By RODNEY PAGE
© St. Petersburg Times, published May 16, 2001
Unlike seasons past, it appears the Mutiny's future in Tampa is solid. General manager Bill Manning confirmed that the club is close to signing a lease renewal with the Tampa Sports Authority that will keep the team in Raymond James Stadium through 2006. Its three-year lease runs out in November. Manning said talks with TSA president Henry Saavedra began last year.
"At the end of last year, Henry and I talked, and he said he wanted to get an early start on renegotiating the lease," Manning said. "We spoke in March, and I told him as soon as we get through the first few opening games, we'd talk. We got together on three occasions and came up with an agreement. I hope to have it completed very soon."
All contracts must be approved by MLS under the league's single-entity structure. Manning said MLS has approved the contract extension, which means the contract could be approved at Monday's TSA meeting.
The agreement calls for the Mutiny to pay $30,000 per game to the TSA next season for use of the stadium. That rate increases to $32,500 in 2003, $35,000 in 2004, $40,000 in 2005 and $50,000 in 2006. The Mutiny pays $20,000 per game this season and $50,000 annually to rent an office at the stadium.
"I think this shows the commitment the league has in this market," Manning said.
Negotiations for the Glazer family, owner of the Buccaneers, to take over daily operations have slowed. But Manning said a proposal for independent ownership is "at the commissioner's office," and could be done soon. The Mutiny and Dallas are the only teams still owned by the 12-team league.
FULHAM FC: As if the banged-up Mutiny needed another tough match, it takes on Fulham FC in an exhibition at 7 tonight at Tampa's Pepin/Rood Stadium. Fulham, owned by billionaire Mohamed al-Fayed, recently won the English First Division championship and earned promotion to the Premier League for the first time since 1968.
Fulham is led by French national player Luis Saha, who had 32 goals, and former MLS players Eddie Lewis and Marcus Hahnemann.
Mutiny coach Alfonso Mondelo said he will use several players who have not had much playing time this season.
"While we look forward to international competition, it's not coming at the best time for us," Mondelo said. "We still have some injuries, although we're getting better. This match will give us an opportunity to give some youngsters some playing time."
Defender Kevin Anderson still is out with a groin strain, and goalkeeper Scott Garlick likely is out with the flu.
DIALLO UPDATE: The MLS Disciplinary Committee will decide Thursday whether Mamadou Diallo will be fined and/or suspended for his actions after Saturday's 2-1 loss at Colorado. Diallo argued with the center referee and engaged in a shouting match with a fan.
"I was walking with Diallo (after the game), but I didn't hear what was said," Mondelo said. "He was running toward the sideline, and I was trying to calm him down."
Diallo was fined $1,000 and suspended for two games after an incident with Metro-Stars defender Mike Petke. He could be fined $250, assessed extra yellow-card points or suspended for a game for his actions Saturday.