As issues pile up for the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, attention is turning the team’s high-profile ownership group.
Back in 2014, the Strikers were purchased by a Brazil-based ownership group that was headed by entrepreneur Paulo Cesso and included Ronaldo. This year, there has been several problems for the Strikers. Earlier this summer, the team left Lockhart Stadium–its longtime home–for Central Broward Stadium, as renovations to Lockhart Stadium as part of an adjacent waterpark development were tied up in a court proceeding.
Amidst the change in facilities, the Strikers have dealt with other problems. The team’s attendance lags at the back of the pack in the NASL, entering this week at an average of 1,425 spectators per-game, a sharp decrease from the more than 4,500 fans the team averaged last year. Additionally, reports have surfaced that the Strikers have encountered payroll delays this season.
With those problems, many have questioned if the current ownership’s business model and attempt to market its connection with to Ronaldo is sustainable, particularly as it tries to build the team’s fanbase. More from the Guardian:
He was a seldom seen figure, says fan leader Kenny Butler, president of the prominent Strikers supporters group, Flight 19. “His presence has been spotty since the beginning,” he says. “I think it was the same thing as them bringing [Brazilian defender] Leo Moura last year to play No10 when he’s been a left-back all his career. If he could play No10 he would have done in Brazil. And they thought all the Brazilians would show up just to see Leo Moura.”
Ronaldo’s likeness may have been overused, says the Sun Sentinel’s Pedro Heizer. “He was never here,” says Heizer. “The Strikers didn’t advertise much but when they did it tended to include Ronaldo. I think that might have got to people because they never saw him.”
The Brazilians called the Strikers wrong, he believes, because they arrived “thinking they knew soccer because they are Brazilian but failed to understand American soccer is a whole different beast.”
Initially the noises coming from the new owners were positive, Butler says. The fan relationship with the front office was productive. But then fans saw the team flooded with Brazilians, interpreted as an ultimately botched attempt to appeal to the local Brazilian community. A disconnect with fans has been palpable this season. In recent seasons, average crowds have been modest — around 3,000-4,000. This season, attendances have plummeted to around the 1,300 mark.
The Guardian also reported that the Strikers are for sale, though a team spokesperson downplayed that talk.