It's deadline day for the Salt Lake Sting.
As of mid-morning Wednesday, everyone involved with the financially troubled soccer team was awaiting word on whether prospective buyers would become full-fledged owners.The prospective buyers are Merrill Osmond and Jeff Woodbury. Late last week, informed that the Sting were out of money, Osmond and Woodbury discussed a loan to keep the team on the field, according to team officials. After thinking about it, Osmond and Woodbury decided that if they were going to put enough money into the team to keep it alive, they might as well look into buying it.
Team representatives told the buyers that the deal would have to be consummated by Tuesday; Osmond and Woodbury, doing some quick research to determine if the team could make a profit in Salt Lake City, pleaded for more time.
"It pretty well needs to be done today (Wednesday)," said Brad Duckworth, director of operations for the non-profit Sting Foundation. The Foundation, he said, isn't willing to pour more money into the team, which so far has been unable to support itself through ticket sales and other means.
"We might be able to string the players out for another day," Duckworth said, "but we have a team coming in from Miami and they need to know, and the league needs to know."
All this uncertainty weighs heavily on the Sting's players. The team was blown out last Friday night by Vancouver, 4-1, and team director of soccer operations Fred Gray said the financial turmoil was a definite factor. Players had missed a paycheck going into Friday's game, and team meetings on the situation were held as late as game day. The team was finally paid Monday, which no doubt helped morale but didn't resolve the long-term situation.
"It definitely has had an impact on their preparation," said Gray. "I hope they get it sorted out fast, because it's hard for them to concentrate on soccer."
The big question in all this is whether Salt Lake will support a professional soccer team. Last year the Sting's average attendance was around 5,000, but many tickets were given away - perhaps as many as 2,000-3,000 per game, according to one team official. In two games this season, the team has averaged 1,400.
Duckworth is confident the Sting can fly in Salt Lake. "I think so, otherwise I wouldn't have put the time, money, effort and equipment into it."
Now, everyone is waiting to see if Osmond and Woodbury share his confidence.