The Jaguars played poorly, but won thanks to a 53 yard field goal by Jason Myers in Baltimore. Sam Kouvaris and Cole Pepper discuss the win, plus what the NASL Championship won by the New York Cosmos signals for the Armada. Sam has some perspective on the Paris attacks.
A year and a half can fly by in a hurry. That’s why the Jacksonville NASL team has named its team president now, more than a year and a half before its first game.
Steve Livingstone has joined team owner Mark Frisch and the president of Sunshine Soccer Group, Dario Sala (who will handle soccer operations) as the third member of the front office. Livingstone had previously spent eight years in the Jaguars front office, most recently as the director of ticket marketing.
As president, he’ll be responsible for “developing all business and commercial aspects of the team, working closely with Mark Frisch and Dario Sala,” Livingstone said. “We’ll be looking to establish a great partnership, to truly engage with our fans and to grow our fan base and support.”
Livingstone developed a passion for soccer from an early age. He was born and raised in Scotland as a fan of Celtic.
“My parents still live about 10 minutes from Celtic Park and you can hear the crowd roar from their front door,” Livingstone said.
One of hie early jobs was as a soccer reporter and editor covering Scottish, English, European and World Cup Soccer. Then Livingstone moved to the “other football” where he soon became the general manager of the Scottish Claymores.
One part of his vision for the Jacksonville NASL team, which begins play in the spring of 2015, is to operate like soccer teams did in the sports organized infancy.
“Historically, soccer teams first started not only to play football, but to provide support to the communities in which they were established,” Livingstone said. “I think there is a great opportunity for us to begin the same tradition here in Jacksonville to help support some great causes and to make a difference in the community.”
Part of connecting with the community will be engaging with the fans to help name the team. Fans can go to the team website (jaxnasl.com) to nominate a team name. One fan will win a trip to an English Premier League game and anyone who registers for season tickets before April, 2014 will be placed in a random drawing for a trip to the World Cup Finals in Brazil.
It’s not that there isn’t anything to see from Mark Frisch’s new office. There just isn’t much to see on the inside.
Looking out from his 32nd floor downtown office, Jacksonville stretches out from the base of the building, down the St. John’s River toward the sports complex and beyond.
The question is this: at some point, will the NASL team’s (name to be determined, probably by October) stadium be visible?
Those are the two questions Frisch is asked most often about his NASL team. What will the team be called (he says he’s asked several times a day)? Where are you going to play (either UNF or EverBank Field, a decision he hopes to make in the next two months)?
In his new office, barren, without a single piece of furniture, save for the built in waist high cabinet next to the front door, Frisch can allow himself to enjoy the nothingness. NASL Commissioner Bill Peterson offered Frisch the chance to purchase a team to be relocated, but the 32-year old didn’t want to fix a broken franchise. Instead, he wanted to build something from the ground up.
“It’s exciting,” Frisch said. “We just got approval to get the key here last week. It’s really awesome. You don’t get many opportunities to do something, especially in the sports world like that. It’s going to be an amazing time.”
For Frisch, this is all about prioritizing. He wants to start building the fan base early. Several hundred season tickets were reserved by fans who put down a small deposit. He has his soccer guy, Dario Sala, who will handle the duties of finding and signing a coach and player as well as developing the academy system for Jax NASL. The next step will be to hire a business head. Something akin to what Mark Lamping is to the Jaguars, a president of business operations who will work hand in hand with Frisch and Sala to create the full organization over time. That hire may be the next big announcement to come out of the Sunshine Soccer Group, the company Frisch and Sala set up to promote soccer and eventually bring the team to Jacksonville.
“To me this is more exciting that buying a team and relocating them,” Frisch said. “This is our team from the ground up here in Jacksonville.”
Listen to Cole Pepper’s full interview with Mark Frisch:
Both Frisch and Sala have traveled around the soccer world to learn from the franchises who have enjoyed the best success in the MLS and NASL. The challenge is to blend the best practices of those other teams with a message that will resonate in Jacksonville with the already dedicated soccer fans as well as those who want to be a part of the newest sports franchise in town. Then there is the building of the academy, the youth teams that will feed talent into the NASL team. In essence, the Jacksonville NASL’s minor leagues.
For those who are already sold on supporting the team, jaxnasl.com is the website where individuals can pay a $30 per ticket deposit to reserve their season tickets for the inaugural season in 2015.
The new NASL soccer team that is starting play in Jacksonville in 2015. The team released their working logo today. The logo features a a shield in the middle of a double circle (that has a bit of a old cruise ship life preserver feel to it). Silhouetted on the shield is a likeness of the Andrew Jackson statue located downtown in the traffic circle in front of the Landing. At the bottom of the double circle is a two toned sunburst. The color scheme is orange, yellow and slate gray.
