facebook-pixel

Gordon Monson: Utah soccer fans deserve better — one team leaving, another lurching, without a buyer

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) A little Utah Royals FC fan waves a big flag, during soccer action between Utah Royals FC and Ol Reign FC at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Saturday, Sept. 26, 2020.

Editor’s note: This story is available to Tribune subscribers only. Thank you for supporting important local journalism.

Utah Royals FC is leaving Utah.

What a waste. What a shame.

Sold away, back to Kansas City.

Royals fans are troubled and sad.

How unnecessary. How unfortunate.

Utah is down one pro soccer team. Could Real Salt Lake be next?

It’s noted that Utah might get an NWSL team back in a few years.

Maybe. Maybe not.

Both the Royals and RSL had a “for sale” sign hung on them due to the clueless insensitivity and boarish behavior of two men — owner Dell Loy Hansen and his business lieutenant Andy Carroll, the former a man with the money to have bought RSL and then brought the women’s club in, the latter a man who lacked the good sense to properly run them.

Together, the duo bumbled and fumbled the Royals away, first causing an investigation earlier this year into how they ran Real Salt Lake and Utah Royals FC — by Major League Soccer and the National Women’s Soccer League. And then an agreement by Hansen, under pressure as he was, to sell the teams, along with RSL developmental squad, the Monarchs.

The Royals sale to a group in Kansas City came to light on Saturday night and nobody at this time knows what the fate of RSL will be. As of now, no potential owner, local or otherwise, has been found. If Hansen doesn’t sell the team within the next few weeks, MLS will take matters into its own hands.

Ignominy, all around.

All of it so avoidable, so needless, but hurtful to those who care, brought on by allegations stemming from the workplace toxicity created by Hansen and Carroll, one a rich bully, the other a know-it-all who didn’t know quite enough. Hansen, who it is said made racist and sexist comments, subsequently apologized for his behavior and Carroll agreed to cooperate with investigators.

Anyone who was there that day just over three years ago at Rio Tinto Stadium remembers when Hansen announced the purchase and the relocation to Utah of what became the Royals FC.

He said on that occasion that the club would not only work from a business standpoint — read: ticket sales among all Utahns — but that it would flourish here, becoming a beacon of interest and hope for females of all ages, young and old, those who played the sport and those who loved to watch it.

“That’s what I absolutely believe,” he said at that time. “We’ll be successful. I don’t even blink at that. … We have more soccer participation among young women than men [in Utah]. … To me, this will be their rallying point. Among women, this will be their epicenter.”

That rallying point, that epicenter, has now shifted, sliding 1,075 miles due east, to fans there in and around the metro area in Missouri.

The stupid thing about Utah losing the Royals is that the team was, as Hansen predicted, successful here, drawing the second-most fans of any club in the league, at around 10,000.

Now, they mourn the loss of their team, a team whose infrastructure, including a sweet practice facility, is vacated, its former players gone, with only echoes of the past left behind.

As mentioned, there is a chance, on account of the popularity of the Royals, the popularity of the sport in Utah, that another NWSL franchise could surface here in the future. That would be a fine thing.

Would be.

But what was is no more.

A casualty of the ignorance of a couple of powerful men.

Will Real Salt Lake suffer a similar fate?

Doubtful, but … who knows? That is yet to be determined.

This is what is fact: The beautiful game is a little less beautiful in Utah today than it was yesterday. And everyone here waits to see what it will look like tomorrow.

Hopefully, there is someone out there with the wherewithal — the money and the knowledge and the character and the motivation — to make RSL better than it was, right where it is. And a new iteration of the Royals will be reestablished here, too, so the cheers of those soccer fans in Utah, who deserved better, will be heard again.

GORDON MONSON hosts “The Big Show” with Jake Scott weekdays from 2-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM and 1280 AM The Zone.

Return to Story