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Saskia Webber

By Nicole Ling

Five years ago, Saskia Webber was a highly ranked professional and a world chamkpion – a star in sold out stadiums across the country. Now the former NY Power and the USA goalkeeper bartends and holds down several part time jobs in order to make ends meet.

The WUSA – America’s top-flight women’s professional league – suspended play in 2003 and left many of the league’s former stars out of work. Rather than join lower league sides, or play abroad many like Saskia have tried to find new work outside of soccer.

“I put 100 percent into everything I do. With the suspension of the WUSA, I didn’t feel I would give soccer 100 percent, so I’ll be going to my first castings toward the end of this summer. My new focus is on getting my career started in acting.” Saskia may have to put the acting plans on hold as WUSA is making a comeback.

After the league suspended play, organizers unveiled a plan for reorganization and relaunch in the summer of 2005. So far the current reorganization committee – a collection of players association representatives, attorneys, and former players – has attracted the interest of a number investors, new corporate sponsor, and convinced US Soccer to write the league’s new business plan. Perhaps the committee is on the right track. So what went wrong the first time?

“The league had great attendance great competitive matches with a different champion each of the three years, great entertainment packages which included sound systems and fan zones … we just had a slightly flawed business plan," said Tony DiCicco, former Commisionner of the WUSA and current Chairman of the league’s reorganization committee.

He explained that under the old business model, sponsorship revenues were projected at $18-20 million. In reality sponsors brought in less than half of that number.

 

"With the suspension of the WUSA, I didn't feel I would give soccer 100 percent, so I'll be going to my first castings toward the end of this summer."

The oversight has left many fans scratching their heads. Fortunately for fans of women’s professional soccer, WUSA decided to suspended operations rather fold. The league has since paid off its outstanding debts and has granted intellectual property (which includes team logos and names) to the WUSA Players Association with the understanding that once the league resumes official operations, property would return to investors.

In June, Saskia, Brandi Chastain, Mia Hamm, Kristine Lilly and others from the national team, participated in the 2004 WUSA Soccer Festivals. Adidas McDonalds and Under Armour Performance Apparel, were among the sponsors. The exhibition matches, soccer clinics, and autograph sessions were held in California and Minnesota and were expected to revive interest in women’s professional soccer.

American soccer fans can be, in certain markets, very fickle. The reorganizing committee hopes that new business model will help to identify cities where there is viable ownership interest and fan interest.

“The numbers that I am looking at seem very positive right now,” said DeCicco.

In addition to the 2004 WUSA Soccer Festivals, an ongoing campaign for the Keep the WUSA Dream Alive Ticket Fund has already received $135,000 in pledges and is expected to grow as it is rolled out to soccer clubs and organizations across the nation. The plan is for those who want keep “keep the dream alive” to have an opportunity to do so.

9/9/2004



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