In November of 2015, Cincy SC petitioned CUSL for membership. We were invited to appear before the board but were ultimately denied membership.

In October of 2016, we again applied for membership. This time we were not invited to appear before the board. We later found out that we had irritated one of the member clubs by putting up two Cincy SC yard signs at a tournament where we were participating.

In June 14, 2017, we again applied for membership, now to the newly renamed Greater Cincinnati Soccer League.

On June 18, 2017 we received this invitation to appear before the GCSL Board of Governors concerning the potential admission of Cincy SC into GCSL:

The Board of Governors of GCSL voted to extent to you an interview concerning admission to GCSL. We will conduct the interview on Thursday night June 29th at 7:45 pm at the offices of Ohio South. You will have the opportunity to present all of the factors that you believe support membership and information concerning your club. After your presentation, the Board of Governors will most likely have questions for you to respond. You may bring anyone you wish to the meeting that will be helpful to your Club’s interview.

For GCSL, Jim Waldron, President

This meeting was subsequently postponed by GCSL due to a number of BOG conflicts to July 6th. Attending that meeting representing Cincy SC were our four board members, Brett Dickson (Director of Communications), Russell Lewis (Director of Soccer Operations), Jill Storer (Director of Tournaments),  and AM Kinney (Director of Facilities), as well as junior board member Jason Emmitt (Scholarship Fund Chair).

At the meeting, we introduced ourselves and gave some background on the club. We shared that since our last conversation nearly two years back we had officially applied for federal tax-exempt status (though we’ve been organized as a non-profit in Ohio since our conception). That was an important thing to the GCSL BOG. We were asked a number of questions about our legal structure, such as how board members are elected/appointed, who makes decisions, who has the ability to write checks.

Russell and Brett described the separation of duties, our RACI chart, our board meetings. Brett described how Cincy SC is run like a business, including paying our coaches through Paycor, conducting an annual customer satisfaction survey, and viewing our parents, players, and coaches all as customers. Russell at one point suggested that he thought several other smaller clubs should be allowed in GCSL as well.

The members of the board are mostly club presidents of GCSL member clubs. Some of these clubs have boards that are all unpaid volunteers. Some of the board members believe that is how every club should be organized, though it’s not clear why. We left the meeting without an answer to our application but a feeling that we were going to be denied once again.

Response from the GCSL President on July 8, 2017:

I would like to thank you for meeting with the Board of Governors concerning membership in out organization. After the meeting there was a long discussion concerning requirements for membership. Based on this discussion the Board Voted to table your request and would like to invited back to continue our discussion at later date. We are going to establish standards and requirements of new organizations for consideration.

We will share that with you after it is completed, but it will include some requirements of elected Board as the US Amateur Sports Act requires that all players be represented.  In you club, I will think that your parent representative would be the one to represent the players,  And a procedure and terms of office. The Board must have terms of office and outline that no paid individual in the club can be a voting member of the Board. Steve and I will be glad to work with you on your constitution.  We will provide you with the a full list when it is completed.

Any questions get back to Steve or me. – Jim

Brett’s reply to Jim:
Thank you, Jim. We look forward to working with you and the board on that.
I focused on Business Ethics at Xavier, so I do pay attention to the issues we discussed. Unfortunately, there’s no organizational structure that can ensure there will never be a case of fraud or corruption. (That wasn’t explicitly stated as the reason for having an independent board, but I think that was the implication.) Here’s a story about a club in CA where the volunteer treasurer board member embezzled $174k over a couple years:
There are a couple other things that have been bouncing around my head related to this since our meeting.
1) The “market” (the paying customer) provides a form of oversight in our business because parents/players can go to another club at any point (or at least annually). In many non-profit organizations, revenues come from donors or public funds and a board helps to ensure that monies are spent on the actual mission of the organization rather than lining pockets. If Cincy SC doesn’t spend money on things that benefit our customers, they will simply leave. Hence, I’m not sure that the structure of some other clubs in GCSL is either optimal or necessary for a youth soccer club.
2) Respectfully, I think the design of GCSL may create a conflict of interest for your board members in this decision. I contend that independent overseers (i.e., not club presidents) of a league would gladly welcome more teams from well-run organizations to join their league – a league needs teams that are organized, competitive with other teams in the league, pay their fees, etc. Board members who are also club presidents may have a hard time separating what’s in the best interest of the league from what’s in the best interest of their club (less competition for customers, less risk of an employee/contractor leaving and starting a new club). Do you agree? Does the GCSL address this possible conflict in any way?
I also researched the US Amateur Sports Act as the meeting was the first time I’d ever heard of it. I see how it relates to USSF, USYSA, and by extension OSYSA. “The Act requires that active athletes (defined as amateur athletes who have represented the United States in international amateur competition within the last ten years) must hold 20 percent of the voting power of he national governing board.” Can you help me understand how you’re interpreting that related to individual clubs seeking to join GCSL?
These are just thoughts I wanted to share to continue the dialogue and as background for whatever discussions we have over the coming weeks. Thanks for your time and consideration.
Yours in soccer,
Brett Dickson
Cincy SC
More updates to come as we get them.