Though MLS Real Salt Lake (RSL) Owner Dave Checketts heralded the club's 10-year partnership agreement with Spanish La Liga club Real Madrid as including "training visits, exhibition matches and the joint construction of a soccer academy for elite young players" when a deal was reached in '06, "little of that has come to pass," according to Michael Lewis of the SALT LAKE TRIBUNE.
RSL has trained in Madrid "only once, not annually Checketts said it would," and the "first of what was supposed to be biennial exhibition games between the teams in Utah was canceled last summer, when RSL agreed to allow Real Madrid to play elsewhere for more money."
A proposed $25M RSL soccer academy also "remains up in the air ... amid a faltering global economy and scandal within the Real Madrid hierarchy involving the former president with whom Checketts reached the agreement."
Checketts: "What they're saying to us now is, 'Let us get the new leadership put in place, the entire board of directors signed off on our agreement with you -- and you will continue to have our support and enthusiasm ... and we'll come back to you.'"
Real Madrid Dir of Strategic Planning Ivan Bravo said the club continues to have a "know-how exchange with Dave and his group, consulting each other on topics ranging from sports decisions to business opportunities."
But both sides said that the "weak global economy has been a big problem."
RSL has not traveled to Spain outside of its '07 training trip because a "weak dollar has made it too expensive."
Lewis noted the "confluence last summer of the weak dollar and soaring oil prices kept RSL from hosting Real Madrid for a scheduled exhibition game."
Bravo said that Real Madrid "must alternate its summer trips to cultivate its world-wide fan base."
He said the club will return to Utah "when the timing is right."
Meanwhile, Checketts said that both sides are "'still enthusiastic' and 'remain committed' to building" the proposed academy, though RSL "won't be able to do so until Salt Lake City finalizes plans to build an adjoining multi-field soccer complex."
Checketts said of the academy, "In this economy, all the rules change. I don't know when or if that will get done".
Welcome to the RSL Cup blog
I've been a fan of Real Salt Lake since it joined MLS and took to the field in 2005, and I've been a fan of MLS since it began in 1996. Lately however I've started to worry about the path MLS is taking and the poor decisions they are making that in my mind threaten the growth of soccer as a whole in the US. (see "Columbus conspiracy" section) Soccer in America will grow only when we have a vibrant and diverse minor league system, something that MLS seems to be smothering at the moment. (see "American soccer wars" section) Let's keep our eyes on the situation and hope for the best, a future where grass-roots soccer and the minor leagues can not only exist but flourish, as well as where the contributions and history of the league's early clubs are appreciated and preserved.