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Mutiny, Bucs close

Deal expected "shortly'' on NFL team operating MLS club.

By RODNEY PAGE

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 4, 2001


The Bucs apparently are close to finalizing an agreement with Major League Soccer to take over operating rights of the Mutiny.

The Bucs have been negotiating with the Mutiny and MLS for several months. They have refused to comment. MLS commissioner Don Garber said Tuesday he would not confirm the sale, but "it wouldn't be an incorrect assumption."

Garber said he had hoped to announce the sale before the MLS season, which begins Saturday, but that it looks as if the announcement will be made before the Mutiny's home opener, April14.

"We expect to have an announcement shortly," he said. "It's premature to comment on it sooner."

If the Bucs acquire the operating rights, they would be responsible for the team's daily operations and would earn income on ticket sales and merchandise. The Mutiny pays the Bucs $15,000 a game to use Raymond James Stadium, and the Bucs receive all revenue from parking and concessions.

By investing in the Mutiny, the Bucs also would share profits the league generated. Although MLS negotiates and pays player contracts, local investors control individual clubs and divide money from league revenue streams such as television and national advertising.

Reports have MLS losing nearly $250-million since it started in 1996. The Mutiny, one of two teams (along with Dallas) owned by the league, has lost nearly $1-million per year.

The Bucs would not be the first NFL team to invest in MLS. Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots, operates the New England Revolution. Lamar Hunt, owner of the Kansas City Chiefs, has controlling interest in the Columbus Crew and Kansas City Wizards.

The Bucs likely would use their public relations and marketing departments to promote the Mutiny. It is unclear whether Mutiny general manager Bill Manning or other front office personnel would stay with the club.

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