining one of America’s most popular and recognizable soccer teams. In their inaugural year, the Rowdies won the Soccer Bowl championship, winning it again in 2012.
In the 2017 season, the Rowdies are widely expected to become part of the USL Eastern Conference.
A September 2016 article in midfieldpress.com, outlined how the Strikers consistently struggled with mismanagement, reaching a point where players and staff regularly received late paychecks, after the team dropped direct deposit for employees.
Also in September, WRAL news reported the Strikers’ Brazilian ownership had put the team up for sale, and considered ceasing its funding obligations, passing it to the NSAL, where the organization reportedly faced financing the team for the remainder of the 2016 season.
“Whenever a situation arises that requires the attention and support of the League office and its Board, everyone within the NASL rallies together, like any true league would, to work through the situation and try to achieve the best possible outcome,” and NASL spokesperson said in a statement. The current status of the Fort Lauderdale Strikers is no different.”
In contrast to the Strikers’ financial woes, Edwards control of the Rowdies proved a “model for turning a franchise around in the NASL.”
In an August NASL meeting, Edwards “unofficially proposed to the various members of the board of governors his intent to purchase the rival franchise in Ft. Lauderdale.”
The article also suggests “Edwards had been keeping the afloat through loans … later converted into transfer fees.”
After a tense split up between the USL and NASL in 2010, the USL had entered a partnership with Major League Soccer, which helped the USL grow from only 11 franchises in 2011 to 29 teams two years later.