Anybody Want to Own the Best Soccer Facility in the US?

One of the sadder stories making the rounds this morning stems from the reports out of England regarding Brad Friedels' BANKRUPTCY FILING

The judgments center around the finances of the Premier Soccer Academy Friedel founded in Lorain Ohio. Opened to great fanfare in the Summer of 2007, this was going to spearhead the next great wave of soccer development in the US, and in an ironic way it did just that.

The facility itself was professional, even lavish:

There were 2 full size natural grass fields and one Fieldturf pitch, along with a separate goalie field and another full sized indoor field with dining, training, workout and meeting facilites and dormitory space for 36 players living in two man suites.

Place is nice.

The idea was to bring in players not just from the US but from all over the world for fully sponsored training. adidas was on board along with any number of lesser backers.

The staff was top notch, mostly professional level trainers from England. Nothing but the best from top to bottom.

From the beginning there were questions about whether this effort - which was officially a non-profit - was going to be able to come up with the money to keep the place going on what amounted to a donation basis. Many people speculated that the plan was to sign and sell the graduates to clubs around the world, but to be clear nobody thought the motivating force was profit; rather, people assumed that any monies generated would be used to finance the academy itself.

Be that as it may, the place opened, a class or two was brought in and the program was shut down all in a span of barely two years.

Of course those of you who have been paying attention knew all of this before todays' "news" hit the interweb.

Premier Soccer Academies was first SUED BY RBS in June of 2009 for principle and interest on three loans totaling $6,171,164, $870,836 and $537,107.

Some reports are also mentioning foreclosure on a half million dollar home Friedel maintains in Northern Ohio, which may have been pledged as collateral.

The loans themselves were dated Feb. 11, 2008 and although RBS said that "some payments" had been made towards the principle, it's obvious that they didn't amount to much. Banks don't foreclose on seven and a half million dollars in loans after less than 18 months if they're getting paid much of anything.

It's clear that the place was in serious trouble literally from day one, and was finally shut down in the Spring of 2009. The staff was fired and the players sent on their way, and it's been sitting there still smelling of new paint ever since, being used only as an occasional rental facility for camps and tournaments.

At the time, Friedel blamed the economic environment for drying up the sponsorships needed to keep the place going, and while that is likely true it's a little hard to believe that he put his name on $11 million worth of construction without some solid guarantees as to where the money was coming from.

Nobody mortgages their net worth hoping that down the road some money will appear from someplace. You get it in writing.

What actually happened this week was that a Judge in Lorain Ohio gave the final OK for the foreclosure, basically awarding RBS the keys. In response, Friedels' attorneys filed for bankruptcy protection, effectively stopping the bank from taking possession for the time being.

Someone identified only as "Friedels' spokesman" issued s statement saying that “This is a technical bankruptcy and it is not anticipated that it will be in place for long as an application for an annulment will be submitted in the next few days. Arrangements are in place to deal with the issues which gave rise to the bankruptcy.”

Essentially, he's saying that the BR filing was only to gain a little breathing room until some other arrangements come through. It's not an uncommon tactic.

However, this kind of move, if it's not just a desperation play with no real purpose - it's not like the place is going to magically reopen next week with swarms of players and truckloads of corporate dollars pulling into the parking lot - implies that there's something going on with the place, which would normally mean a buyer of some kind.

We can hope and pray that that's the case and, perhaps even be forgiven for hoping that it ends up being used for it's original purpose. It would be hard to bear the thought of that incredible facility, and those beautiful fields, being bulldozed to make way for a Sonic and a Walgreen's.

All of which ignores the embarrassment to Friedel and his family. To be publicly depantsed in court and the media like this is not pleasant.

What's even worse is that this was nothing less than a dream, something which Brad envisioned as a giving back to the sport for all it's done for him, as well as a way to provide a boost to American soccer development, bringing to the USA the previously unheard-of residency training at no cost idea and giving families who can't afford top level training a way to have their kids get the very best.

Ironically, that concept is beginning to take hold at various MLS Academies across the country even as Friedels' Premier Soccer Academy dream turns to ashes and dust.