We have a new owner for the NASL’s Carolina RailHawks, as local entrepreneur Stephen Malik is buying the franchise from Traffic Sports USA.
“We’re all extremely excited to welcome Steve into the NASL family,” said NASL Commissioner Bill Peterson. “He’s a great person, and his passion for both the RailHawks and the Triangle area will lift the club into the upper echelon of pro soccer in this country very quickly.”
Malik is a local: he’s a native North Carolinian and a graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill who lives in the Triangle area. Traffic Sports USA ran the franchise remotely and was seeking a buyer for the Carolina RailHawks before Aaron Davidson, the CEO of Traffic Sports USA, was indicted by the U.S. Justice Department in May, accused of racketeering conspiracy, wire fraud, money laundering and more.
In 2000, Malik founded Medfusion, a Cary-based purveyor of online patient portals and other related services for healthcare providers. In 2010, Malik sold Medfusion to Intuit for $91 million. After serving as president of the rebranded Intuit Health for three years, Malik re-acquired Medfusion in 2013, where he currently serves as chairman.
“The RailHawks are a superb organization representing one of the fastest growing regions with tremendous potential for soccer leadership in the nation,” Malik said. “Our goal is to take the RailHawks to the highest level through additional investment in marketing, players, and staffing. We are excited to lead our community in working together to give the Triangle a world-class soccer team.”
The big issue for Malik will be establishing some enthusiasm for the Carolina RailHawks in the area. Traffic Sports USA had a reputation for not spending enough on marketing and payroll, and the shortcomings were evident at the box office, as the team averaged only 4,415 fans per match this season to date. From the News-Observer:
“I’m in it for the long run. I’m not looking to flip it and sell it for more. I think the area has a lot of potential for soccer, and I want to see it achieve it,” Malik said. “I think we have the opportunity to take soccer to the highest level with the demographics we have and the growth we have.”…
After Davidson was indicted, RailHawks fans held protest signs before games and one of the fan supporters’ groups, the Triangle Soccer Fanatics, changed its website to trafficout.org as part of a campaign for new ownership. The website is back to being trisoccerfan.com.
Jarrett Campbell, founder and president of Triangle Soccer Fanatics, said he had been hoping for an owner who was part of the Triangle community and had a vision for soccer in the area. Malik fits the profile perfectly, Campbell said.