Gateway Sun

Rod Senior needs to go back to Europe, and then to Cape Coral.

Senior is a Supervisor for the Gateway Services Community Development District, the entity in charge of the Sherman Soccer Complex. Senior is also the man who’s looking to pry in to the Gateway Soccer Association’s financial situation with the goal of forcing the youth league to pay as much money as they possibly can to play at the Sherman Soccer Complex.

The GSA is structured as a for-profit entity, and if they are actually turning a profit then Senior made it clear at the November 19, 2015 meeting of the GSCDD Board of Supervisors that the youth soccer organization can expect to pay more money than the Gateway Flag Football League does to use the exact same fields.

But if Senior went to Europe he would find hundreds, and probably thousands, of youth soccer clubs that are for-profit. It may not be as common of a practice in the United States, but Senior would have to travel no further than Cape Coral where he would find the Dutch Lions, a for-profit organization that operates United Soccer League teams in Houston (TX), Dayton (OH), Cincinnati (OH) and has Youth Academies in all three of those cities, along with Cape Coral and New York. Their Dayton franchise went to the Quarter Finals of the US Open Cup, defeating the Columbus Crew of Major League Soccer, eventually losing to Sporting KC.

The Dutch Lions train youth players in the Dutch philosophy of soccer and have an official partnership gaining tactical knowledge from FC Twente of the Eredivise, the top level of soccer in the Netherlands.

It turns out the Dutch may know a thing or two about the game. Despite being a tiny nation by global standards (16-17 million people), the Netherlands made it to the Quarter Finals of the most recent World Cup in 2014, and were the finalists in 2010.

And here they are, operating right in this area, using publicly available fields in Cape Coral, paying what anybody else in Cape Coral would pay.

You’ll find soccer clubs that operate in a similar for-profit fashion to the Dutch Lions all over the United States.

While we may be accustomed to youth sports leagues being set up as non-profits, that’s just not the way soccer operates. Sorry.

But Senior and some of the other Supervisors apparently find that offensive. Perhaps they feel that it’s not the American way to have a youth club that operates as a business.

And for that reason the Supervisors only extended the Gateway Soccer Association’s contract to use the Sherman Soccer Complex for 6 months – with the condition that the GSA opens up their books to the residents of Gateway. The GSCDD plans to use whatever financial information they obtain in order to increase what they charge the GSA for field usage.

That’s fair?

You’re going to charge the Gateway Flag Football League $1, and then charge the Gateway Soccer Association $2 for the exact same thing?

What’s American about that?

Is it even legal for a government organization to do that?

The GSCDD needs to evaluate the market rate for usage of the fields at the Sherman Soccer Complex, and then set the same exact rate for anyone who wants to use it.

Want to play soccer? $500. Want to play football? $500. Want to play lacrosse? $500.

But that’s not the way Senior wants to things to be.

Senior to GSA Director Mark Allison: “I would like to have a more transparent arrangement. And put in to our new agreement that, if we request it, you’re prepared to disclose your financials so we can talk openly about sharing revenues and costs. And I want to know why you wouldn’t be interested in that?”

Allison replied, “Well because I think there are certain aspects of running the business that are solely our business. And if you’re asking us to pay a certain rental for the fields and asking us for other fees that we have to incur and levy towards the people being part of our program, then as far as I’m aware that seems to be your obligation to ask us to do this. This is what our rental fees are, and we provide you with that. Whether we have to then turn around and tell you how much we spend on uniforms, and how much we spend on referees and how much we spend on line striping, to me that’s no relevance to you whatsoever.”

Gary Neubauer pointed out that the GSA is paying $16,385 toward the “$230-plus thousand” that it costs the district operate the fields. Neubauer then asked “Can you understand our point of view?”

“I’m paying what you’re asking me to,” said Allison.

So we’ve now established two things.

One, that the way the GSA operates is the same way as most of the best soccer clubs on Earth. Including the fact that they have ties with the Southwest Florida Adrenaline of the USL, and they have John Robinson – arguably the top soccer mind in the 239 area code – working with their kids.

Two, the GSA is paying the price the GSCDD set. If the GSCDD thinks their fields are worth more, then charge more, but charge more to everyone.

If the Supervisors keep heading down this path of forcing the GSA to reveal their business details, the youth program might just leave.

And then we’ll be playing a different game: dominos.

Because what other dominos might fall if the GSA left the Sherman Soccer Complex?

I have a feeling Senior already realizes that, and I suggest the four other people who sit up there with him at the Board meetings take some time and think about where they’re being led by Senior.

The GSA is doing nothing wrong, but the GSCDD will be doing something very wrong if they decide to charge different rates to different youth sports leagues for the exact same thing.

That’s just not fair.

About Jeff Kuntz

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Editor of the Gateway Sun and owner of restaurant delivery service Florida Food Runner.

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