New Tulsa Roughnecks ownership was introduced Tuesday, as the USL Championship club has been purchased by brothers and Tulsa natives JW Craft, Ryan Craft, and Kyle Craft.
The Craft brothers acquired the club from former ownership group the Tulsa Drillers and Prodigal Soccer LLC. The sale was completed on July 31.
“My brothers and I have a passion for Tulsa and a passion for soccer,” said JW Craft. “We are committed to significantly increasing the investment in this franchise and developing the Roughnecks into a team Tulsans can enjoy and be proud of for years to come.”
The Roughnecks are a member of the USL Championship, sanctioned by the U.S. Soccer Federation as the second-highest level of professional soccer in the United States. Majority owners Jeff and Dale Hubbard, co-chairs of the Tulsa Drillers and owners of Tulsa Professional Soccer, along with minority owners Bob Funk and Tim McLaughlin, owners of Prodigal Soccer, launched the club in 2013, with the Roughnecks’ inaugural season in the USL Championship beginning in 2015. Tulsan, Barry Williams, stepped in as Roughnecks team president and minority owner for the 2019 season and provided the stability necessary to facilitate a new long-term ownership change.
“We want to thank all the previous owners for their hard work,” said JW. “We are excited to begin a new era for professional soccer in Tulsa.”
“We are very pleased to welcome the Craft family as the newest member of the USL Championship community,” said USL Executive Vice President, and Tulsa native, Court Jeske. “We are entering into an incredibly exciting period of time in this club’s history, and on behalf of everyone at the United Soccer League, we look forward to watching the club’s success on and off-the-field under the Craft family’s leadership.”
With the Roughnecks currently in the middle of their 2019 Championship season, the new ownership does not plan on major changes right away. Instead, the Craft brothers look forward to connecting with Roughnecks fans and Tulsa’s soccer community in order to understand how they can better serve those communities and the city of Tulsa.
“Our first job will be listening to our fans and supporters, getting their feedback and suggestions,” said Ryan Craft. “Ultimately our focus is on building a successful professional soccer club that represents the Tulsa community in an authentic way, is a perennial playoff team, and a team that will compete for championships in both the USL and against MLS teams in the US Open Cup.”
“We are very appreciative of the efforts that have been made by the Tulsa Drillers over the last four and a half seasons,” said JW. “And we look forward to continuing to play at ONEOK Field while we develop our long-term soccer specific stadium strategy.”
Since 2011, the USL Championship has experienced unprecedented growth in attendance, reach, and in the number of clubs across North America. In 2019, the Championship will see over three million fans attend matches across the league’s 36 professional clubs with every game available on ESPN+.
“With the continued popularity and growth of soccer in our country, the sky is the limit for what a professional soccer team can do for a city,” said Ray Hoyt, President of VisitTulsa and the Tulsa Sports Commission. “With the commitment and investment from the Craft brothers, we look forward to the long-term success of the Roughnecks in Tulsa.”
The Roughnecks next home games are August 28 and August 31 followed by two home games on September 21 and September 25. The regular season concludes with three straight home games, October 5, 12 and the final game of the 2019 USL Championship regular season against Reno 1868 FC on October 19.
“As a family, we believe in the power of sports to strengthen, unite, and inspire communities,” said Ryan. “We believe the Tulsa Roughnecks can become a critical part of the heartbeat of this community and we are committed to making that dream a reality.”
Image courtesy Tulsa Roughnecks FC.