On the Departure of Anne-Marie Eileraas and the Arrival of John Herdman

WPS on Wednesday confirmed that Anne-Marie Eileraas will vacate her position as WPS CEO effective September 18.  The resignation was made public as the league prepares to enter another critical off-season. ‘Uncertainty’ has become the go-to buzz word for WPS, and that obviously isn’t going to change any time soon.

If it all sounds eerily familiar, it’s because it is. It was a year and eleven days ago today that news broke of then league Commissioner Tonya Antonucci’s departure from her post.

Same leaked news bulletin, same source. (Only this year, news of Eileraas’ move was kept in-house until after the fanfare of the Championship Game had subsided. Also, league officials must have known that a leak was imminent. The rumor mill was in full tilt for at least a week, but final confirmation remained elusive. Why they were beaten to the punch yet again is a mystery.)

Last season the league officially acknowledged Antonucci’s egression two days after the leak. Eileraas – then acting as league General Manager – stood at the ready and stepped in to fill the void, albeit with streamlined responsibilities and a new title.

 

That might be where the differences end. Their departing quotes are strikingly similar.

Eileraas:    

“For the league overall, it’s a time of transition from early stage growth, now that several of the key building blocks are in place. The timing is right to move on to new challenges and opportunities ahead.

 

Antonucci:

“With the progress made by the League this season, now is the right time for me to make this move.”

 

As are the subsequent quotes from Fitz Johnson.

Eileraas:

“Anne-Marie has played an integral role in keeping the League and Board focused and moving forward. We are grateful to have had such a thoughtful and dedicated leader during this critical third season.  She has made significant contributions and sacrifices for the league, and we are honored to have had her serve as our CEO.  Through her tireless efforts, we have built an even stronger foundation for the future of WPS.”

 

Antonucci:

“Commissioner Antonucci’s contributions to this league and to women’s soccer on the whole are too numerous to list. No other person did more to bring this league from idea to fruition over the past six years than she did. WPS would not be here without Tonya Antonucci and without her tireless work and unending passion for launching this league.”

 

And to remain at the official release on the Antonucci news, here’s Johnson’s initial statement on the appointment of Eileraas as league CEO:

“[Eileraas’] restructured role as CEO will manage the league from a business perspective. We are excited about this new structure of governance and believe it’s the best way forward for sustainability and steady growth, as we look towards the 2011 season.”

 

Obviously something went a bit wayward along the way.

The position of WPS Commissioner/CEO/singular central authority continues to look more and more like a poisoned chalice. This might mean that the league is inching closer to operating solely as an owner-run entity, although the statement says the search is on for Eileraas’ replacement.   

Eileraas cited her desire to devote more time to “family and other interests”. The reasoning is opaque at best – and again similar to Antonucci’s exit – the full story might never be unearthed. Relations between Dan Borislow and Eileraas were said to be strained, almost irreparably so, but again, it would be unwise to assume that that’s the sole culprit.     

Much like the turnover of magicJack’s squad in the 2011 season, it will be a wonder to see how many officials/teams/owners around since the league’s inception make it to year four.

 

And in other major news, the 24th Minute reports that former New Zealand head coach John Herdman has been appointed to helm Canada. An official announcement is expected on Thursday.

Coaching experience at the international level was reportedly high on the list of the CSA’s requirements. Herdman has that, having led the New Zealand Women’s National Team since 2003.

He was merely 31 when he coached the Football Ferns in the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup – some kind of record, for sure. This summer New Zealand exceeded expectations and narrowly missed out on qualification out of Group B. New Zealand’s World Cup squad had an average age of 23.4 – tied for fifth youngest in the tournament. Herdman clearly relishes the challenges that come with a long-term youth project, and according to the report, he is also expected to assume the role of technical director.

Now the question is what will become of Carolina Morace’s progressive, “intellectual challenging” brand of soccer. Admirable, yet ultimately overambitious?

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