EXCLUSIVE: dayton dutch lions moving to cincinnati

WSOTP - Blog - Dutch Lions Move to Cincinnati.fwAccording to information received from multiple trusted sources, Wrong Side of the Pond believes that the Dayton Dutch Lions will be moving their USL PRO franchise to Cincinnati for the 2015 season.

Rumors place the club leaving their newly minted home at Dayton Outpatient Center Stadium at West Carrollton High School — just opened midway through the 2014 season — and migrating to the Xavier University Soccer Complex. Currently, that facility also plays host to the Dutch Lions affiliate fourth division side playing in the USL Premier Development League.

Multiple attempts to confirm the move with the Dutch Lions went unanswered, as was a request for further information put into Xavier Athletics. Additionally, USL PRO declined to comment on any franchise moves, per league policy.

However, should an impending move 50 miles south actually come to fruition, it would come at the end of a turbulent stretch for a Dutch Lions organization that has alternated between few highs and far more frequent lows.

Established in 2009 as a fourth division USL Premier Development League side before self-promoting to the third division USL PRO — formerly the USL Second Division — in 2011, the Dutch Lions have long struggled to find a firm footing in Dayton and have found success on the pitch equally elusive.

Poor attendance has plagued the team throughout their existence and is likely the primary driver behind a relocation. The Dutch Lions averaged a league-low attendance of 531 at home matches this season, and often times the actual attendance was far less. The club’s struggle to find a permanent home likely contributed to those poor numbers, and a transient history of bouncing around local high school stadiums has made it difficult to establish a persistent fan base.

On-field outcomes have also been rare for Dayton, with a third place finish in USL PDL in their first year of existence being the club’s best ever league finish. But things haven’t gone as well since making the climb up to the third division: they’ve managed only one winning season (2013) and this year finished dead last out of fourteen clubs.

Reportedly, the only income keeping the club afloat comes by way of their youth academy, as club fees collected from each academy member are being at least partially used to help prop up the struggling professional side. Apparently, the Dutch Lions are also operating on what has been deemed “the smallest budget in the league” by a sizable margin. With little match day revenue to add to the coffers, a move South to a potentially more lucrative market would indeed appear appealing.

A move, however, shouldn’t come as a complete surprise.

Speculation of a move to Cincinnati seems to surface nearly every off season around the Dutch Lions camp. And when the organization announced their second PDL amateur side was to be established in Cincinnati just over a year ago, co-owner Mike Mossell — a Xavier Graduate and former player for the defunct Cincinnati Riverhawks — dropped a very telling quote in the official release:

“When Erik [Tammer] and I wanted to start a professional soccer club in the USA back in 2009, Cincinnati was our first choice.”

That’s not exactly a glowing endorsement for how the Dutch Lions feel about being in Dayton. Mossel’s ties to the Queen City only strengthen the argument that Cincinnati is where they would rather be setting up shop.

There’s also the matter of the organizations fourth division team, the already existing Cincinnati Dutch Lions, that might lend further credence to a potential move for their flagship franchise. Speculation has been that the placing of a Dutch Lions PDL side in Cincinnati was little more than a litmus test to see how a team might fare playing at Xavier. The lower-division side was able to average 251 supporters per match, hardly a mouthwatering statistic. But, given that there was virtually no media exposure and zero marketing efforts to promote the team, that might be enough to consider it a decent trial run.

While Cincinnati’s larger market and the owners’ original desires to place it there in the first place might be the primary drivers behind a decision to relocate the club, there are still a number of other factors that make it quite the perplexing proposition.

First and foremost is the already mentioned recent move to West Carrollton’s Dayton Outpatient Center Stadium — or “The DOC” as it’s come to be known by the club’s few dedicated supporters. The search for a permanent home for the Dutch Lions in Dayton had been long and arduous, with proposals for a soccer specific stadium failing to gain support from purported communities. The club eventually settled upon yet another temporary home in West Carrollton, where a brand new turf pitch without football lines was laid down in April thanks in large part to hefty investment from DOC’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta upon the completion of a 30-year agreement between the three parties. Should the Dutch Lions leave Dayton, it’s unclear whether that would in some way violate the terms of the partnership and if there would be any ramifications for such a decision.

