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Youth Girls May 20, 2016

WAGS showdown: Tempers flare as girls league debates NCSL merger

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WASHINGTON – The oldest girls soccer league in the United States is about to die by its own hand, according to vocal opponents of the Washington Area Girls Soccer League’s proposed merger with its boys counterpart. The move’s supporters, on the other hand, maintain that it’s the best option for the health and survival of all parties.

In news originally reported by last monthncsl-logo, WAGS leadership brokered an agreement with the National Capital Soccer League to combine the two organization’s league components, citing “a recognition that players, coaches, teams, and clubs would be best served through a merger of league operations.” WAGS would continue in name as a foundation dedicated to the league’s original mission to support girls and women’s soccer through its various projects.

Former WAGS president Kathie Diapoulis publicly announced her objections to the merger, and it seems that a sizeable contingent of member teams and clubs share similar reservations. The plan was brought up at a members’ meeting on May 9 and with “far more questions raised than there was time allotted,” the issue was tabled to another gathering set to take place on Monday night. Family members of WAGS founders Mavis Derflinger and Rael Vodicka also turned up to express their concerns about the future of the historic competition, originally founded in 1974.

+READ: Former WAGS president urges members to question NCSL merger

“The membership is not being asked to vote, they’re being asked to ratify. They’re not able to play any role in this at all. They don’t understand what the big rush is and they don’t understand why it involves basically disintegrating the league,” Diapoulis told SoccerWire last week.

“There’s a lot of history here,” she added. “There’s personal stuff that plays into this … personal conflicts are going on within the WAGS board.”

Diapoulis echoed the accusation, made at the May 9 gathering, that NCSL and WAGS have been in merger talks for a year or more, a statement WAGS leaders deny. She said that some member clubs are so virulently opposed to the plan that they have penned a letter requesting the resignation of the seven of the nine-member WAGS board of directors who voted in favor of the merger.

“And if they do not resign, then they want the letter to serve as the 14 days’ notice required by the bylaws to show up to the meeting and be voted out of office,” said Diapoulis, who stressed that she herself has no plans or desire to return to any WAGS position. (Following her presidency, she also served as WAGS’ executive director until May 2015.)

WAGS president Sally d’Italia and the rest of the league’s leadership sought to address the concerns raised at the meeting with a detailed statement explaining the thinking behind the merger plan and the expected consequences of both sides of the decision.

“The decision to cease operating as a league was not something that the WAGS BOD took lightly. The question was asked whether or not the BOD had been discussing a merger/partnership with NCSL for over a year. The answer was no, the BOD had not,” reads the statement, posted on the WAGS website. “The BOD, on the other hand, had for more than a year, been discussing the ever-changing soccer ‘landscape’ and how those changes have affected single gender leagues, i.e. WAGS and NCSL.

“The Club Centric Model [SIC] … [with] a well-defined Club operational infrastructure [of]  Executive Director, Technical Director, Director of Coaching, Age Group Director, Club Administrator, has made it more difficult for gender-specific leagues to meet the overall needs of the modern day soccer organization.”

DelawareRush98-AnnandaleUnitedFC-WAGST14-c1The statement also notes the increasingly crowded wider environment, citing the recent expansion of the U.S. Soccer Development Academy into girls play and the Elite Clubs National League’s subsequent plans to field a boys competition – and suggested that NCSL will go into direct competition with WAGS if the union does not move forward. It laid out only two options for WAGS at the present time:

  1. Ratify the Board’s decision and move forward with the proposal as outlined.
  2. Non-ratification of the Board’s decision and continue to operate with full knowledge that NCSL will, in all probability, open registration to girls teams from member clubs.

Diapoulis claimed that WAGS had $1.6 million in the bank when she left, and questioned what would be done with those funds should league operations be transferred to NCSL. She also cast doubts on the merits of handing off management of the competition to an organization she feels has just as many issues as WAGS does.

+READ: Mapping the chaotic youth soccer scene

“If they’re going to fold that organization, in my opinion what they ought to do is take that $1.6 million and divide it equally between all those clubs and just say ‘screw it, we’ll go play someplace else,” she said.

“They don’t have the right to make decisions like that without informing their members … What they need to do is not merge with another archaic organization – because that’s what NCSL is. What is NCSL going to do for the good of the game, for the improvement of the competition? There’s nothing.”

The formal merger resolution is posted on the WAGS website and reads as follows:

Resolved that at the conclusion of the Spring 2016 season, WAGS will suspend its efforts to operate a soccer league.

1.     The teams from WAGS will register and play in the National Capital Soccer League, beginning with the Fall 2016 registration, effectively transferring the assets comprised of WAGS team registrations to NCSL.

NCSL will accept all of WAGS members as NCSL members, including any teams that currently belong solely to WAGS.  WAGS will collaborate with NCSL leadership and will take all appropriate and necessary steps necessary both to assist NCSL in developing a new girls’ soccer league and to encourage teams affiliated with WAGS member clubs to enroll in that league. Appropriate and necessary steps are expected to and may include members of the WAGS board participating in NCSL leadership as officers, or as members of the Executive Committee, which participation shall not be deemed in itself to present a conflict of interest.

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