On November 23rd, The Telegraph exclusively revealed the league had formally cut all ties with the sports marketing company. The Brazilian-owned entity had two of its executives, Jose Hawilla and Aaron Davidson, implicated in last year’s FIFA scandal. As a result, the NASL, who at one point saw three of its teams owned by Traffic, suffered a severe blow to its reputation.
While day-to-day business was ended with the company, their ownership of a large portion of the league’s class B shares did not allow the American second division to break free of the tarnished image of Traffic nor the questions about the NASL that followed.
However, that all came to an end just before Thanksgiving.
“The NASL has been working to dissolve its last remaining tie to Traffic Sports for some time now, and today we can confirm that we have accomplished that,” commented NASL Commissioner Bill Peterson on the subject.
“We believe that this development removes doubts that potential partners could have, and we think it will be instrumental in our efforts to expand the league. It also shows the commitment and resolve of our current ownership group.”
However, while the move was celebrated by the league and its fans, it turned out that potential partners would not be the talking point in the days that followed as much as previous partners would be.
In an interview back on November 11th, Tampa Bay Rowdies owner shared Bill Edwards shared thoughts on the status of the league, reasons for leaving it, and more in an interview with The Guardian.
“I have stressed to the league the importance of separating itself from Traffic Sports and the corrupt criminal enterprise to no avail,” Edwards said. “I never wanted to leave the NASL. I fought for two years to clean it up. I couldn’t get enough cooperation from the league and at the end of the day I was basically forced out. I couldn’t in all good faith be involved in a league in the condition it is in.”
“I would have never joined NASL at the time had I been aware that Traffic Sports and [Davidson and Hawilla were involved with] criminal activities. The league management at the time, including Aaron Davidson, made material misrepresentations and omissions regarding the integrity of the league and its financial hygiene.”
Edwards also stated that he was ready to take legal action against the league, based on those ties.
“It’s dirty money in and clean money out. The situation involving Traffic Sports and its involvement in the league has not been resolved to my satisfaction.”
Black Friday might have had a new meaning for the league as the news hit that the outspoken owner of Tampa Bay’s green and gold had made good on the threat of legal action.
SaintPetersBlog was the first to reveal that a complaint had been filed on November 17th, six days before the league cut ties to Traffic. However, it appeared that the focal point was not Traffic Sports, but money owed to Edwards in the form of loans to the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers that had not been repaid. The report indicated that he looked to foreclose on the Strikers’ assets, a move that would give him control of the South Florida team.
This is not the first time Edwards has been alleged to want control of the team as a report from Midfield Press in September stated.
Empire of Soccer took a deeper look into the details of the court case. After Edwards loaned the Strikers $450,000, a deal was struck releasing the club from that loan and the Rowdies owner made another series of loans that totaled over $300,000. One of the loans was an emergency one for $80,000 on September 2nd so the Strikers could host the Cosmos the following day. The site also found that while the NASL is listed as a defendant and was issued a summons, although no judgement against the league is requested.
On the line in the case? A promissory note signed by Strikers Managing Director Luis Cuccatti with owner Paulo Cesso as Individual Guarantor spells out a powerful list, including the team’s patents, copyrights, trademarks, and rights to the club’s name along with tangible assets.
The NASL continues their uphill battle with yet another obstacle to contend with. With an unprecedented round of contraction this year and the futures of at least two other clubs in jeopardy, one has to wonder how the 2018 picture pans out.