Additionally, there’s the issue of the club’s youth academy, also based at West Carrollton High School. Though it’s not unheard of for a professional side’s academy to based in a different city, that normally isn’t the case for academies of lower division sides in the US. A move to Cincinnati for the USL PRO team would also leave a far further drive for academy members — normally an easier group to convince to attend — to actually make it to games. As well, it wouldn’t be a stretch either to hypothesize that the appeal of playing for an academy of a team not based in the same city might drop too.

A move to Cincinnati could also cast doubts on the futures of the Cincinnati PDL team and the women’s W-League team that also calls Dayton home.

Ultimately, it still remains to be seen if those or any other hurdles would be enough to block a move South.

Mossell has, of course, dealt with these types of rumors before too. He told Reckless Challenge‘s Chad Hollingsworth in an interview at the time of the Cincinnati PDL side’s announcement that “there are no plans” to move the USL PRO team to Cincinnati as well. But with WSOTP‘s sources now claiming the rumblings are coming from “within the club” as opposed to from outside sources, the ownership’s tune might now have changed.

Will Dayton lose it’s team? While nothing official from the club or league could be obtained, the Dutch Lions’ tumultuous time in the Gem City looks to have finally come to an end.

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7 Comments

  1. I could not say it in a better way – Keep in mind there are more options if the Dutch Lions would move – The PDL can move to Dayton not to breach the contract with WC – The BIG question will be:
    – who is the owner of the USL Pro if they move?
    – Dayton or Cincinnati Dutch Lions LLC?
    – Dr, Gupta is the main shareholder in Cincinnati?
    – Will they put the Youth Academy under a new construction?
    – Will the Dayton Dutch Lions FC LLC stop exiting?
    – Money wise, what will happen,
    – Old sponsor contracts?
    – Debts?

    People investing into the club, shares?
    People investing in there kids, fees?

    Now Kids that normally would play in the U13 are now playing in the U14 in a U15 league, They don’t have enough player for a U13, so they have to play 1 year up and there is not a U14 competition that means fresh kids, never played 11v11 are now playing 2 years up – also they will run away at the end of the fall season!

    There are many, many more questions!

    Next week more info about this ongoing SOAP!

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    1. In Ohio there isn’t a u15 division in the fall. If that team is u14 playing u15 that is why. If you notice, there are combined u14/15 divisions in fall to allow for trapped players not playing high school ball.

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  2. Most of the current players this fall in the u15 league you are referring to are truly u14. There is a small number of u15 allowed. Some have no u15 players. So those u13 play up a year only. I say good experience. In Europe are teams determined by age only? In spring there is again a u14 team. I would have to question, though, a u13 kid playing on a team full of u15, playing against all u15. Bu that is ultimately the decision of the parents to allow it rather than to find another team.

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    1. I am talking about the Dutch Lions U13 players, what was left of it – not enough players to form a team – so they had to move up to U14 – they have to 2 U14 teams, the U13 players in the “B” team of the U14 – there is no league for U14 – so they have to play in a U15 league – is there anything you don’t get – just let me know – I am Dutch, just 1 year in the US so it’s possible that my English is not good enough, than I will try to explain it again i a different way.

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  3. Good, Cincinnati can have this amateur run organization. You play at high school fields expect high school results. This organization has been run so poorly from the beginning. Dayton is a great sports town and deserves a team that will actually connect with the community and not some dutch knock off junk. They never had the pockets to run this organization correctly or build a stadium

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  4. No one will lose a minute of sleep over the Lions leaving Dayton. They never brought any consistent approach to youth soccer development with a huge yearly turnover of coaches and having the approach that the youth academy was only good to (financially) support the failing business case which was called PRO soccer. Then leading this organization from the Netherlands and not having any qualified staff in Dayton to run day to day business didn’t help things move forward. Internal issues, lack of funds, youth teams and players leaving, timely payment issues, it has been a never ending story. Nonetheless it was a surprise to see that CEO Mossel (who, by the way, showed a great lack of moral towards his personal who worked their butt off to keep the organization alive) sucked up an investor and got him crazy enough to pay up for a turf field in WC. Im sure Gupta is thrilled to have found out that he has been used to pay up for a field which is not going to be used by a growing organization but rather by one that wants to leave since they finally realize their Dayton business model is failing. Pretending to be a gateway to Europe is a joke. As if anybody within the organization has the level to play abroad or to get recognized abroad. It’s time to close up shop Mike Mossel and take your losses instead of continuing to over promise and under deliver.

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