Cable television entrepreneur Rocco Commisso has purchased a majority ownership stake in the New York Cosmos, ensuring the US soccer club will stay afloat after weeks of uncertainty.
Though terms of the deal have not been disclosed, the chairman and chief executive of Mediacom Communications Corporation will become the new chairman of the reigning North American Soccer League (NASL) champions, replacing Seamus O’Brien.
Commisso, an Italian, founded Mediacom in 1995 and has since built the company into the USA’s fifth largest cable TV provider. He is a graduate of Columbia University, represented the school’s soccer team in the 1970s, and has been a prominent benefactor of its soccer programme ever since. In 2013, the university renamed its 3,500-seat soccer stadium after him.
“Like so many of our fantastic fans, I have followed the Cosmos since the fabulous days of Pelé, Chinaglia, Alberto, and Beckenbauer,” Commisso, 67, said in a statement. “With my deep roots in the New York City area as a former player, youth coach, and proud supporter of the Columbia University soccer programme, I look forward to building on the rich history of America’s most iconic soccer club.”
Tuesday’s announcement brings some closure to a period of uncertainty surrounding the future of the Cosmos, who laid off players and staff towards the end of last year amid reports the club was ceasing operations due to management turmoil and financial difficulties.
Commisso’s investment is said to have been contingent upon the Cosmos securing a place in this year’s NASL, which had been under threat of losing its division two status after several teams jumped ship to rival leagues. On Friday, the US Soccer Federation (USSF) announced that the NASL, which will feature eight teams in 2017 after contracting from 12 last year, had been granted provisional second-division sanctioning along with the United Soccer League (USL), which has been upgraded from division three status.
“We’ve worked hard to secure a positive future for the club and Rocco is the perfect person to lead the continued renaissance,” said O’Brien, who led an ownership group that revived the famed Cosmos brand in 2010 and returned the club to the NASL in 2013.
“He is not only extremely knowledgeable about the beautiful game as it is played worldwide, but brings extensive entrepreneurial experience in the media and communications business to the organisation.”
The Cosmos, who will continue to be managed by head coach Giovanni Savarese, have won three NASL championships in the four years since their return. However, their future remains up in the air, with the club currently seeking a new home and new players ahead of the 2017 season.
Speaking in a conference call on Tuesday, Commisso confirmed that Columbia University and MCU Park, the home of the Brooklyn Cyclones baseball team, are among the sites being considered as the Cosmos' new home.
“The affirmation of Division II status for the NASL allows us to move forward with confidence,” Erik Stover, the club’s chief operating officer said in a statement issued on Friday.
“We have a lot of work to do in a short amount of time including signing players and rebuilding our roster. That work begins in earnest now. We will have more information about the club and our year ahead in the coming days.”