Craig Waibel is no longer the general manager of Real Salt Lake.
The club announced late Friday that RSL and Waibel agreed to part ways, and that the remainder of his contract was terminated. The news comes after a lawsuit levied by former head coach Mike Petke made reference to a conversation in which Waibel was critical of RSL owner Dell Loy Hansen and said he was making plans to leave the organization at the end of the 2019 season.
Assistant GM Elliot Fall was named interim general manager. The club said it will begin a search for a new GM “immediately.”
“I appreciate Craig coming to Real Salt Lake for the 2014 season as part of the coaching staff,” Hansen said in a statement. “Craig oversaw the organization’s integration of the Real Monarchs, Utah Royals FC in the National Women’s Soccer League, and the relocation and expansion of the Real Salt Lake Academy, which now trains and plays at the Zions Bank Training Center in Herriman, Utah. Craig has been instrumental in the Club’s rapid growth and I wish him success in the future.”
The lawsuit details a conversation Petke had with Waibel and Rob Zarkos, executive vice president of soccer operations. In it, the lawsuit says, both Waibel and Zarkos were upset that Hansen was caught on video saying he was considering firing Petke over the incident in which the coach went on a tirade after a Leagues Cup match and shouted a homophobic slur in Spanish at a referee.
Both Waibel and Zarkos then told Petke they were planning on leaving the RSL organization at the end of the season, per the lawsuit. Waibel is quoted as saying: “It’ll be at the end of the year, because I also don’t think Dell Loy [Hansen] should ever be rewarded for who he is.”
The lawsuit also states Waibel and Petke exchanged text messages that discussed whether the former coach would resign and accept $75,000 from the club, or refuse and be fired for cause. Petke asked Waibel if calling Hansen would make a difference, to which, the lawsuit reads, Waibel replied, “He [Hansen] won’t pick up. Refuses to be the bad guy.”
In another text exchange, Petke thanked Waibel “for everything,” and mentioned how they worked together through a difficult 2018 season, per the lawsuit. Waibel then replied with the following, per the lawsuit:
“Thank you, I am exhausted, confused, emotionally spent, and disappointed that this is the only thing that makes sense. I have always known where the issues in this organization are born ... and I have never once believe[d] that anything last year was created by you or I as individuals. This is [the toughest] work environment in major league soccer without a doubt.”
Although Zarkos was mentioned in the lawsuit, he remains with the club overseeing Fall.
“I would like to thank Dell Loy Hansen for the opportunities presented to me over the past six years,” Waibel said in the statement. “During this time, I have experienced an incredible amount of personal and professional growth and I am proud of the work we have accomplished. While I am stepping away to take some time to evaluate the next step in my career, I want to wish Dell Loy, the locker room, and most importantly, the fans nothing but the best in their pursuit of the 2019 MLS Cup.”