AUDL Set To Restructure League, Give Team Owners Control

The American Ultimate Disc League is weeks away from a formal agreement that will shift the majority of decision-making responsibilities to an elected board of owners and moving President Josh Moore to the role of Commissioner, according to multiple league sources.

Alleycats v. Cranes

Photo courtesy of Lesa Nelson. Find more of her pictures at her website.

The American Ultimate Disc League is weeks away from a formal agreement that will shift the majority of decision-making responsibilities to an elected board of owners and moving President Josh Moore to the role of Commissioner, according to multiple league sources.

“The teams are going to be part owners of the league. The details are not released yet, because the details are not ironed out,” said Thom Held, owner of the Indianapolis Alleycats. “But that’s been agreed to in principle, to change the structure of the league.”

Despite having no final agreement, the league is currently being run by a seven person elected board.

“Shortly after the season ended, [we started] looking at new ways to structure things and giving more control to the teams to run things,” said Moore. “And getting more personnel on the league side to run things as well.”

The incoming owners of new franchises have been much more proactive, according to current board member Tim Debyl, the co-owner of the Madison Radicals and a long-time Ultimate player, most notably as the captain of the Masters team Old Style. “Basically you’re starting with eight new teams on line, and last season was not going, from a how it was run standpoint, as well as maybe the new owners would like,” he said. “So there was a lot of discussion right away about ‘how can we fix this.'”

“Our concern right now is just that, right now, we don’t actually have anything completed,” he added.

Although the details are murky, the provisional board has been operating the league, but major decisions are made by a league-wide vote. It appears that decisions about adding new franchises will now be in the hands of the board.

“The chatter I hear is a desire for a slowdown of the [league expansion] a little bit,” said Held. “It will be done more professionally with these guys and it will be paced at a more appropriate pace.”

The AUDL will still be a franchise model. Each team is responsible for its own operational costs, in stark contrast to the Major League Ultimate, where investors pay a fixed amount and the league covers all expenses.

But whereas last year infighting between owners was commonplace throughout the season, tempers have cooled. “In the current structure where we’re partners, we’re much more willing to help each other out,” said Held.

“When we first started in August, things, I felt, were not moving very smoothly,” said Debyl. “But now were kinda hitting our stride and I’m actually pretty excited about how things are going.”

But there is still competition. Each franchise still has incentives to be the best operation. Held said as much. “The Alleycats brand is my brand,” he explained. “I don’t mind being teammates with these other guys, but in a competitive business, I want to be better than them, in every area.”

The AUDL has been out of the spotlight since the announcement of Major League Ultimate, which is being run by Jeff Snader, Philadelphia’s AUDL owner last season. Many Ultimate players have been much more receptive to the MLU, after souring on the AUDL due to the legal issues last year.

“I don’t think it’s bad that we’re sort of losing some of the interest from the frisbee people…,” said Debyl. “We need to focus a lot more on: how do we get people in the stands that aren’t ultimate players?”

“In some way, I think the MLU is doing the same thing that we did last year, which is getting overly focused on trying to make sure that they are the number one ultimate name within the ultimate community,” he continued. “Whereas, I would hope that they’re going to spend, if their budget is as big as they say it is, a lot of that money on outreach outside of the ultimate community.”

The $125,000 price tag for a share of the MLU will give them a huge upfront money advantage over the AUDL, assuming they get all ten cities sold. “The number’s pretty high for something that hasn’t proven to be successful,” said Held. “But if you find the right people, that’s really not that much money to them…I find it hard to believe that you’d find ten people to pay that much money.”

Regardless, most owners see professional ultimate as a long-term game — and are interested to see what happens in the MLU. Nobody will be making much money, if any, next season. “There is some talk of revenue sharing, but I doubt there will be any revenue to share for a few years,” said Held.

Similarly, Nic Darling, the Executive VP for the MLU, has said he doesn’t expect investors in their league to be getting any dividends after just one season.

“Neither the MLU or the AUDL is going to pull away from each other in the next season or two,” said Debyl.

But the AUDL is excited about their new ownership, which includes a high-powered corporate executive in Robert Lloyd, the Toronto Rush co-owner. Lloyd is the President of Development and Sales at Cisco, a company with $46 billion in revenue last year. He has been frequently talked about as the next CEO of the company.

“I’m very excited about our new ownership group…,” said Moore. “It’s just really night and day, our year one class of owners and our year two class of owners. We’re still very excited about the owners who were a part of the league in year one and helped build. And year two, we really made a push to be really selective on bringing in people who are going to do a great job.”

The owners see the new elected board structure as paramount to their success. But, to Debyl, it’s an obvious and necessary change. He said, “It’s not world-changing, we’re just doing it a lot smarter than they did last year.”

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