Florida pro soccer teams stumble badly on the PR front this week

Editors Note: The Kartik Report will relaunch January 1st with a new look and new content. The site which was in existence from 2006 to 2010 focuses on Florida-oriented soccer news. In the interest of full disclosure, he previously served as the Director of Communications for the NASL and both the Fort Lauderdale Strikers and Tampa Bay Rowdies communications staffs were at least in theory managed by him. He also spent last season as the play-by-play announcer for the Strikers, a role he also served during the 2009 season. 

Just days after leading the Fort Lauderdale Strikers to an improbable visit to the NASL Soccer Bowl, Austrian Coach Günter Kronsteiner has possibly been let go by the Fort Lauderdale Strikers per two highly-placed sources. Another source indicates Kronsteiner might return “after a period of evaluation.” New Brazilians owners took control of the club which traces its lineage back to Washington D.C. in the 1960s (and existence in Fort Lauderdale to 1977) on Monday and have also dispensed with the services of Team President Tom Mulroy. It was Mulroy who was tasked with keeping the team afloat while previous owners Traffic Sports put very little in the way of operational and marketing finance into the club during the 2013 and 2014 seasons. This came just two years after the Strikers had been one of the highest spending clubs in the NASL in 2011. The speculation led to a social media meltdown the likes the Strikers have never seen previously on Wednesday.

In July 2013, Kartik Krishnaiyer sat down with Ricky Hill to discuss racism in English football. 

Up I-75 the Tampa Bay Rowdies sacked 2012 NASL Coach of the Year and former England international Ricky Hill as Head Coach on Monday. The Rowdies finished a disappointing 8th in the 10-team NASL this past season but Hill’s sacking was still surprising. Hill was one of the pioneers among black players in English football and his quick emergence as a coach was a shock to the system of many traditional owners in England, who continue to favor an ole-boy network for employing managers. Just yesterday, Malky MacKay who last year was found to have sent sexist, homophobic and racist texts on multiple occasions to a co-worker was hired as the Manager at Wigan Athletic. Yet, many qualified black coaches like Hill never get a shot at that level.

Hill was named the NASL Coach of the Year in 2012 and the Rowdies won the NASL Championship that season.

What is most disappointing about these moves is the lack of professionalism, PR savvy and common courtesy shown by both organizations regarding these two matters and the failure the North American Soccer League’s office to have a protocol for the handling of coaching and front office terminations.

The Rowdies reduced Hill to a mention of just two paragraphs at the end of a longer press release about the hiring of  Farrukh Quraishi as the club’s President. This hiring is excellent, one of the best for an NASL club in the league’s short modern history. Quraishi brings a much needed credibility boost to the Rowdies efforts to be taken seriously as a top club. However, Hill deserved better.

In general though, the Rowdies do well with communications and media relations, so let us hope this is simply a blip on the radar.

In terms of the Strikers, nothing has been formally announced by the organization which has also unwisely sacked its press officer this week. So rumors have begun to fly and those like myself with contacts in and around the organization have been forced to investigate further.

The NASL has come a long way in five years since the league started as a concept by teams looking to break free of the restrictive chains imposed on it by USL’s league office in Tampa. However, at times team owners become a law to themselves. I experienced this as the Communications Director and I am sure my successors in the press office at league HQ were frustrated with both Florida clubs this week.

Kronsteiner’s possible sacking comes after a remarkable season where the Strikers according to any objective measure punched above their weight. The team which was tipped to finish at the bottom of the 10-team NASL made a title run falling just short in the Championship final this past Saturday against San Antonio. The Austrian is one of a handful of coaches currently employed in the US at any professional club with significant high-level European management experience.

Perhaps we hear from the Strikers today? Or maybe we are being invited to continue rampant speculation leading to further Twitter and Facebook meltdowns among fans.

7 comments

  1. Glass Houses · · Reply

    Funny you should mention the 2012 coach of the Year award.

    It has been strongly rumored that the author of this piece serving then as the comms director for the league lobbied not so overtly media members to vote for Hill partly because he was black. Subtle hints. I was told this by a media member who voted.

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    1. I don’t want to dignify such ridiculous allegations with a response.

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  2. I believe the Rowdies probably have a new coach in mind.

    The Strikers??? Really weird stuff. Are you hearing most players won’t be back either.

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    1. I don’t want to divulge my personal conversations with players or their agents … but yes my understanding is the spine of the team which has been together for several seasons now and whose experience playing together made all the difference in this year’s near-title run will be gutted. I am not saying everyone will be gone, but a many of the core players will not be back next year.

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  3. Ronaldihno? Will this be a more Brazilian driven club perhaps? Would have been interesting to see what Kronsteiner was capable of with a higher budget. He’s very good.

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    1. We always hear rumors of high-profile Brazilians coming to FTL and never do we see any since the first year when the team was playing in Miami. So I won’t hold me breathe.

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  4. Frankly I like Ricky Hill as a coach but his dismal is not that surprising. The club just didn’t perform that last two years and didn’t come close to defending the cup. Honestly his son was more of a liability than as asset to the team and I often wondered if he would have played anywhere else at this high of a level.

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