As of Thursday, it was announced that the reigning Arena Bowl champion San Jose SaberCats are losing its owners. The Arena Football League said in a statement, that the Fry family, who are the current owners of the SaberCats, were permanently suspending their relationship with the league and team for “reasons unrelated to league operations.”
League Commissioner Scott Butera included a statement which said the following:
We have a remarkably loyal fan base in the San Jose area and we are working aggressively to secure new ownership for the franchise as soon as possible. In the process of rebuilding, there is an evolution that brings change and growth. In the coming months, we will reveal a strategic growth plan for the AFL, including completion of agreements with a number of expansion opportunities.
The full story was broken to you by atombash.com here.
Those who followed the story expressed a great deal of confusion over the commissioner’s choice of words. Most specifically, that the divorce was not happening because of tensions between the league and the owners, and not because of how it functions.
Exclusive information obtained by atombash.com has revealed the tale of a bitter disagreement surrounding management of the league, and tales of proposed fiscal irresponsibility by Mr. Butera.
The drama between the Fry’s and the league go back months – just days before the team captured its fourth Arena Bowl championship, according to a source who is a member of the organization. During a league meeting, the SaberCats owners proposed that Arena Bowl XXVIII be played on a Monday night, instead of its scheduled Saturday afternoon, so that San Jose could play the game in its home arena. A scheduling conflict at SAP Center resulted in the SaberCats playing all but one playoff game about 80 miles up the road at the Stockton Arena.
During said meeting, Arizona Rattlers owner Ron Shurts called for a motion to keep the game scheduled for its already set time of Saturday, according to the source. Shurts’ team had already been eliminated from the playoffs, during a dramatic 70-67 defeat in the conference championship game. Regardless, Mr. Shurts maintained that the game be played Saturday, which I’m sure you and I can guess left the Fry’s with a sour taste in their mouths.
It is also worth mentioning that before the aforementioned conference championship game, I was treated to a little taste of the rivalry between owners of professional sports teams. While standing field level during the pre-game, I overheard a heated exchange between Mr. Shurts and Mr. David Fry. Really, it was about a 30 second tirade where Mr. Shurts directed almost every expletive you can think of towards Mr. Fry, and walked away saying, “it doesn’t ******* matter, your season ends tonight anyway.”
During the final weeks of the season, two AFL teams, the New Orleans Voodoo and the Las Vegas Outlaws, announced they were folding – another franchise, the Spokane Shock, defected to the up-and-coming IFL.
It was at this time when owners of the SaberCats and several other teams in the league, according to the source, started talking about taking the league into bankruptcy. Owners also wanted to re-negotiate Mr. Butera’s contract – contending the league was requiring bigger team’s to pay for the existence of some lower-profit franchises. At the same time, Mr. Butera announced an intention to increase the league’s operating budget by 50% – or $15 million – with no business plan showing how or where the money would be spent, according to the source. Involved in the bankruptcy talks were none other than the aforementioned Mr. Shurts, the source said – Mr. Shurts was the spearhead for the change in commissioners, he was signed without a vote from the owners.
SaberCats owners were opposed to the budget increase because of Mr. Butera’s lack of sponsorship and endorsement deals, the source said. Giving an additional $5 million to an administration which has only sold $17,000 in sponsorship to a company called GoRV, was unacceptable to the owners. When the SaberCats approached Mr. Butera and asked what the additional funds were for, he provided no response, the source said.
After almost two weeks of discussions, including a conference call where team executives expressed concerns about a lack of business conscience, the decision was made by Mr. Butera to move forward with the increase.
The decision, described by the source as one of “financial distaste and immaturity,” led the Fry’s to their decision to suspend operation’s with the league. It began when the team announced its regular recruiting event, a try-out open to the public, would be cancelled. At the time, San Jose said the try out was being cancelled because of “unforeseen maintenance issues.”
The source also said that more defections – including some of the league’s biggest products – are at the forefront.
Ivan F. Soto, Executive Director of the Arena Football League Player’s Union, told atombash.com he was “quite disappointed and disheartened to see the Fry family” walking away from the team, and the league, in an email. “There is no way to value the impact they have had on so many of our players and fans lives. They have always valued players as the main product and that has resonated with players across the league both past and present,” Soto said.
Representatives from the AFL did not return calls Friday surrounding the allegations.
The immediate future of the SaberCats remains in question, but the source said Vivek Ranadive, owner of the NBA’s Sacramento Kings, and two or three businesses owners from Stockton are the leaders to purchase the team as of right now. Meaning if the team continues to function, it will do so without playing in San Jose.