NASL a Defendant in Bill Edwards’ Lawsuit Against Fort Lauderdale Strikers

IMAGE, TAMPA BAY TIMES/DAVID W DOONAN

by JAKE NUTTING

A few weeks ago, Bill Edwards was threatening legal action against the NASL for its relationship to Traffic Sports. Now the Tampa Bay Rowdies owner appears to have found a new target in the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, who he alleges failed to repay multiple loans totaling over $300,000.

The lawsuit came to light in an initial report from SaintPetersBlog, which revealed that the former NASL owner filed his complaint against Fort Lauderdale’s holding company Miami FC, LLC on November 17 in Pinellas County after first sending Strikers ownership a letter of demand for repayment on November 4.

Unmentioned in the report is the fact that court records for the case show the NASL is also listed as a defendant. Both Fort Lauderdale and the NASL were issued a summons in the case, although the complaint filed by Edwards’ attorneys does not ask for judgement against the league, only Fort Lauderdale.

The NASL is only  mentioned in the complaint in relation to an allegation that Fort Lauderdale breached the original loan agreement with Edwards by also giving the league a secured interest in the team’s assets in late September. A financing statement showing the agreement between the NASL and Fort Lauderdale is included as an exhibit in Edwards’ filing.

Edwards alleges that he entered into a loan agreement with Strikers ownership in early July which saw him transfer $450,000 to his team’s cross-state rivals through his company Marketing Solutions Publications. The company then made an additional loan of $120,000 to Fort Lauderdale a few weeks later. Shortly after that, both parties agreed to an amendment to the original deal in which the Strikers were released from the initial $450,000 loan and Edwards agreed to send over another $120,000.

The new amendment specified that Fort Lauderdale’s total debt would not exceed the already owed $240,000, but Edwards contends an emergency situation led to another loan in the first week of September. According to Edwards’ complaint, he agreed to wire $80,000 to the Strikers on September 2 in order for the team to have sufficient funds to host its match against the New York Cosmos the next day. Short notice meant the loan was done before any paperwork was drawn up, but Edwards claims he had an oral agreement with the Strikers for repayment that has not been fulfilled.

Edwards is seeking damages and foreclosure on Fort Lauderdale’s assets in the lawsuit. A promissory note signed by Strikers Managing Director Luis Cuccattii, and that lists team owner Paulo Cesso as the Individual Guarantor, details the considerable collateral the team put up to secure the loans. Included in the list along with tangible assets are the team’s patents, copyrights, trademarks, rights to use of the name “FT Lauderdale Strikers” and any and all variations thereof.

Fort Lauderdale’s Brazilian ownership group was in in dire straits throughout its second year in charge of the historic NASL side. Even with Edwards’ apparent capital injections, the group consistently failed to pay players and staff on time. The financial woes have cast doubt on the team’s viability heading into 2017, although NASL Commissioner Bill Peterson assured the media two weeks ago that the league was working behind the scenes to prevent the same problems going forward.