Haroldo Darelli loves soccer.
As a child of a Colombian mother and a Uruguayan father, Darelli grew up playing the beautiful game. He was a high school player in Uruguay, although he has spent most of his life in Utah. The game is in his blood.
So when the prospect of working for Real Salt Lake came up, Darelli leaped at the opportunity. Soccer is a growing sport in Utah and the United States, which gave him a sense of pride that he could help it grow even more.
“I came in feeling like I was on a cloud,” Darelli said.
But it didn’t take long for him to realize something was amiss. He noticed co-workers constantly on edge. He sat in meetings where people got berated and ridiculed. Over and over again, he heard inappropriate comments toward women and people of color.
Darelli wasn’t the only eyewitness to this behavior. The Salt Lake Tribune spoke to nine current and former employees of the RSL organization, most of whom were granted anonymity due to their employment status or because they feared retribution. In those conversations, one name kept coming up.
“This place is what it is because of Andy Carroll,” one person familiar with the day-to-day operation of the organization said of RSL’s chief business officer.
A rush of accusations became public in recent days, set loose by owner Dell Loy Hansen’s criticism of RSL joining a multisport strike after police officers in Wisconsin shot Jacob Blake. Hansen has been accused of making racist remarks, and Carroll has taken a leave of absence after accusations surfaced about his own behavior. Hansen has agreed to sell the team. Major League Soccer and the National Women’s Soccer League are investigating accusations against Hansen and Carroll.
Hansen did not return requests for comment. He did offer a public apology last week. Reached by The Tribune, Carroll said, “It is my current intention to participate fully with the investigation. There are a lot of stories flying around. I look forward to people hearing the full story and the complete set of facts.”
This is a rapid and ignoble end for a leadership duo that came in during heady times.
From 2010 to 2014, RSL was considered a model Major League Soccer franchise, a perennial playoff team always in contention in both MLS and the CONCACAF Champions League. It had highly respected executives in Garth Lagerwey and Bill Manning. It had a coach in Jason Kreis whose teams won 111 games and made the playoffs six straight years. And it had a firmly embedded team and organizational culture in which “The Team is the Star.”
“What Salt Lake achieved in a few short years after a couple of bad years at the start, I think it’s kind of an underrated accomplishment in the history of American soccer,” said Grant Wahl, a prominent soccer journalist known for his work with Sports Illustrated.
After acquiring a 49% stake in the club in 2009, Hansen bought RSL outright from David Checketts in 2013. The club won the MLS Cup championship a month after Hansen first came on and appeared in the championship final the same season he took over sole ownership.
Carroll’s first season with RSL was also in 2013, when he oversaw corporate sponsorships. He was promoted to chief business officer in 2015.
But with those two executives sitting atop the organization, RSL began to deteriorate.
Kreis left first, followed by Lagerwey and Manning — all within a two-year span. When Manning left in August 2015, Hansen framed it by saying “our growing organization requires a different structure.” A team news release said Hansen would “immerse himself” with the staff and address short-term and long-term needs for RSL.
The on-field product has suffered since. From 2014 to 2019, the farthest RSL went in the playoffs was the second round. The club didn’t qualify for the postseason in 2015 and 2017. Last season, RSL won 16 games, the most since 2013, but again was dispatched early in the postseason.
The franchise, under Hansen and Carroll, became known more for its real estate (a $78 million training center and improvements at Rio Tinto Stadium) than its soccer players.
Head scout Andy Williams, who has been furloughed since April, said Hansen would want to see video of players the club wanted to sign despite having no in-depth experience regarding soccer or player evaluation.
One player Williams said Hansen passed on was Krzysztof Piątek, a forward who instead went to AC Milan and scored 16 goals in two Series A seasons. Every time Williams saw Piątek score, he thought to himself, “We could’ve had him.” There were several other players, Williams said, that Hansen wouldn’t sign because he didn’t want to pay their salary.
“I’m not sure where he’s getting his views or his ideas from about making the team better,” Williams said. “It’s just sad that we are where we are right now because we could be 10 times better if he had trusted the front office.”
As RSL navigated how to win games with those restrictions, the culture in the front office eroded.
Former and current employees say RSL has a toxic culture. Several people said Carroll, who took a leave of absence after an article in SBNation’s RSL Soapbox first raised allegations of sexist behavior and workplace misconduct, created an atmosphere of fear and led by intimidation and bullying.
The article shared accounts of him belittling and berating staff members, acting inappropriately with and making sexist comments about women — including Utah Royals players — and making ignorant remarks about race.
Carroll’s behavior made people feel like they had to watch out when he was around.
“Any time Andy is in the office, people are keeping their heads down because you don’t want to be the next one,” a former employee said. “You don’t want to be his punching doll.”
