No hope left for men's pro soccer

SCOTT ZERR -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 7:24 AM ET

Dead. Done. Crashed and burned for good.

Any fleeting hopes of resurrecting the failed Edmonton Aviators or even bringing the replacement Edmonton FC have been sunk by the United Soccer Leagues. Add the club to the long failed list of teams in the city's sorry soccer past, joining the Drillers, Eagles, Black Gold and Brick Men.

The USL - the umbrella organization of the A-League - has decided to set up a 2005 schedule without Edmonton in the mix, despite some apparent interest from potential ownership groups.

"We had some discussions and interest from parties inside the market and out, however, we felt an attempt to get Edmonton back into the league for 2005 would be premature," said USL president Tim Holt. "We will not be inclined to ask Edmonton back into the league until we are fully convinced that an ownership group would have a three-year plan - minimum - that can be backed up by tangible financial interests and have the use of an appropriate facility.

"Any of the groups that are interested now don't have all of that."

The Aviator/FC players were all released from their short-term contracts at the end of the season and are free agents. While many had hoped a new owner would step up to rebuild the franchise, the ultimate demise can't be considered a major shock.

TEAM NOT VIABLE

"I think we looked forward to having the opportunity to play next summer in Edmonton but it was inevitable how things finished up that the venture was not viable," said former captain Kurt Bosch.

The news is not quite as glum for the women's half of the franchise, but time is becoming a factor for any potential owners.

The USL will hold its annual general meeting Nov. 4-6 in Clearwater Beach, Florida, and Holt indicated that Edmonton's future in the W-League will be determined before the owners and managers gather to set the '05 schedule in stone.

"Unless we feel extremely certain that not only do we have the right owners, right venue and proper management but as well that any group would have enough time to be properly prepared to operate in 2005, we will wait," said Holt.

"The worst thing we could do is jump back into the market. There has been a lot of skepticism and we want to make sure the next group hits a home run."

Interesting choice of words, but it's only that, added Holt, steering clear of indicating that Mel Kowalchuk, the former Trappers GM and current boss of Edmonton's incoming Northern League baseball team, had an inside track to the women's franchise.

COMPETITION FOR OWNERSHIP

In fact, Kowalchuk and financial backer Dan Orlich have some competition for the W-League team. Local soccer enthusiast John Hayes is the frontman for a group that has also filed an application with the USL to purchase the team, which was also surrendered when past Aviators ownership bailed out on the men's team at midseason.

"We have a perfect venue in mind for a W-League team and we want to do things in the right way," said Hayes. "We have a business plan in place that is actually based on reality rather than hopes and dreams.

"We want to succeed and we want to do in the USL. We're not going ahead as if we're naive. We're approaching this in a business manner and hoping to turn a business plan into a dream. We're going to doing things in a first-class manner, not spend first-class money."

The USL's tight timetable has put the pressure on, but Hayes's group feels ready to take on the challenge. While a one-year hiatus may be the league's first choice and understandable, it wouldn't be a neccessary tool.

"We are very attuned to the soccer scene in Alberta and the core of last year's Aviators team was very good," noted Hayes. "Our primary concern is crossing the i's and dotting the t's and doing things on a long-term basis.

"We are very comfortable with going ahead and it will be up to the league to make that decision when they get our info."


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