Three representatives from Jacksonville attended the pitch to the NASL last week: Mark Frisch, the CEO of Sunshine Soccer Group, Alan Verlander, the Executive Director of Sports and Entertainment for the city of Jacksonville, and Tony Allegretti, who, among other duties, serves as the Director of Downtown Engagement for the Jacksonville Regional Chamber of Commerce. The following is Tony’s first person account of how Jacksonville became a professional soccer town (again).
by Tony Allegretti
July 30, 2013
Sometimes I wonder if I’m in a dream. I’ve been playing and watching soccer all of my life. I coach my son’s team. I’m committed to the sport.
A little more than a week ago I was literally talking to Fulham Manager Martin Jol about the prospects of Fulham Football Club regaining its moniker of “Fulhamerica”. He was candid and funny and made me feel really comfortable even though I was talking to someone of the stature of say a Sean Payton or a Tony Dungy. This conversation took place at a quickly organized presser Shad Khan set up to show Jol, his captain and Fulham director EverBank field and the investments the team has made therein. It was also an opportunity for local media to meet real Premier League soccer brass. I was impressed that ALL of the Jacksonville sports media was in attendance and earnestly covering the event.
Less than a week later I was on a flight to Dallas to meet with North American Soccer League officials and owners at their annual meeting to help make the case that Jacksonville is ready and willing to support professional soccer once again.
The flight gave me an opportunity to touch base and catch up with Mark Frisch, who, with Dario Sala, have formed Sunshine Soccer Group, the ownership entity of said team should Jacksonville be successful in its bid. Mark is at once a nice guy, somewhat reserved, and a strategic thinker. To the last point I learned that he had also been at the NASL annual meeting the year before in Indianapolis. He has been building for this moment a long time.
The NASL owners were very cordial. Many of them seemed very young. I think as soccer becomes increasingly main stream in America we’ll see much of the investment from younger generations who aren’t burdened by the tired line that soccer has been “the next big thing” in America for 30 years. And I’ll not embarrass anyone (hopefully) when I say that Mark will be the youngest pro sports owner in Jacksonville.
I was able to spend some time with the league folks at the semifinal matches of the Gold Cup. USA scored early and outclassed Honduras and Panama successfully shocked Mexico for the second time in a month. Business lie ahead for the NASL the next day, the day two owners representing their city’s presented their case to join the league. We actually left the Mexico-Panama match early and were the only folks to do so in the 81,000 plus crowd. This gave me time to fully prepare my remarks which were but a few minutes of a 30 minute proposal.
The Jacksonville pitch included our Sports and Entertainment Director Alan Verlander and myself but was mostly Mark. We had seen the pitch well in advance of our trip and I think it was probably a forgone conclusion but Mark was smart to take nothing for granted and I think Alan really helped an already brilliant case for Jacksonville. I spoke a bit about the business climate in Jacksonville and how invested it is into our sports culture. Alan drove home our impressive support of events and soccer specifically. When you couple our latest television ratings (#1 in the country for Gold Cup USA/Cuba) our now legendary turnouts for both US National team’s fairly meaningless friendlies against Scotland and our expansive youth clubs and largest adult league in the state, the case was strong.
We waited sort of restlessly for the Oklahoma City folks to finish their presentation which ended with us hearing a round of applause outside the door. For some reason that made me feel a little more nervous. But alas, it was our turn. Mark delivered a great case for our Bold City. We provided support and stats. We also got a nice round of applause. Once finished we repaired to the lobby of the hotel and waited. There are moments you don’t forget. I was able to snap the photo above of league commissioner, Bill Peterson breaking the news to Mark. I immediately thought of my kids sporting the to-be-named jerseys and the scarves we’ll all hold high. And it all started at that moment.
Mark Frisch is bringing an NASL soccer team to Jacksonville. The team will begin play in April of 2015. In a wide ranging conversations, Frisch told me about where he got the soccer bug, why he thinks soccer will work in Jacksonville and where he expects to play home games.
An estimated 800 soccer fans turned up at the Terrace Suites at EverBank Field to watch the US vs. Panama Gold Cup Final and to celebrate Jacksonville being awarded an NASL soccer franchise. Here’s a shot of one part of the crowd:
Organizers were expected between 100-200 to attend, and had to restock the soft drinks and water for fans who piled in to watch the match and hear from new NASL team owner Mark Frisch. The team will begin play in the NASL in 2015.