Two people who talked to The Tribune pointed to Carroll’s interactions with women as particularly troubling, for example, saying he preferred only the Royals players he deemed “pretty” to appear in promotions and that Carroll called certain players “ugly.”
While planning for the media day of Utah’s new NWSL team in 2018, Carroll requested the players be put in “sexy” poses, an employee said. The marketing department banded together in opposition to that idea, the person said.
A person with firsthand knowledge said Carroll would often remark on Royals players’ sexual orientation with comments like, “They’re all just a bunch of lesbians” or “Aren’t most of them on the team lesbians?”
Rebecca Cade, who worked as the RSL sideline reporter from November 2017 to April 2018, said she was told about a conversation in which Carroll and a few other male managers sat in his office one evening and talked about her body, particularly her breasts. Two people in that meeting confirmed the account.
Carroll on several occasions also said Cade didn’t know anything about soccer, but she could get away with it because of her looks, multiple people said.
Cade said she was asked to dress more “frumpy” and to not smile or laugh during training sessions to avoid being a distraction to RSL players. She also said she was once accused of having a sexual relationship with an RSL player. Additionally, she said she experienced harassment by “several men in the office.”
Carroll also made generalizations about others that employees found offensive. Darelli said he sat in a meeting in which Carroll said he would never again date another adopted woman because such women have baggage.
After RSL and LAFC decided not to play in the Aug. 27 game as a protest against the police shooting of Jacob Blake, Carroll reacted with apparent exasperation.
“Utah is just over the Black Lives Matter movement,” Carroll said, according to a person present. “We just need to move on. Let’s just move on.”
The same person said Carroll mentioned on more than one occasion that because about 2% of Utah’s population is Black, the organization doesn’t need to worry about that group.
Hansen also made a string of inappropriate remarks, RSL insiders say.
A former longtime employee recalled a Christmas party in 2014, the same year former L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling was under fire for making racist comments about Black NBA players, which was released in a recording. Hansen brought up Sterling unprompted and defended him in a conversation with a small group.
The former employee, who was present during the exchange, recalled Hansen saying something to the effect of, “Just another case of the Black woman getting over on the white man.” Two people in the group were women of color, the former employee said, adding that the group reacted with “complete and total shock and disbelief.”
That event is just one example of the behavior Hansen exhibited during his time as RSL owner. About two years ago, he referred to a Black woman as “colored” multiple times and mimicked her during a corporate event.
At a 2016 Christmas party, Hansen asked “all the blondes” to come on stage, two people who attended the party said. One attendee said one woman was coaxed to go on stage despite clearly not wanting to do so. Another attendee said a man with blond hair excitedly made his way to the stage only to be stopped by Hansen, who said, “No no, not you, just the girls.”
“Everyone at our table just kind of had to sit there in horror,” one of the attendees said.
Multiple people said Carroll mostly kept the staff insulated from Hansen, making it hard to report incidents to the owner directly. These employees also were hesitant to talk to human resources, fearing retribution.
“I was scared to say anything,” Cade said, “because I didn’t know what would happen.”
Added Darelli: “I don’t think people felt like HR was approachable because they knew nothing would come from it if they did. So they’d rather just stay quiet.”
Hansen has decided to sell Utah Soccer — the holding company that includes RSL, the Royals and Real Monarchs — after allegations of his racist and sexist behavior came to light. RSL players and coaches are looking ahead and hoping for a “passionate” new owner.
In the interim, Utah Soccer will be led by Vivint Smart Home Arena executive John Kimball, who helped get RSL off the ground in 2005.
“That’s a link to the origins of Salt Lake and it’s a link to Dave Checketts and when people viewed that club as being one of, if not the, best run clubs in the league,” Wahl said of Kimball’s addition.
All indications are that RSL has started a new era, with potential implications both on and off the field. Several parties quickly expressed interest in buying Utah Soccer, including NFL star J.J. Watt, Toronto FC player Jozy Altidore, and the Larry H. Miller Group, which owns the Utah Jazz and Salt Lake Bees.
“MLS and the NWSL and the USL will be better off without Hansen being involved,” Wahl said. “And those teams will be better off in a lot of ways moving forward.”
RSL UNDER DELL LOY HANSEN
2013: 16-10-8 (Lost MLS Cup final)
2014: 15-8-11 (Lost in conference semifinals)
2015: 11-15-8 (Did not make playoffs)
2016: 12-12-10 (Eliminated in knockout round)
2017: 13-15-6 (Did not make playoffs)
2018: 14-13-7 (Lost in conference semifinals)
2019: 16-13-5 (Lost in conference semifinals)
2020: 2-1-4 (At time of sale announcement)