Anne-Marie Eileraas, who oversaw Women’s Professional Soccer during this turbulent season, is stepping down as chief executive officer of the three-year-old league, citing family reasons.
WPS is planning to hire a replacement in the coming weeks. Eileraas’s final day is Sept. 18. The league wasn’t planning to announce her departure at this time, but upon questioning from the Insider, released a formal statement Wednesday evening.
Elieraas joined WPS as general counsel in January 2010 and then assumed the role of CEO upon commissioner Tonya Antonucci’s exit last October.
Elieraas said that, while attending to family issues, she will serve as a lawyer for a technology company.
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Reflecting on WPS, she told me: “We’ve shown the potential of what the league can be,” citing increased attendance, business stability and general awareness of the league in the aftermath of the Women’s World Cup this summer.
WPS still faces enormous challenges: The magicJack franchise in South Florida faces termination; the Boston Breakers are seeking new investors; and overall attendance was down from the previous year. The number of teams to play in 2012 must be resolved within 60 to 90 days, Eileraas said.
She also said two or three groups have expressed interest in running an expansion team in the Washington area, which was left without a league presence when the Freedom became magicJack and moved to Boca Raton, Fla., last offseason. ”We’re in the early stages of talks,” she said, “but it’s a high priority. We saw the impact it had when they left.”
“Anne-Marie has played an integral role in keeping the League and Board focused and moving forward,” T. Fitz Johnson, chairman of the WPS board of governors, said in a prepared statement. “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.”