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Greco downplays future of Mutiny

By RODNEY PAGE and Times wires
© St. Petersburg Times
published December 21, 2001

Some in the Tampa Bay area remain optimistic about the Mutiny's chances of avoiding Major League Soccer contraction, but Tampa Mayor Dick Greco isn't one of them.

Greco said Thursday he has spoken to MLS commissioner Don Garber twice since word leaked about the league's possible elimination of two of its 12 teams, likely Tampa Bay and Miami. Greco also said he has tried to drum up local interest and find an investor in the Mutiny.

He has met with frustration.

"While I would like to see soccer stay in the community, I'm not encouraged by what I'm seeing," Greco said. "I've received a few letters and taken a few calls from some people, but nothing really serious.

"Unless there's somebody willing to lose $5-million per year for maybe the next five years in order to save soccer in this area, we may not have soccer here. It's a shame, but that's the reality."

Greco said the bottom line is what gave the Glazers cold feet in April, when the owners of the Buccaneers were close to a deal to buy the Mutiny. The Mutiny lost about $2-million last season.

MLS operates under a single-entity structure. Clubs share in the losses or profits of the league. The losses have been substantial in recent seasons, and estimates are each investor/operator loses another $3-million beside his or her team's losses. That's how Greco arrived at the $5-million the Glazers stood to lose. "That's not really a good business deal, is it?" Greco said. "It's a league where most of the teams are losing money and the future prospects aren't that good. And you have seven teams that are owned by two people (Philip Anschutz and Lamar Hunt). I think the Glazers realized the losses would be too high. "I'll do anything within reason to keep them here. I think the Mutiny have a very loyal following, and they've done a lot for the youth leagues. But unless something happens quickly, we may face losing them."

MORE SOCCER: Paolo Maldini, the captain of Italy's national team and AC Milan, will miss two months because of ligament damage in his left knee. AC Milan did not say if he will have surgery. ... The Mercosur Cup final in Buenos Aires between host San Lorenzo and Brazil's Flamengo was rescheduled for January because of civil unrest in Argentina.

OLYMPICS: Jim Shea finished second at a World Cup skeleton in Lake Placid, N.Y., to earn a spot on the U.S. team and make his family the first to produce three generations of American Olympians. Shea's grandfather, Jack, won two golds in speed skating in 1932, and his father, Jim, represented the United States in 1964 in three skiing events. Chris Soule also qualified. Gregor Stahli of Switzerland remained unbeaten in four races, winning in 56.85 seconds. Alex Coomber of Britain won the women's race, setting a women's track record of 57.28 in her first heat. ... Apolo Anton Ohno qualified for 500- and 1,500-meter speed skating in Kearns, Utah. He will compete in all events in Salt Lake City. ... Tom Cisewski, director of accreditation for the Salt Lake Olympic Organizing Committee, said "about five" people scheduled to attend failed a State Department background check. He did not say if they were athletes or team officials. ... IOC member Gerhard Heiberg will replace Richard Pound as head of the organization's marketing and television commission. He was president of the 1994 Lillehammer organizing committee.

GOODWILL GAMES: Turner Broadcasting will end the event because of financial losses. The first three events lost a combined $109-million. Figures for this year's event in Brisbane, Australia, have not been released.

TENNIS: Greg Rusedski rehired coach Sven Groeneveld. Rusedski, who worked with Groeneveld for about two years until the end of 2000, split with Brad Langevad after losing in the first round of four of his final five tournaments.

AUTO RACING: CART will start its season with a four-day spring training Feb. 7-10 in Monterey, Calif. Testing during the final two days will be open to the public.

SKIING: Hermann Maier was given the go-ahead to ski for the first time since his motorcycle crash in August. Maier will make a slow run today in Flachau, Austria, site of this season's World Cup final. The two-time Olympic and world champion, who nearly lost a leg, will use a specially padded boot designed to protect his right shin, where skin was grafted from his left arm. ... Fredrik Nyberg won his first giant slalom in four years, posting the fastest time in the first run and holding on in Kranjska Gora, Slovenia. Benjamin Raich was a quarter of a second behind. ... Winds of 37 to 50 mph forced the cancellation of a women's training session ahead of this weekend's World Cup downhill in St. Moritz, Switzerland.

BIATHLON: Magdalena Forsberg won her fifth consecutive 15-kilometer event in Brezno-Osrblie, Slovakia.

RUNNING: Sri Lankan sprinter Susanthika Jayasinghe said she was assaulted by a male athlete while training, and she threatened to quit. Jayasinghe, who won a bronze in the 200 in Sydney, said she was pushed against a wall, punched and verbally abused. "I will definitely quit if a proper investigation is not conducted," she said. "It is not enough that I have been having to deal with threats to my life, but now assaults."

HORSES: Poivre won the featured allowance sprint for fillies and mares by 1 1/2 lengths at Aqueduct. Major Wager was second in a field of five, a half-length ahead of Double Trick.

OUTDOORS: Diving Unlimited International is recalling 3,500 overpressure valves that are used with scuba diving equipment because the valve can stick open, creating a drowning hazard. For information, go to www.DUI-Online.com.

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