Big lawsuit filed in Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court this past week, as Tampa Bay Rowdies owner Bill Edwards took aim at Traffic Sports, the North American Soccer League (NASL) and Aaron Davidson, alleging he was misled into buying into the NASL.
Basically, the lawsuit says the NASL and Davidson withheld information about the league’s financial structure — a “criminal conspiracy” that later led to Davidson pleading guilty to racketeering conspiracy and wire-fraud conspiracy charges. Traffic Sports and Davidson were part of the 2015 FIFA Department of Justice, detailing massive corruption and financial misdeeds. Traffic Sports, which managed marketing and TV/radio efforts, was removed as a financial part of the NASL, and team ownership stakes were liquidated. But Edwards says he bought the Rowdies — through TBR Holdings — without that information.
Edwards ended up shifting the Rowdies from NASL to USL for the 2017 season and is in pursuit of a MLS franchise at Al Lang Stadium as well. From the Tampa Bay Times:
The lawsuit said the criminal activities of Traffic Sports “tainted the League and substantially damaged the reputation of the League and its members.”
Edwards said Davidson and others never disclosed the criminal activity during a November 2013 meeting where they persuaded Edwards to buy a controlling interest in the Rowdies. Edwards’ company, TBR Holdings, bought the rights to the Tampa Bay Rowdies in 2008 and moved the team to St. Petersburg, joining the NASL a year later.
“Edwards would not have purchased the Rowdies . . . or otherwise had any dealings with the League had he known of the criminal conspiracy involving Traffic Sports,” the lawsuit states.
Edwards is not seeking everything he put into the Rowdies or the NASL since he bought the team in 2009: instead, he is seeking 23 percent of the money paid to Traffic Sports after Sept. 23, 2015. Perhaps more significantly, given that there is inevitably a penalty clause in the TBR Holdings/NASL agreement designed to keep teams from leaving the league, Edwards is asking that agreement to be declared null and void.