When La Liga’s Rayo Vallecano announced it would be starting a satellite club in Oklahoma City, it was met with a lot of skepticism from NASL fans. Why would NASL want to allow a club, who barely has a presence in their home city of Madrid, to invest in the league? They were not alone as Vallecano fans in Madrid went so far as to show up to matches sporting merchandise of Oklahoma City’s other soccer team, the OKC Energy of USL, in protest of Rayo’s investment abroad.
Bringing in a championship-caliber coach, a young exciting talent like Billy Forbes and splashing for Greek Superstar Georgios Samaras quickly silenced a lot of those critics and 6400 fans packed in to see the inaugural match of the new club. While attendance did slow down, quality play on the field and a nearly 5K average attendance had things in OKC looking on the up.
This week, however, that positivity took a hit as, following the relegation of Rayo Vallecano from La Liga this past season, Vallecano club director Luis Yanez was quoted as saying they will ‘lower the sails’ at Rayo OKC.
This cryptic message raised many questions and TICC quickly reached out to Rayo OKC for comment. We’ve received no response. Chris Brannick of News OK was able to shed some light on the situation with a quote from OKC minority owner Sean Jones on the subject.
“One of the things that came out of that conversation was after they were relegated, which was the following week, is they said, ‘we may have to consider how to restructure our investment, the potential of bringing in additional investors.’”
Thursday morning on SiriusXM’s ‘The United States of Soccer’, NASL Commissioner Bill Peterson joined Jason Davis and hinted that it could just mean a shift in the percentage of ownership. So there is a lot of uncertainty surrounding Rayo OKC at the moment and it is all because of the misfortunes of a club on the other side of the ocean that no one in Oklahoma City probably cares about.
Whatever the outcome of the situation, it is a negative storyline for NASL in a time where they still are looking to grow their brand. The most glaring part of it is that this could have been avoided if clubs were not awarded to owners who have soccer ownership interests elsewhere.
When ownership groups own a colony of clubs, there is always going to be one club that takes priority over the others and it leaves the the other clubs and their fans in tough situations like the one we see here. This might not mean the end for Rayo OKC but could damage the positive charge they have had since the start of the season.
While expansion is a key part to the success of the NASL, the Board of Governors should watch this situation and take it heavily into consideration when offering a spot to owners of other clubs. There have been rumors of another Spanish club, as well as Celtic, as potential investors in the league, but is the money worth the risk of having two or three clubs be second fiddle to one overseas?
The NASL, its fans and US Soccer deserves better than to be second fiddle to any league. Yes, La Liga is arguably the best league in the world, but that does not mean that an American club should take a back seat because of trouble 4000 miles away.