At this point, I’m pretty sure you’ve all heard about the financial straits destined for Rayo OKC as a result of parent club Rayo Vallecano’s relegation from La Liga this season. For those not caught up, the move to Liga Adelante is going to cost Raul Martin Presa and Rayo Vallecano a pretty penny, and Rayo OKC’s majority owner is now trying to figure out how to mitigate his losses in order to get the mothership back among Spain’s leading lights. One easy solution? Sell his stake in Rayo OKC and potentially let the club fold, something that would devastate Sean Jones, Rayo OKC's minority owner, and Brad Lund, managing partner.
I earlier reasoned how bringing a NASL club to Oklahoma City, my hometown, was a head-scratcher at best back when the team was unveiled last November. Despite several well-reasoned points in the earlier column, Rayo OKC’s ruin is ultimately due to the same problem that plagued the Oklahoma City FC version of the OKC NASL bid: weak ownership.
Even though Rayo OKC has a roster that has the most magnificent propensity to flame out spectacularly (hello, five red cards in two games!), they were able to field a - I wouldn’t necessarily call it super competitive - roster that boasts some name recognition. They even got their first home win this past Saturday over Major League Soccer-bound Minnesota United.
Rayo OKC is currently averaging 4,869 spectators per match. Given that the club plays in Yukon, also known as not a prime downtown area of Oklahoma City, that’s really not a bad number. More impressive, supporters sat through a veritable dumpster fire of a five-match home losing streak to open the club’s inaugural season. The demographic research conducted by the marketing firm hired to ascertain the viability of the market clearly did their homework. After all, that is only just about 1,000 less fans than the OKC Energy, an established, third-year club, averages on a regular basis. Clearly that’s not the problem.
I will also concede my third point given that the two teams have combined for an average attendance of 10,615 through nine combined home matches. Clearly, OKC can actually support two professional soccer teams, which I think is fantastic!
So what does that leave us with? An incredibly weak ownership group who refuses to let go of petty squabbles of yesteryear. If you didn't take the time to read the second link, the quick version is that Funk and Lund worked together for years in the Oklahoma City semi-pro hockey scene with the Oklahoma City Blazers. Following nearly two decades of service, Lund was let go, though officially it was reported that he resigned. Funk and Lund have been rivals ever since.
Furthermore, the OKC-based minority owners are rather weak as a financial entity. When you can only support 35 percent of the venture, per reporting by Total NASL, what are you doing trying to actually found a club yourselves? Sure, Jones and Lund operate all day-to-day operations of the club, but they prove time and time again that they don't have the financial muscle to make this work, becoming overly reliant on others to fund their dreams.
It's not a shock to me that this is happening. Maybe it was the accelerated time table, but I never thought that the timing of Rayo OKC made sense. After one failed NASL bid, there was no real reason to believe that a second would be any more successful. It was, overall, a weaker offering to the NASL than the initial expansion bid.
Want to own a soccer team? Great! But maybe go attach yourself to an already-established, successful club. I hear there's one just down the road in OKC proper that is looking to obtain an MLS expansion bid.