Calgary's new owners announced

Discussion in 'United Soccer Leagues' started by Cooks, Oct 10, 2003.

  1. Cooks

    Cooks New Member

    The following are three articles written over the last few days, regarding the new owners of Calgary FC. (There's a lot of reading, sorry)

    Niendorf arranges new team

    Murray Rauw - Calgary Herald - Tuesday, October 07, 2003

    Professional soccer will be relaunched in Calgary next year.

    "Absolutely, it's 100 per cent certain," said Thomas Niendorf, the mastermind behind the formation of new ownership which will keep Calgary in the A-League.

    John Torode and Juergen Hanne, two Calgary developers, are financing the start-up of the team, which will give soccer another chance and replace the Calgary Storm, which reverted to A-League ownership from Michael Vandale on July 1.

    Torode will be club president and Hanne will be the club chairman. Niendorf takes on the role of technical director and is a strong candidate to be the coach.

    "It will be a non-profit organization," said Niendorf. "It will be a management group taking the franchise rights that will allow the community to be involved. The team should be able to tap into financial support that hasn't been available."

    That opens the way for government support and lotteries.

    The still unnamed team has met all financial obligations. All that's left is finding a date for A-League executive director David Askinas to travel to Calgary to participate in the formal announcement. That is expected before the end of October.

    Niendorf says the initial cash will be available to cover day-to-day business and more money will be available to upgrade the talent level.

    "I'm more than excited about it," said Hanne. "It's a fast-growing sport and both of my kids play in Calgary."

    Turning avid players into fans is the trick. Participation in soccer has been booming for years, but the task now is to reach that population and attract them to dilapidated Foothills Stadium.

    For the Storm, it was a tough sell.

    The concept of the new organization is to operate a community-minded, non-profit organization that will work with Calgary minor soccer groups across the city.

    "You have to be in soccer. You have to understand the game. You have to have your heart in it," said Hanne, who moved to Calgary from Germany in 1980. "It will be a non-profit organization because you will never make a profit from soccer anyway."

    Niendorf was instrumental in the formation of the Storm, which began with great success in the Premier Development League before proving a disaster in the A-League. Niendorf was fired midway through his first A-League season.

    "I wouldn't think about this if Thomas wasn't in," said Hanne.

    Niendorf still believes pro soccer can survive with the proper public face.

    "I can put my name behind this because we all know this is not a money-making proposition," said Niendorf.


    Group buys soccer side

    By CAMERON MAXWELL, CALGARY SUN - Wednesday, October 8, 2003

    New owners of Calgary's A-League soccer franchise will operate the club as a non-profit team next season.

    The local group includes former Calgary Storm head coach Thomas Niendorf.

    "There's still some paperwork in terms of setting up the team as a non-profit corporation," said David Askinas, executive director of the United Soccer Leagues, which operates the A-League.

    Askinas wouldn't comment yesterday on another Calgary group that was in the running to purchase the team.

    Niendorf's group, backed by two local developers, all but saves professional soccer in Calgary. The Storm had to be run by the league after former owner Michael Vandale bolted in late June.

    Being a non-profit organization will help the team get back to its roots in the community, said Askinas.

    "You never have to worry about the team being sold or moved because it becomes community property ... It's accepted as a part of the community, like a public trust," said Askinas.

    When the season begins next spring, the A-League's only other non-profit club -- the Charlotte Eagles -- won't be part of the landscape.

    Faced with declining revenues and the lack of a permanent stadium, the Eagles have stepped down a rung to the USL's ProSelect League.

    The Calgary team also faces a facility problem. For the last two seasons, the Storm played at Foothills Athletic Park, a facility the team and league has deemed as inadequate.

    "That's a major issue. We're concerned, as is the new ownership group, and we'll continue to work with them to come up with a solution," said Askinas.

    New team president John Torode said now the agreement with the league is complete, the group can focus on the stadium.

    "We're working on that and there are a number of alternatives out there. Foothills isn't ideal but it is a good location, so if we've got to use it for now, we'll use it," said Torode.


    Selling Soccer Again

    By CAMERON MAXWELL, CALGARY SUN - Thursday, October 9, 2003

    Thomas Niendorf knows successfully running a professional soccer franchise in Calgary is easier said than done.

    And after seeing the turmoil of the Calgary Storm over the past three years, he knows what not to do when it comes to handling a soccer team. That's something he'll be taking on as the technical director of Calgary's unnamed A-League side, which will operate as a non-profit organization.

    Niendorf has been around the game in Calgary for years and got involved with the Storm in 2001 as technical director/head coach. He learned a lot of lessons but was fired in 2002.

    "You have to develop a better system of accountability for all elements of the franchise from the office to the technical program," said Niendorf.

    He heads a group -- including two Calgary developers, John Torode and Juergen Hanne -- that purchased the team from the United Soccer Leagues, which had been running it since former owner Michael Vandale walked out in early July.

    "You have to utilize the financial resources in a better way. There wasn't enough of an effort made to set up everything or to continue to do everything properly. (Former Storm GM) Mark McLoughlin and myself ran the organization much better without facing the interference of Michael Vandale all the time."

    That was in 2001, when the Storm played in the PDL and lost in the league championship game in its first season. The club moved into the A-League the next year and the wheels fell off.

    "Then Mike basically took it into his own hands and no one really knew what was going on anymore because it changed, basically, from day to day," said Niendorf.

    "I have a pretty good understanding now of the pros and cons. This is something I've passed on to the new management group. I've made them aware of the challenges we will face."

    Niendorf, who isn't sure if he'll coach the team, said Hanne, the team's chairman, and Torode, the president, have committed to the 2004 season. But should the franchise fail to upgrade and get a certain amount of fans, they will pull their financial backing.

    A big part of the club's future will revolve around how competitive it is and where it plays its home games.

    Foothills Athletic Park is a track- and-field facility -- not a soccer pitch -- yet it has been the home of Calgary's pro soccer team the past three years. Niendorf said the side has to play at Foothills in 2004 but is looking at other long-term possibilities.

    "Burns Stadium is a possibility, we could work with the U of C on a project to build a small stadium within their plans for the next two or three years and McMahon Stadium could be an option as well if they put field turf in over the next two or three years," said Niendorf.
  2. ChrisE

    ChrisE Member

    Jul 1, 2002
    Nat'l Team:
    American Samoa

    The new owners not only sound like they know what they're getting into (a not for profit venture), they also sound like they're looking at building the team the right way (grassroots organization). And thank God the A-league isn't losing another team.
  3. CalgaryMJ

    CalgaryMJ New Member

    Apr 7, 2002
    Success in 2004 or out

    I think it's great that the team will be back for another season, but I'm very concerned about the line in Maxwell's article from the 9th that if the team doesn't meet certain goals (attendance and some othr nebulous one is implied) the backers are pulling out and we'll be going through this exercise again next year. I'd have hoped that the people would have been brought in for at least a 2 year commitment because it could take one just to try and get people positive about the sport at this level again. I'm optimistic about TN's comments about the day to day running of the operation as that's where the Storm collapsed and where the new club could make great strides with a little effort and cash, but I think (infortunately) the average soccer spectator is going to sit on the sidelines and say "Show me what you've got" before they spend their money to see the team.

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